Nicotinamide is a hydrophilic molecule, freely soluble in water, used as cosmetic active ingredient for its moisturizing and depigmenting properties. Moreover it has the ability to augment the solubility of poorly water-soluble molecules acting as a hydrotrope. The aim of this work was to study the effect of nicotinamide on the transdermal permeation of methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl paraben. Parabens flux was measured in vitro in the presence and absence of different amounts of nicotinamide. From solubility studies it was found that nicotinamide forms one or more complexes with methyl, propyl and butyl paraben in water, even though with low stability constants. The interaction of ethyl paraben seems to be less easy to explain. The association of nicotinamide with parabens causes a significant reduction of the permeability coefficients of these preservatives through rabbit ear skin, caused by a reduction of the stratum corneum/vehicle partition coefficient. The effects of nicotinamide on parabens solubility, permeation and partitioning are potentially very interesting because nicotinamide can facilitate paraben dissolution in aqueous media (solutions, gels), reduce parabens partitioning in the oily phase thus guaranteeing an effective concentration in the water phase in emulsion and reduce transdermal penetration, thus reducing the toxicological risk
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