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Int J Cosmet Sci. 2016 Dec;38(6):589-598. doi: 10.1111/ics.12324. Epub 2016 Apr 26.

Understanding effects of topical ingredients on electrical measurement of skin hydration.

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JMC Scientific Consulting Ltd, Egham, Surrey, TW20 8LL, UK.



Methods that assess skin hydration based on changes in its electrical properties are widely used in both cosmetic and medical research. However, the devices themselves often give results which are significantly different to each other. Although some work has previously been carried out to try and understand what these devices are actually reading, it was based on a technique for measuring the devices' responses to filter discs impregnated with different liquids, which could in itself be influencing the measurements. Presented here is a new method for measuring the devices' direct responses to different materials and solutions which removes any other confounding effects, thereby providing a clearer insight into their operation.


The responses of a variety of different liquids and solutions were measured using the Corneometer® and Skicon® . A new method is presented, based on the use of a custom-designed PTFE block to hold the liquids, allowing their measurement without using a filter paper. This method was developed and tested against the existing filter paper-based approach.


Differences were observed in results between filter paper- and PTFE block-based approach, indicating that the filter paper itself is capable of influencing the measurements and as such is not to be recommended for assessing how different liquids impact on results from the devices. A positive correlation was observed between Corneometer® and Skicon® readings for certain solutions and under certain conditions. A large influence of salt concentration was noted for the Skicon® device with no or minimal impact from the actual water itself, humectants and emollients. Salts, emollients, water and humectants were observed to have an effect on Corneometer® readings.


Both the Corneometer® and Skicon® were influenced to different extents by chemicals other than water and therefore cannot be seen purely as measures of skin 'hydration'. Although there is strong evidence that the devices do correlate with expert assessment of skin dryness, the level of water in the skin is only part of the story when it comes to understanding the benefits of topical moisturizing products applied to the skin. An alternative approach would be to consider skin 'moisturization' as a property which is influenced by water, salts and other materials such as humectants and emollients, which is more consistent with how the stratum corneum itself helps to maintain its plasticity and flexibility. In the work presented here, the Corneometer® was more suited to providing a measurement which reflects the impact of multiple different components.


bioengineering; chemical analysis; claim substantiation; emulsions; formulation/stability

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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