Sebomic identification of sex- and ethnicity-specific variations in residual skin surface components (RSSC) for bio-monitoring or forensic applications
Background: “Residual skin surface components” (RSSC) is the collective term used for the superficial layer of sebum, residue of sweat, small quantities of intercellular lipids and components of natural moisturising factor present on the skin surface. Potential applications of RSSC include use as a sampling matrix for identifying biomarkers of disease, environmental exposure monitoring, and forensics (retrospective identification of exposure to toxic chemicals). However, it is essential to first define the composition of “normal” RSSC. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to characterise RSSC to determine commonalities and differences in RSSC composition in relation to sex and ethnicity. Methods: Samples of RSSC were acquired from volunteers using a previously validated method and analysed by high-pressure liquid chromatography–atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation–mass spectrometry (HPLC-APCI-MS). The resulting data underwent sebomic analysis. Results: The composition and abundance of RSSC components varied according to sex and ethnicity. The normalised abundance of free fatty acids, wax esters, diglycerides and triglycerides was significantly higher in males than females. Ethnicity-specific differences were observed in free fatty acids and a diglyceride. Conclusions: The HPLC-APCI-MS method developed in this study was successfully used to analyse the normal composition of RSSC. Compositional differences in the RSSC can be attributed to sex and ethnicity and may reflect underlying factors such as diet, hormonal levels and enzyme expression.