Stratum corneum intercellular lipids regulate skin water barrier function and water-holding capacity; their modification may impair these properties. Physical and chemical stresses diminish barrier function. Acute barrier disruption by tape stripping increases sphingomyelinase and serine palmitoyltransferase activity; ceramide contents are increased to restore barrier function. Overcrowding stress induces dry skin, and the barrier function impairment correlates with decreased skin cera- mides. The effect of UV irradiation on ceramide content and barrier function varies with doses and UV wavelength. Stress-induced ceramide generation may induce apoptosis in cultured human keratinocytes and restore barrier function. This review focuses on the role of ceramides in physical and chemical stress, suggesting that refinement and extension of this academic domain may lead to therapeutic advances.

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