Silymarin is a well-known standardized extract from the seeds of milk thistle (Silybum marianum
L., Asteraceae) with a pleiotropic effect on human health, including skin anticancer potential. Detailed characterization of flavonolignans properties affecting interactions with human skin was of interest. The partition coefficients log Pow
of main constitutive flavonolignans, taxifolin and their respective dehydro derivatives were determined by a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) method and by mathematical (in silico) approaches in n
-octanol/water and model lipid membranes. These parameters were compared with human skin intake ex vivo. The experimental log Pow
values for individual diastereomers were estimated for the first time. The replacement of n
-octanol with model lipid membranes in the theoretical lipophilicity estimation improved the prediction strength. During transdermal transport, all the studied compounds permeated the human skin ex vivo; none of them reached the acceptor liquid. Both experimental/theoretical tools allowed the studied polyphenols to be divided into two groups: low (taxifolin, silychristin, silydianin) vs. high (silybin, dehydrosilybin, isosilybin) lipophilicity and skin intake. In silico predictions can be usefully applied for estimating general lipophilicity trends, such as skin penetration or accumulation predictions. However, the theoretical models cannot yet provide the dermal delivery differences of compounds with very similar physico-chemical properties; e.g., between diastereomers.
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