Surfactant irritation: in vitro corneosurfametry and in vivo bioengineering.
Posted on Friday, December 05, 2003

Gabard B, Chatelain E, Bieli E, Haas S.

Biopharmacy Department, Spirig Pharma Ltd., Egerkingen, Switzerland

Irritant reactions to surfactants, cleansing products, soaps and detergents are common in clinical and occupational dermatology. Mildness has become a major benefit claimed, and testing for mildness now ranks among the first concerns of the manufacturing industry. A wealth of publications deals with this problem, trying to improve the methodology, reduce the costs of testing and facilitate decision-making. Differences in vivo can be measured clinically and/or instrumentally. This is difficult, as commercially available products are generally safe to use and none are harsh in the absolute sense. METHODS: Nineteen different products (syndets, shampoos, personal cleansers), all claiming to be mild, were tested in vitro by a newly introduced method, corneosurfametry. For evaluating the aggressiveness of the products, the calculation of an index of irritation (IOI) was proposed. A concentration-effect curve of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as standard and model surfactant was obtained. Some of the products were further tested in vivo with a flex wash test and with a soap chamber test and compared to SLS. Bioengineering methods (transepidermal water loss TEWL, skin color) were used to evaluate the results. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The results of the corneosurfametry allowed us to classify the products in three categories, with increasing aggressiveness towards the stratum corneum, according to their IOIs. The in vivo tests were not able to discriminate between the products, but ranks from the results of the bioengineering measurements showed a good correlation between TEWL changes, but not between colour changes, and IOIs from corneosurfametry. Corneosurfametry emerged as a simple, low-cost and fast method for ranking commercial products according to their mildness. However, the skin bioengineering techniques showed that some products could lead to skin reactions, such as erythema, that could not be detected by the in vitro technique.

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