• atopic dermatitis;
  • diffusion;
  • percutaneous penetration;
  • sodium lauryl sulphate;
  • tape stripping


Background  Involved regions of the skin in patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) have been shown to have higher transepidermal water loss (TEWL), indicating a compromised skin barrier. Whether uninvolved skin also has diminished barrier characteristics is controversial.

Objectives  To study the penetration of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) into uninvolved skin of patients with AD compared with the skin of control subjects.

Methods  Percutaneous penetration was assessed using the tape stripping technique on the stratum corneum (SC). Twenty patients with AD and 20 healthy subjects were exposed to 1% SLS for 4 h on the mid-volar forearm. After the end of exposure the SC was removed by adhesive tape. The amount of SLS was determined in each consecutive strip. Fick's second law of diffusion was used to deduce the diffusivity and the partition coefficient of SLS between water and the SC.

Results  The SC thickness was similar in both groups; however, the TEWL was higher in patients with AD compared with that of the control group (mean ± SD 8·4 ± 4·3 and 6·3 ± 2·0 g m−2 h−1, respectively). There was a correlation between SC thickness and TEWL in control subjects but no correlation was found in patients with AD. The diffusivity of SLS through uninvolved AD skin was higher compared with normal skin (mean ± SD 12·7 ± 5·8 × 10−9 and 6·2 ± 3·0 × 10−9 cm−2 h−1, respectively), while the partition coefficient between SC and water was lower (mean ± SD 137 ± 64 and 196 ± 107, respectively).

Conclusions  The results show a different penetration profile of SLS into the SC of patients with AD compared with control subjects. This indicates that even noninvolved skin in patients with AD has altered barrier characteristics, emphasizing the importance of skin protection and prevention of skin contact with chemicals.