Lipids of the stratum corneum are implicated in cohesion and desquamation of the stratum corneum as well as in the maintenance of normal barrier function. Evidence linking the intercellular lipids to such processes has mainly been derived from studies on acquired or inherited diseases of lipid metabolism manifesting abnormalities in the structure and the function of the stratum corneum. We have studied the composition of stratum corneum lipids in clinically normal individuals with typical xerosis or ‘winter dry skin’ in order to establish if the lipid composition differs from that of normal individuals, showing no signs of xerosis. The amount of total stratum corneum lipids was not related to xerosis (22.0 ± 1.8 μg/cm2 for normal skin, and 26.3 ± 2.9 μg/cm2 for severe xerosis), and no correlation was evident between polar lipids, cholesterol sulfate (2.8 ± 0.5% for normal skin, and 1.6 ± 0.2% for severe xerosis), or ceramides types I-VI, and dry skin. It therefore appears that dramatic changes in stratum corneum lipids are not detectable in normal ‘winter dry’ skin. However, a decreased proportion of neutral lipids (sterol esters, triglycerides), coupled to increased amounts of free fatty acids were found associated to the severity of dry skin. Apart from a decline in the sebaceous function and in esterases activity, winter dry skin does not appear to be associated to dramatic changes in polar stratum corneum lipids.

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