Original paper

Archives of Dermatological Research

, Volume 290, Issue 9, pp 508-516

First online:

A new HPLC-based method for the quantitative analysis of inner stratum corneum lipids with special reference to the free fatty acid fraction

  • L. NorlénAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden e-mail: lpo.norlen@mmb.ki.se
  • , Ingrid NicanderAffiliated withCenter for Oral Biology, Karolinska Institute, NOVUM, Huddinge, Sweden
  • , Anders LundsjöAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden e-mail: lpo.norlen@mmb.ki.se
  • , Tomas CronholmAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden e-mail: lpo.norlen@mmb.ki.se
  • , Bo ForslindAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden e-mail: lpo.norlen@mmb.ki.se

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Abstract The inner stratum corneum is likely to represent the location of the intact skin barrier, unperturbed by degradation processes. In our studies of the physical skin barrier a new high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-based method was developed for the quantitative analysis of lipids of the inner stratum corneum. All main lipid classes were separated and quantitated by HPLC/light scattering detection (LSD) and the free fatty acid fraction was further analysed by gas-liquid chromatography (GLC). Mass spectrometry (MS) was used for peak identification and flame ionization detection (FID) for quantitation. Special attention was paid to the free fatty acid fraction since unsaturated free fatty acids may exert a key function in the regulation of the skin barrier properties by shifting the physical equilibrium of the multilamellar lipid bilayer system towards a noncrystalline state. Our results indicated that the endogenous free fatty acid fraction of the stratum corneum barrier lipids in essence exclusively consisted of saturated long-chain free fatty acids. This fraction was characterized as a very stable population (low interindividual peak variation) dominated by saturated lignoceric acid (C24:0, 39 molar%) and hexacosanoic acid (C26:0, 23 molar%). In addition, trace amounts of very long-chain (C32-C36) saturated and monounsaturated free fatty acids were detected in human forearm inner stratum corneum. Our analysis method gives highly accurate and precise quantitative information on the relative composition of all major lipid species present in the skin barrier. Such data will eventually permit skin barrier model systems to be created which will allow a more detailed analysis of the physical nature of the human skin barrier.

Key words HPLC Skin barrier In vivo extraction Lipids