Structure and function of the epidermis related to barrier properties

Clin Dermatol. 2012 May-Jun;30(3):257-62. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2011.08.007.


The most important function of the skin is the formation of a barrier between the "inside" and the "outside" of the organism, which prevents invasion of pathogens and fends off chemical assaults as well as the unregulated loss of water and solutes. The physical barrier is mainly localized in the stratum corneum, which consists of protein-enriched cells and lipid-enriched intercellular domains. Any modifications in epidermal differentiation and lipid composition results in altered barrier function, a central event in various skin alterations and diseases. This contribution presents a brief description of the structure of the skin, paying attention to the most important components responsible for skin barrier function.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology
  • Epidermis / anatomy & histology
  • Epidermis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / physiology
  • Keratinocytes / physiology
  • Lipids / physiology
  • Permeability
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*


  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Lipids