The purpose of the present study was to use attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) and target factor analysis (TFA) to investigate the permeation of model drugs and formulation components through Carbosil® membrane and human skin. Diffusion studies of saturated solutions in 50:50 water/ethanol of methyl paraben (MP), ibuprofen (IBU) and caffeine (CF) were performed on Carbosil® membrane. The spectroscopic data were analysed by target factor analysis, and evolution profiles of the signal for each component (i.e. the drug, water, ethanol and membrane) over time were obtained. Results showed that the data were successfully deconvoluted as correlations between factors from the data and reference spectra of the components, were above 0.8 in all cases. Good reproducibility over three runs for the evolution profiles was obtained. From the evolution profiles it was observed that water diffused better through the Carbosil® membrane than ethanol, confirming the hydrophilic properties of the Carbosil® membrane used. IBU diffused slower compared with MP and CF. The evolution profile of CF was very similar to that of water, probably because of the high solubility of CF in water, indicating that both compounds are diffusing concurrently. The second part of the work involved a study of the evolution profiles of the components of a commercial topical gel containing 5% (w/w) of ibuprofen as it permeated through human skin. Although the system was much more complex, data were still successfully deconvoluted and the different components of the formulation identified except for benzyl alcohol which might be attributed to the low concentrations of benzyl alcohol used in topical formulations.