To determine whether pigment type determines differences in epidermal function, we studied stratum corneum (SC) pH, permeability barrier homeostasis, and SC integrity in three geographically disparate populations with pigment type I-II versus IV-V skin (Fitzpatrick I-VI scale). Type IV-V subjects showed: (i) lower surface pH (approximately 0.5 U); (ii) enhanced SC integrity (transepidermal water loss change with sequential tape strippings); and (iii) more rapid barrier recovery than type I-II subjects. Enhanced barrier function could be ascribed to increased epidermal lipid content, increased lamellar body production, and reduced acidity, leading to enhanced lipid processing. Compromised SC integrity in type I-II subjects could be ascribed to increased serine protease activity, resulting in accelerated desmoglein-1 (DSG-1)/corneodesmosome degradation. In contrast, DSG-1-positive CDs persisted in type IV-V subjects, but due to enhanced cathepsin-D activity, SC thickness did not increase. Adjustment of pH of type I-II SC to type IV-V levels improved epidermal function. Finally, dendrites from type IV-V melanocytes were more acidic than those from type I-II subjects, and they transfer more melanosomes to the SC, suggesting that melanosome secretion could contribute to the more acidic pH of type IV-V skin. These studies show marked pigment-type differences in epidermal structure and function that are pH driven.