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The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Malaysia

Research project: Wet adhesive poro-viscoelastic contact along human skin surface

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Skin, the largest organ of the human body, acts as a multi-functional biophysical interface to the external environment. It is composed of three main heterogeneous layers: namely epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. The epidermis layer consists of partially keratinized cells that progressively dehydrate during their migration from the basal membrane to the outer surface, forming the stratum corneum layer.

The interplay between the chemical structure and arrangement of stratum corneum lipids, environmental factors (e.g. hydration level) and also the physical characteristics of skin surface relief determine the serial interfacial phenomena along the skin surface-environment conjunction, particularly when interacting with cosmetic and consumer goods (e.g. razor and shave preparation). Therefore, the chemical and biophysical properties of the stratum corneum need to be considered jointly to approach the complexity of skin tribo-physics.

The project aims to develop a finite deformation wet adhesion poro-viscoelastic contact model for soft materials that will account for the skin’s environment-dependent structural and material properties (e.g. the hydration level or the degree of absorption of lipids from moisturizers into the stratum corneum). The modelling-based framework combines physics of biological surfaces, continuum mechanics, finite element and statistical mechanics simulation techniques to study some of the fundamental physical phenomena occurring between the skin and contacting media such as skin care liquid films. These interactions are key to understanding skin tribology together with certain mechanisms of the skin barrier function and are highly relevant for pharmaceutical, cosmetic and personal skin care products.

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