Vulnerability of the skin barrier to mechanical rubbing

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Skin barrier function is the battlefront for preventing permeation of harmful substances and infectious diseases. However, it can be destroyed by mechanical forces, as shown in many studies. Excess rubbing may increase the permeability of the skin to aqueous material. Although the skin barrier plays an important physiological role in humans, the vulnerability of skin to mechanical rubbing is poorly understood. Therefore, we investigated the effects of rubbing on the skin in vitro; skin damage was quantified by laser-induced fluorescence. Microscopic observation showed that keratinocytes in the stratum corneum sustained traumatic damage, which reduced the barrier function in that region. The permeability of the skin to an aqueous solution increased with rubbing frequency and load, and rubbing markedly reduced the barrier function of the stratum corneum. To understand the mechanisms underlying the skin damage, we developed a simple mathematical model assuming that the skin is a viscoelastic material. We hypothesized that the increased skin permeability was caused by the damage sustained by keratinocytes in the stratum corneum, and that the permeability was proportional to the time-averaged strain. Our theoretical results showed quantitative agreement with the experimental results and illustrated that rubbing and strain relaxation play key roles in rubbing-induced permeation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119708
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sept 25


  • Kelvin-Voigt model
  • Laser induced fluorescence
  • Mechanical rubbing
  • Permeability
  • Skin barrier
  • Vulnerability


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