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Int J Cosmet Sci. 2004 Apr;26(2):91-101. doi: 10.1111/j.0412-5463.2004.00208.x.

Distinct locational differences observable in biophysical functions of the facial skin: with special emphasis on the poor functional properties of the stratum corneum of the perioral region.

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Department of Dermatology, Tohoku University School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan.


The face is composed of complicated anatomical components, presenting unique portions, such as the eyes, nose and mouth in a relatively narrow area. Moreover, the facial skin is densely populated by the pilosebaceous units and sweat glands, and its stratum corneum (SC) is much thinner than that of the trunk and limbs, although it is always exposed to the environment. Among various portions of the facial skin, some are more easily irritated than others by environmental stimuli, or are more often affected by certain dermatoses. However, the functional aspects of the different portions of the facial skin have not been studied in detail under a strictly controlled environment in sufficiently large numbers of subjects covering different age groups. Thus, we conducted studies in winter with various biophysical techniques, such as transepidermal water loss (TEWL), as a parameter for SC barrier function, high-frequency conductance as that for skin surface hydration state, skin surface lipids, pH, blood flow and skin surface temperature on the forehead, mid-portion of the cheek (cheek in short), nasal tip (nose in short), nasolabial fold and chin of 20 healthy Japanese females aged 22-37 years (average 25 years) in a climate chamber adjusted to 21 degrees C and 50% relative humidity. Thereafter, we studied the influence of ageing on these biophysical parameters by collecting data of TEWL, high-frequency conductance and size of superficial corneocytes on the cheek, nasolabial fold and chin of 303 healthy Japanese female volunteers of different ages. The obtained results showed that the barrier function of the SC was best on the cheek, presenting the lowest TEWL, which was significantly higher on the nasolabial fold and chin than on the cheek. TEWL showed a decrease with age. In contrast, skin hydration state was higher on the nose, but it tended to be lower on the nasolabial fold, showing a mild age-related increase. The corneocytes on the nasolabial fold and chin were smaller than those on the cheek. They revealed a clear increase in size with age. Skin surface lipids were richest on the nose, whereas the superficial pH on the nose was the lowest among the regions tested. The skin temperature was lowest on the cheek than on other areas of the face; although, together with the nose, its blood flow was higher than that of the others. These data indicate great regional differences observable in SC functions on the face. In general, the SC barrier function increases with age, probably because of a decreased epidermal turnover rate as recognized by the increase in corneocyte size. Among the various sites, the skin of the nasolabial fold and chin, whose SC consisted of the smallest corneocytes, showed poorest SC properties in barrier function, suggesting the presence of mild invisible inflammation. It is understandable that this area easily develops not only the complaint of sensitive skin to cosmetics but also dermatitis because of various external agents.

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