The antioxidant network of the stratum corneum

Curr Probl Dermatol. 2001:29:26-42. doi: 10.1159/000060651.


Many studies have demonstrated beneficial health effects of topical antioxidant application; however, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. To better understand the protective mechanism of oxogenous anti-oxidants, it is important to clarify the physiological distribution, activity and regulation of antioxidants. Also, the generation of ROS by the resident and transient microbial flora and their interaction with cutaneous antioxidants appears to be of relevance for the redox properties of skin. Our studies have demonstrated that alpha-tocopherol is, relative to the respective levels in the epidermis, the major antioxidant in the human SC, that alpha-tocopherol depletion is a very early and sensitive biomarker of environmentally induced oxidation and that a physiological mechanism exists to transport alpha-tocopherol to the skin surface via sebaceous gland secretion. Furthermore, there is conclusive evidence that the introduction of carbonyl groups into human SC keratins is inducible by oxidants and that the levels of protein oxidation increase towards outer SC layers. The demonstration of specific redox gradients within the human SC may contribute to a better understanding of the complex biochemical processes of keratinization and desquamation. Taken together, the presented data suggest that, under conditions of environmentally challenged skin or during prooxidative dermatological treatment, topical and/or systemic application of antioxidants could support physiological mechanisms to maintain or restore a healthy skin barrier. Growing experimental evidence should lead to the development of more powerful pharmaceutical and cosmetic strategies involving antioxidant formulations to prevent UV-induced carcinogenesis and photoaging as well as to modulate desquamatory skin disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Air Pollutants / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Arm
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Benzoyl Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Cheek
  • Epidermis / drug effects
  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Epidermis / microbiology
  • Epidermis / radiation effects
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Keratinocytes / radiation effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / radiation effects
  • Oxidants / pharmacology
  • Ozone / pharmacology
  • Photochemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / radiation effects
  • Radiation Injuries / metabolism
  • Sebum / metabolism
  • Squalene / metabolism
  • Squalene / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Uric Acid / metabolism
  • Vitamin E / metabolism
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology


  • Air Pollutants
  • Antioxidants
  • Oxidants
  • Proteins
  • Vitamin E
  • Uric Acid
  • Ozone
  • Squalene
  • Catalase
  • Glutathione
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Benzoyl Peroxide