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July 1997

Transdermal Nicotine Suppresses Cutaneous Inflammation

Arch Dermatol. 1997;133(7):823-825. doi:10.1001/archderm.1997.03890430023004

Background:  Cigarette smoking significantly alters the inflammatory response in the skin following application of irritants and rubefacients. The mechanism of this effect is unknown. There are thousands of components in cigarette smoke that may be pharmacologically important, but there is evidence to suggest that nicotine may play an important role in the observed effect on the inflammatory process.

Design:  This was an interventional study to assess cutaneous responsiveness to different stimuli after transdermal nicotine administration in volunteer subjects. Cutaneous testing was performed at baseline and at weeks 2 and 4 (the end) of the study.

Setting:  The Department of Dermatology, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.

Participants:  Ten lifelong nonsmokers were recruited for the study.

Intervention:  Nicotine patches were applied daily for 1 month.

Main Outcome Measures:  The following tests were performed: application of 2 times the minimal irritancy dose of sodium lauryl sulfate, irradiation with 2 times the minimal erythema dose of UV-B, measurement of cutaneous vasodilation following application of ethyl and hexyl nicotinate, and reactive hyperemia following arterial occlusion.

Results:  There was a significant reduction in the cutaneous inflammatory response to sodium lauryl sulfate (P<.001) and irradiation with UV-B (P<.003) and a reduction in reactive hyperemia (P<.03) after 2 weeks of treatment, which returned values to normal at 4 weeks. There was no change in blood flow following application of topical nicotinates.

Conclusions:  Nicotine administration via a transdermal delivery system suppresses the cutaneous inflammatory response to sodium lauryl sulfate and UV-B, as well as triggers a transient suppression of reactive hyperemia following arterial occlusion. The apparent anti-inflammatory effects of smoking cigarettes can therefore only partially be explained as a long-term effect of nicotine.Arch Dermatol. 1997;133:823-825