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Br J Dermatol. 2005 Jul;153(1):125-31.

Additive impairment of the barrier function by mechanical irritation, occlusion and sodium lauryl sulphate in vivo.

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Skin Physiology Laboratory, Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Erfurter Str. 35, 07740 Jena, Germany.



The interaction between potential irritants in the workplace might be important because workers are not usually exposed to a single irritant, but to multiple potentially harmful substances. Physical irritant contact dermatitis caused by friction or mechanical abrasion is a common occupational dermatosis. Prolonged water exposure by occlusion is also common in the workplace. Several studies have revealed the negative effect of the common anionic detergent sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) on permeability barrier function.


To study the additive impairment of permeability barrier function by mechanical irritation combined with 0.5% SLS or prolonged water exposure by occlusion, as models of mild irritation.


The volar forearms of 20 healthy volunteers were exposed to mechanical irritation and occlusion with water or 0.5% SLS for four consecutive days in a combined tandem repeated irritation test (TRIT). Permeability barrier function was measured with a Tewameter TM 210. Irritation was assessed with a Chromameter CR 300 and a visual score.


Barrier disruption in our model was rated as follows: occlusion with SLS and mechanical irritation > occlusion with SLS > occlusion with water and mechanical irritation > mechanical irritation and occlusion with water > occlusion with a glove and mechanical irritation > mechanical irritation > occlusion with water. Barrier disruption caused by occlusion or mechanical irritation was enhanced by the tandem application. The choice of irritant under occlusion, time of occlusion and order of tandem application all affected the degree of barrier disruption. Evaporimetry was able to detect early stages in the development of an irritant reaction before it became visible. Chromametry was not able to detect this early response.


Physical irritants (friction, abrasive grains, occlusion) and detergents such as SLS represent a significant irritation risk and should be minimized, especially when acting together, as shown in our TRIT model.

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