Planta Med 2006; 72(4): 311-316
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-916230
Original Paper
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Skin Penetration of Terpenes from Essential Oils and Topical Vehicles

Krzysztof Cal1
  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Medical University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland
Further Information

Publication History

Received: April 3, 2005

Accepted: September 15, 2005

Publication Date:
20 January 2006 (online)


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the in vitro cutaneous penetration of five terpenes - linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinen-4-ol, citronellol and α-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 (∼90 μg/cm2) than from an emulsion (˜60 μg/cm2). 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 μg/cm2). The skin penetration of α-pinene was not traceable when it was applied in an oily solution. Only a small amount (∼5 μg/cm2) 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 μg/cm2, while no penetration into viable skin layers after application of an oily solution was noted. Only citronellol permeated into the acceptor medium.




LA:linalyl acetate



SC:stratum corneum

SC I:outer fraction of stratum corneum

SC II:middle fraction of stratum corneum

SC III:inner fraction of stratum corneum

ED:epidermis with dermis


Dr. Krzysztof Cal

Department of Pharmaceutical Technology

Medical University of Gdansk

Hallera 107

80-416 Gdansk


Phone: +48-58-349-3185

Fax: +48-58-349-3190