The literature is abounding with attempts made to enhance the delivery of drugs into the deep layers of the skin and through the skin. Ethosomes are noninvasive delivery carriers that enable drugs to reach the deep skin layers and/or the systemic circulation. Although ethosomal systems are conceptually sophisticated, they are characterized by simplicity in their preparation, safety, and efficacy a combination that can highly expand their application. Ethosomes are soft, malleable vesicles tailored for enhanced delivery of active agents. This article reviews various aspect of ethosomes including their preparation, characterization, potential advantages and their applications in drug delivery. Because of their unique structure, ethosomes are able to encapsulate and deliver through the skin highly lipophilic molecules such as cannabinoids, testosterone, and minoxidil, as well as cationic drugs such as propranolol and trihexyphenidil. Ethosomes are provides a number of important benefits including improving the drug's efficacy, enhancing patient compliance and comfort and reducing the total cost of treatment. Enhanced delivery of bioactive molecules through the skin and cellular membranes by means of an ethosomal carrier opens numerous challenges and opportunities for the research and future development of novel improved therapies.
Transdermal drug delivery offers many advantages as compared to traditional drug delivery systems, including oral and parenteral drug delivery system. Advantages claimed are increased patient acceptability (non invasiveness), avoidance of gastrointestinal disturbances and first pass metabolism of the drug.  The traditional transdermal drug delivery systems involve a patch, in which the drug permeates through various layers of skin, via a passive diffusion pathway. However, this limits the basic potential of these systems, as stratum corneum is the most formidable barrier to the passage of most of the drugs, except for highly lipophilic, low molecular weight drugs. To overcome the stratum corneum barrier, various mechanisms have been investigated, including use of chemical or physical enhancers, such as iontophoresis, sonophoresis, etc. Liposomes, niosomes, transferosomes and ethosomes also have the potential of overcoming the skin barrier and have been reported to enhance permeability of drug through the stratum corneum barrier.
The vesicles have been well known for their importance in cellular communication and particle transportation for many years. Researchers have understood the properties of vesicles structure for use in better drug delivery within their cavities, which would to tag the vesicle for cell specificity. One of the major advances in vesicle research was the finding a vesicle derivatives, known as an Ethosomes. 
Ethosomes are noninvasive delivery carriers that enable drugs to reach the deep skin layers and/or the systemic circulation. These are soft, malleable vesicles tailored for enhanced delivery of active agents. They are composed mainly of phospholipids, (phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, phosphatitidic acid), high concentration of ethanol and water.  The high concentration of ethanol makes the ethosomes unique, as ethanol is known for its disturbance of skin lipid bilayer organization; therefore, when integrated into a vesicle membrane, it gives that vesicle the ability to penetrate the stratum corneum. Also, because of their high ethanol concentration, the lipid membrane is packed less tightly than conventional vesicles but has equivalent stability, allowing a more malleable structure and improves drug distribution ability in stratum corneum lipids.
The Ethosomes were found to be suitable for various applications within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, veterinary, cosmetic, and nutraceutical markets. These “soft vesicles” represents novel vesicular carrier for enhanced delivery to/through skin. The size of Ethosomes vesicles can be modulated from tens of nanometers to microns.
Nitesh S Chauhan, M.Pharm., (Ph.D)
Faculty of Pharmacy
Editor in Chief
International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (IJPS)
R R College of Pharmacy
#67, R R Layout, Chikkabanavara
Hesarghatta Main Road, Bangalore-560090