Induction of a Hardening Phenomenon by Repeated Application of SLS: Analysis of Lipid Changes in the Stratum Corneum
Adaptation of the skin to repeated influence of exogenous irritants is called the hardening phenomenon. We investigated the stratum corneum lipid composition before and after induction of a hardening phenomenon. Irritant contact dermatitis was induced in 23 non-atopic volunteers by repeated occlusive application of 0.5% sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) over 3 weeks. At 3, 6 and 9 weeks after irritation, the SLS responses of pre-irritated skin and normal skin were compared. The horny layer lipid composition (ceramides 1-7, cholesterol and free fatty acids) was assessed before irritation and 3, 6 and 9 weeks after irritation. During the first 2 weeks of irritation the transepidermal water loss increased continuously and seemed to decrease during the third week (effect of adaptation). The barrier function of pre-irritated sites was more stable to SLS challenge. Three weeks after irritation, there was a significant increase of ceramide 1 (p<0.001). The only volunteer without hardening phenomenon showed no increase of ceramide 1. Ceramide 1 seems to play a key role as a protection mechanism against repeated irritation.