Is the axilla a distinct skin phenotype?


  • Abstracts of papers that were published in the IFSCC magazine, Volume 9, No 2, 2006


The axillary skin is cosmetically important with millions of consumers daily applying antiperspirant/deodorant products. Despite this, we know virtually nothing about axillary skin or how antiperspirant use impacts upon it. To characterize axillary stratum corneum and determine whether this is a unique skin type, we have evaluated a range of skin parameters, comparing these with the volar forearm. Trans-epidermal water loss and corneosurfametry revealed a reduced barrier function in the axilla. However, application of antiperspirant had no effect upon these barrier properties. High performance thin layer chromatography analysis of stratum corneum lipids demonstrated statistically elevated levels of fatty acids, ceramide and particularly cholesterol in the axilla. This modification of barrier lipid ratios appeared to result in a more ordered lipid lamellae phase behaviour, as determined by attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, with transition phase changes occurring at higher temperatures. Morphological differences were also seen in the cells of the axillary stratum corneum. Microscopic evaluation of axillary-cornified envelopes revealed them to be smaller, indicative of a shorter stratum corneum turnover. However, there appeared to be no significant difference corneocyte maturation. ‘Skin dryness’ squamometry measurements indicated that the axillary stratum corneum retained desquamated material on its surface more than on the forearm. This correlated with decreased levels of the desquamatory stratum corneum chymotryptic enzyme in the surface layers of the skin. These results indicate that the axilla has a distinct phenotype. Paper presented at the 22nd IFSCC Congress 2002, Edinburgh, Scotland