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Contact Dermatitis. 1998 Jun;38(6):311-5.

Baseline biophysical parameters in subjects with sensitive skin.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Modena, Italy.


Sensitive skin has been described as a skin type showing higher reactivity than normal skin and developing exaggerated reactions when exposed to external factors. The stinging test, performed by applying lactic acid to the nasolabial fold and evaluating the intensity of subjective symptoms, is widely accepted as a marker of sensitivity and employed for the selection of subjects experiencing invisible cutaneous irritation. However, this test is based on self-perceived assessment and lacks objectivity. In order to contribute to the finding of objective descriptors, we assessed baseline biophysical parameters in subjects with sensitive skin by means of transepidermal water loss (TEWL), capacitance, pH, sebum and skin colour measurements, and compared the data with those obtained in normal subjects, also correlating the results with those of clinical assessments and functional tests. Subjects with sensitive skin showed a trend towards higher scores at all assessment times both for the stinging and the washing test. The skin of sensitive subjects was described as less supple, less hydrated and more erythematous and telangiectatic with respect to the skin of normal subjects. A trend towards an increase in TEWL, pH and colorimetric a* values, and a decrease in capacitance, sebum and colorimetric L* values on the face of subjects with sensitive skin was observable. However, significances were only present for capacitance and a* values. Thus, alterations of baseline capacitance values indicate the tendency to barrier impairment and support the view that skin hyperreactivity to water-soluble irritants is induced by a greater amount of irritants absorbed, whereas the increase in the erythema parameter shows that cutaneous vascular hyperreactivity in subjects with sensitive skin also corresponds to baseline vasodilation.

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