Zinc pyrithione (ZnPT) is a widely used antifungal, usually applied as a microparticle suspension to facilitate delivery into the hair follicles, where it then dissociates into a soluble monomeric form that is bioactive against yeast and other microorganisms. In this study, we use multiphoton microscopy (MPM) and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) to characterise ZnPT formulations and map the delivery of particles into follicles within human skin. To simulate real-world conditions, it was applied using a massage or no-massage technique, while simultaneously assessing the dissolution using Zinpyr-1, a zinc labile fluorescent probe. ZnPT particles can be detected in a range of shampoo formulations using both MPM and FLIM, though FLIM is optimal for detection as it allows spectral and lifetime discrimination leading to increased selectivity and sensitivity. In aqueous suspensions, the ZnPT 7.2 µm particles could be detected up to 500 µm in the follicle. The ZnPT particles in formulations were finer (1.0–3.3 µm), resulting in rapid dissolution on the skin surface and within follicles, evidenced by a reduced particle signal at 24 h but enhanced Zinpyr-1 intensity in the follicular and surface epithelium. This study shows how MPM-FLIM multimodal imaging can be used as a useful tool to assess ZnPT delivery to skin and its subsequent dissolution.
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