Cutaneous irritation presents a major health problem with serious social and occupational impact. The interaction between an irritant and the human skin depends on multiple factors: the intrinsic properties and the nature of the irritant itself, and specific individual- and environment-related variables. The main pathological mechanisms of irritancy include skin barrier disruption, induction of a cytokine cascade and involvement of the oxidative stress network; all of them resulting in a visible or subclinical inflammatory reaction. In vivo, different non-invasive parameters for the evaluation of skin irritation and irritant potential of compounds and their specific formulations have been introduced, such as epidermal barrier function, skin hydration, surface pH, lipid composition, skin colour and skin blood flow. The diverse physiological changes caused by irritating agents require implementation of a multiparametric approach in the evaluation of cutaneous irritancy.

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