After application to the skin surface, a topical formulation is submitted to changes in composition produced by evaporation of volatile components, penetration of components into the skin and extraction of skin components ("vehicle metamorphosis"). The aim of this work was to study the effect of vehicle metamorphosis on skin delivery from microemulsions containing triamcinolone acetonide. The microemulsions were prepared and characterized for water evaporation kinetics, in vitro release and skin permeation and retention. Skin retention experiments were performed on full thickness pig ear skin, in both occluded infinite and un-occluded finite dose conditions. For comparison purposes, two creams, the commercial Ledercort® and a vanishing cream, were tested. With the lipophilic drug triamcinolone acetonide water evaporation does not modify skin retention, probably for the lipophilic nature of TA. However, if water is eliminated from the MEs, the performance is reduced, probably because drug partitioning from vehicle to stratum corneum is disfavored. If a water-soluble drug (methyl prednisolone sodium succinate) is used, infinite dose application in occlusive conditions increases in a significant way the amount of drug retained in the skin. The involved mechanisms are probably stratum corneum swelling and increase of stratum corneum/viable epidermis partitioning.
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