Understanding the skin penetration of nanoparticles (NPs) is an important concern due to the increasing presence of NPs in consumer products, including cosmetics. Technical challenges have slowed progress in evaluating skin barrier and NP factors that contribute to skin penetration risk. To limit sampling error and other problems associated with histological processing, many researchers are implementing whole tissue confocal or multiphoton microscopies. This work introduces a fluorescence and reflectance confocal microscopy system that utilizes near-IR excitation and emission to detect near-IR lead sulfide quantum dots (QDs) through ex vivo human epidermis. We provide a detailed prediction and experimental analysis of QD detection sensitivity and demonstrate detection of QD skin penetration in a barrier disrupted model. The unique properties of near-IR lead-based QDs will enable future studies that examine the impact of further barrier-disrupting agents on skin penetration of QDs and elucidate mechanistic insight into QD tissue interactions at the cellular level
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