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J Invest Dermatol. 1987 Mar;88(3 Suppl):2s-6s.

Skin lipids: an update.


The stratum corneum lipids, responsible for the epidermal water barrier, consist principally of ceramides, cholesterol, cholesteryl sulfate, and free fatty acids. These lipids are arranged in multiple intercellular lamellae that provide an efficient water barrier because of the crystalline array of the straight and predominantly saturated lipid chains. Interlamellar linkages provided by lipids based on 30-carbon omega-hydroxyacids may be responsible for holding together the intercellular lamellae as well as for assembly of the lamellar granules of the granular cells. The normally ordered exfoliation of corneocytes as they arrive at the surface seems to require hydrolysis of the cholesteryl sulfate to free cholesterol. The sebaceous glands secrete continuously, producing sebum that consists predominantly of triglycerides, wax esters, and squalene. High rates of sebum production per sebocyte result in low levels of linoleate in the sebaceous esters, subjecting the follicular epithelium to essential fatty acid deficiency and the characteristic hyperkeratosis that results in comedo formation. Suppression of sebum production by drugs elevates sebum linoleate concentration and relieves follicular hyperkeratosis. Thus, sebum continues to be a prime suspect in the crime of acne. Low levels of sebaceous gland activity are not correlated with the occurrence of dry skin.

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