An improvement of the penetration efficiency combined with the controlled release of actives in the skin can facilitate the medical treatment of skin diseases immensely. Dexamethasone (Dx), a synthetic glucocorticoid, is frequently used for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. To investigate the penetration of nano-sized lipid particles (NLP) loaded with Dx in comparison to a commercially available base cream, different techniques were applied. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy was used to monitor the penetration of Dx, which was covalently labeled with the spin probe 3-(Carboxy)-2,2,5,5-tetramethyl-1-pyrrolidinyloxy (PCA). The penetration into hair follicles was studied using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) with curcumin-loaded NLP. The penetration of the vehicle was followed by confocal Raman microscopy (CRM). Penetration studies using excised porcine skin revealed a more than twofold higher penetration efficiency for DxPCA into the stratum corneum (SC) after 24 h incubation compared to 4 h incubation when loaded to the NLP, whereas when applied in the base cream, almost no further penetration was observed beyond 4 h. The distribution of DxPCA within the SC was investigated by consecutive tape stripping. The release of DxPCA from the base cream after 24 h in deeper SC layers and the viable epidermis was shown by EPR. For NLP, no release from the carrier was observed, although DxPCA was detectable in the skin after the complete SC was removed. This phenomenon can be explained by the penetration of the NLP into the hair follicles. However, penetration profiles measured by CRM indicate that NLP did not penetrate as deeply into the SC as the base cream formulation.
In conclusion, NLP can improve the accumulation of Dx in the skin and provide a reservoir within the SC and in the follicular infundibula.