The superficial layer on the skin surface, known as the acid mantle, comprises a mixture of sebum, sweat, corneocyte debris and constituents of natural moisturizing factor. Thus, the phrase ‘residual skin surface components’ (RSSC) is an appropriate term for the mixture of substances recovered from the skin surface. There is no general agreement about the effects of ethnicity, gender and age on RSSC. The aim of this human volunteer study was to evaluate RSSC in relation to ethnicity, gender and age. A suitable acquisition medium for RSSC collection was identified and samples of RSSC were subsequently analysed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and gravimetry.
A total of 315 volunteers participated in the study from a range of self-declared ethnic backgrounds. Six acquisition media were compared to determine the most suitable media for RSSC collection. The effect of age, gender and ethnicity on RSSC collection was evaluated by gravimetric analysis while GC-MS was used to determine the composition of RSSC.
Of the six candidate materials assessed, cigarette paper provided the most practical and reproducible sample acquisition medium. There was no significant difference in the amount of RSSC collected when based on gender and ethnicity and no significant correlation between RSSC recovery and age. Up to 49 compounds were detected from human RSSC when analysed by GC-MS.
The results of the present study suggest that RSSC can be effectively collected using cigarette paper and analysed by GC-MS. Ethnicity, gender and age had no significant impact on the quantity of RSSC recovered from the skin surface.