Epidermal hyperplasia is the response of the epidermis to external harmful stimuli. The control and regulation of this hyperplasia is not completely understood. It has been proposed that changes in the cellular sodium/potassium ratio are of importance in the regulation of cell proliferation. To evaluate if such a change in the elemental content of epidermal cells can be one factor to consider at irritant contact dermatitis, we performed a quantitative assessment of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)-induced contact reactions in the guinea pig. SLS was applied 1, 2 or 3 times and biopsies were obtained at 24 and 84 h after the last application. It was found that repeated exposures to SLS induced a hyperplasia of epidermis at 24 h persisting at 84 h. At 24 h there were significant changes in the sodium and potassium content of the keratinocytes. At 84 h there was still an increased potassium level in the cells and the sodium/potassium ratio was significantly decreased in epidermis exposed three times to SLS. This implies that changes in cellular sodium/potassium ratios occur in epidermal hyperplasia following irritant stimuli.