A mechanics approach is presented to study the intercellular delamination resistance and mechanical behavior of stratum corneum (SC) tissue in the direction normal to the skin surface. The effects of temperature and hydration on debonding behavior were also explored. Such understanding, which includes the relationship of mechanical behavior to the underlying SC cellular structure, is essential for emerging transdermal drug delivery technologies. Fracture mechanics-based cantilever-beam specimens were used to determine reproducibly the energy release rates to quantify the cohesive strength of human SC. The debond resistance of fully hydrated SC was found to decrease with increasing temperature, while dehydrated SC exhibited a more complex variation with temperature. Stress-separation tests showed that fracture energies and peak separation stresses decreased with increasing temperature and hydration, although the SC modulus varied only marginally with temperature and hydration. Results are described in terms of microstructural changes associated with hydrophilic regions and intercellular lipid phase transitions.
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