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Am J Clin Dermatol. 2002;3(4):261-72.

The acidic milieu of the horny layer: new findings on the physiology and pathophysiology of skin pH.

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  • 1Beiersdorf AG, Hamburg, Germany.


The acidic pH of the horny layer, measurable on the skin surface, has long been regarded as a result of exocrine secretion of the skin glands. The 'acid mantle' was thought to regulate the bacterial skin flora and to be sensitive primarily to skin cleansing procedures. In recent years, an increasing number of investigations have been published on the changes in, and constituents and functions of, the pH of the deeper layers of the stratum corneum, as well as on the influence of physiological and pathological factors. A central role for the acidic milieu as a regulating factor in stratum corneum homeostasis is now emerging. This has relevance to the integrity of the barrier function, from normal maturation of the stratum corneum lipids through to desquamation. Changes in the pH and the organic factors influencing it appear to play a role, not only in the pathogenesis, prevention and treatment of irritant contact dermatitis, but also of atopic dermatitis and ichthyosis and in wound healing. On the basis of these findings, a broader concept, exceeding the superficial 'acid mantle' theory, has been formulated.

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