Skin penetration of terpenes from essential oils and topical vehicles

Cal K
Planta Medica, 2006


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the in vitro cutaneous penetration of five terpenes–linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinen-4-ol, citronellol and alpha-pinene–applied in pure essential oils or in dermatological formulations (o/w emulsion, oily solution or hydrogel) containing 0.75 % w/w of the essential oils. Different skin absorption was observed depending on the type of the vehicle and terpenes’ log P values. Cutaneous accumulation of terpenes is several times higher when they are applied in pure essential oils than in topical vehicles. Penetration of terpinen-4-ol to the skin was better from an oily solution (approximately 90 microg/cm (2)) than from an emulsion (60 microg/cm (2)). No penetration of linalyl acetate from topical vehicles into viable skin was observed, but also for this terpene penetration to the upper layers of the stratum corneum was 2-times higher when an oily solution was used. In contrast, the cutaneous absorption of linalool was the same from both vehicles (50-60 microg/cm (2)). The skin penetration of alpha-pinene was not traceable when it was applied in an oily solution. Only a small amount (approximately 5 microg/cm (2)) of this terpene was determined in viable skin after application as a hydrogel. Citronellol applied in a hydrogel penetrated into all skin layers in a total amount of 25 microg/cm (2), while no penetration into viable skin layers after application of an oily solution was noted. Only citronellol permeated into the acceptor medium.


Cal K. Skin penetration of terpenes from essential oils and topical vehicles. Planta Med. 2006;72(4):311-316.

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