Three specific linoleate-rich lipids have been identified in pig epidermis and are referred to as O-acylglucosyl ceramide, O-acyl ceramide, and O-acyl acid. The acid moiety is up to 70% linoleic acid and linked via the hydroxyl group of a omega-OH long-chain fatty acid, which itself is linked to sphingosine or glucosyl sphingosine. The identification of O-acyl ceramide confirmed the findings of another group, whereas the structural configuration of the O-acylglucosyl ceramide is different to previous reports. The identification of an O-acyl acid in epidermis is novel. Our evidence allows us to speculate that a hydroxylated derivative of the O-acyl ceramide may be intimately involved in the permeability barrier of skin, perhaps providing sufficient polarity to maintain a lamellar phase in the intercellular space of the lower stratum corneum region, and that it is specifically in this form that linoleic acid is involved in skin barrier function. Alternatively, or concurrently, this species may act as a signal for late keratinisation events.