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Influence of sportive activity on skin barrier function: a quantitative evaluation of 60 athletes


  • Conflicts of interest: No conflicts of interest.
  • Funding sources: The project was solely founded by the University of Hamburg.


Stefanie Luebberding, msc

Division of Cosmetic Science

Department of Chemistry

Martin-Luther-King-Platz 6

Hamburg 20146




While sports-related diseases are well documented in the literature, no study regarding the physiology of athlete's skin has been published yet. However, some evidence is given for impairment of the skin barrier due to sportive activity accompanied by an increase in sweating. In this explorative study, we investigated the effect of sportive activity on skin physiology, namely stratum corneum hydration, skin surface pH, and sebum content. A total of 60 healthy Caucasian volunteers (35 females, 25 males; mean 27.35 ± 4.09) were enrolled in this study. Measurements were done before and after 45 minutes of endurance cardio training at forehead, chest, forearm, and armpits. Hydration level, sebum secretion, and pH value of hydrolipid acid film were measured with worldwide-acknowledged biophysical measuring methods. Stratum corneum hydration significantly increased after sportive activity. The increase was about 51.9% at the forearm and 31.9% at the chest. Sebum content at the forehead significantly decreased during exercising, from 87.36 μg/cm2 to 62.41 μg/cm2. At all investigated body sites, measured values for skin surface pH increased after sportive activity. Highest pH value was measured in armpits (pH 5.64–5.98) and lowest at forearm (pH 4.75–4.93). Sportive activity is accompanied by significant changes of skin physiology that could stress the barrier function of the skin. Higher skin surface pH and hyperhydration of the stratum corneum as well as increased lipid content on the skin surface are probably caused by an increased sweat production. The impaired skin barrier may also be the reason for some reported sports-related dermatoses.

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