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What is the importance of the skin barrier function?

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Skin has a number of important jobs, and its number one role is to act as a protective barrier. In particular, the top layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, is responsible for:

Holding onto water and other essential substances in your skin

Keeping out things you don’t want to enter your body like irritants and microorganisms

The stratum corneum is technically dead, and it’s only 10-40 microns thick, but it’s incredibly good at keeping up this barrier function. It’s made up of flattened dead skin cells known as corneocytes which are surrounded by oily lipids: fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides. The corneocytes sit in the lipids much like bricks in mortar.