Glutathione, the most abundant low-molecular weight thiol in the skin, has been shown to protect the skin from both photobiological and chemical injury. The thiols, glutathione in particular, have also been shown to be crucially involved in defence against contact allergens. Since the levels of extracellular thiol concentrations are important determinants of intracellular thiol status, we have compared the normal concentrations and the redox status of the main low-molecular weight thiol components in the extracellular fluid at the dermo-epidermal junction with the corresponding plasma levels. In their sulfhydryl form, all three thiols, i.e. glutathione, cysteine and homocysteine, were more abundant in experimental skin blister fluid than in plasma, as were the free disulfides of glutathione and homocysteine, whereas the free disulfides of cysteine were about the same in blister fluid and in plasma. Protein mixed disulfide levels were higher in plasma than in blister fluid. The present results provide information concerning the extracellular defence in the skin.