The Electrical Characteristics of Human Skin in Vivo

Yogeshvar N. Kalia, Richard H. Guy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. The objectives of this study were to investigate the impedance properties of human skin in vivo and to examine the effect of iontophoresis upon them. Methods. Having established the intra- and inter-individual variation in basal values of skin impedance, the effect of varying iontophoretic current density, ionic strength and counter-ion on the rate of recovery of skin impedance after iontophoresis was investigated. Results. Passage of an iontophoretic current caused a significant reduction in the magnitude of the skin impedance. Increasing the current density caused an even greater reduction in the value of the skin impedance and slowed the rate of recovery. Reduction of the ionic strength resulted in an increase in the rate of recovery following iontophoresis. A significant increase in the rate of recovery was observed when CaCl2 replaced NaCl as the electrolyte. Although visual inspection revealed the presence of greater erythema when CaCl2 was used, there was an absence of the mild sensation experienced by volunteers when using NaCl. The last part of the study established a correlation between transepidermal water loss and impedance analysis as complementary methods for probing skin barrier function in vivo. The data were fitted to an equivalent circuit consisting of a resistor in parallel with a constant-phase element and a mechanistic model proposed to explain the electrical properties of the skin. Conclusions. The first comprehensive investigation of the effect of iontophoresis on the electrical properties of human skin in vivo has been described. It would appear from the results, and from their interpretation, that impedance spectroscopy may be an effective method to quantify the impact of iontophoresis on the skin, and to determine the extent to which proposed drug delivery regimens will perturb skin barrier function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1605-1613
Number of pages9
JournalPharmaceutical Research: An Official Journal of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 1995


  • human skin in vivo
  • impedance spectroscopy
  • iontophoresis
  • transdermal drug delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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