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Examining Skin: A Functional Barrier

By: Marie Alice Dibon, PharmD
Posted: March 2, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 7 of 13

Everything in the stratum corneum is linked in a flexible manner; this is what gives it its strength, both structural and functional. The flexibility of the stratum corneum is indeed our first line of defense against wrinkles—as well-hydrated, supple skin is flexible and will flex without breaking or marking the fold. Additionally, keratin needs to hold enough water so as to keep the hardened corneocytes flexible enough as well.

The Importance of Bound Water

When discussing the barrier, one also needs to discuss water—noting the importance of the hydrated state of keratins. When bringing water to the skin, you should understand what the state of water is in the skin. Only bound water (water molecules organized in clusters, linked by hydrogen liaisons) is functional in skin.

To visualize bound water, think of grapes.These “water grapes” have very low entropy and also very low mobility—and because of this, their ability to link to adjacent structures is very high as they linger near the sites that they need to link to.

The high number of molecules comprising hydroxyl groups is what allows the natural moisturization factor to be an efficient means of hydration, as these groups will link to the water clusters easily. The more hydroxyl groups there are, the higher the probability for linking between water and keratin and for the corneocytes to remain flexible.

If free water is applied to the skin, it will not link to these structures, but rather will wash away the amino acids that are there.

A Story of Time and Synchronization

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