Acute disruption of the cutaneous permeability barrier with either solvents or tape-stripping stimulates a homeostatic metabolic response in the subjacent nucleated layers of the epidermis that results in a rapid restoration of normal permeability barrier function. When the aged epidermal permeability barrier is stressed, it reveals a diminished capacity for recovery, in comparison to young epidermis, analogous to other organs in the aged when stressed. Although the signals that regulate this homeostatic response by the epidermis have not yet been resolved, acute permeability barrier disruption stimulates release of prestored IL-1alpha, and increased production of potentially regulatory cytokines, including IL-1alpha and TNFalpha in the epidermis. In these studies, we addressed the hypothesis that cytokine dysregulation explains the permeability barrier abnormality in aged epidermis, assessing the regulation of IL-1 and TNF signaling in aged vs young mice. To determine whether the IL-1 family of cytokines plays a key role in the permeability barrier abnormality of the aged, permeability barrier recovery rates were compared in transgenic mice lacking the functional IL-1 type 1 receptor vs wild-type mice at various ages. Knockout of the IL-1 type 1 receptor exacerbates the defect in permeability barrier homeostasis that is seen in age-matched, wild-type counterparts. Furthermore, the sluggish permeability barrier recovery in aged epidermis is associated with, and at least in part attributable to, altered expression of the IL-1 family of cytokines and receptors both under basal conditions and after acute barrier perturbations. Whereas modulations in cytokine expression with epidermal permeability barrier perturbation are qualitatively similar in aged epidermis, they greatly differ quantitatively. In contrast, examination of TNFalpha mRNA and protein basally, and following barrier perturbation revealed no alterations in aged epidermis. Together, these results show that selective alterations in the IL-1 family of cytokines occur with aging and that defects in IL-1 signaling may contribute to the epidermal permeability barrier abnormality of aged skin.