Stratum corneum (SC) adhesive tape stripping has been utilized in the measurement of SC mass, barrier function, drug reservoir and percutaneous penetration of topical substances for nearly 50 years. The process involves a methodical, relatively noninvasive layer-by-layer removal of the outermost epidermal cell layers. Complete SC removal may require more than 70 tape strips.
The quantity of SC harvested diminishes with each sequential strip, possibly due to increased SC cohesiveness in deeper layers. Thus, the mass of any single strip depends upon the mass removed by the prior strip. SC removal may rely on the interaction between the adhesive stripping force and the cohesive intercellular force.
In this article, several methods to quantify the protein collected by tape stripping are described, including traditional gravimetric methods as well as novel colorimetric and visible spectroscopic techniques. Further, one colorimetric method is described to effectively determine the keratolytic efficacy of various materials in vivo, suggesting additional roles for this method.