Jul 06


Corneotherapy – Healthy Skin Barrier Function

When I first heard this word, I have to admit I thought it had something to do with the eyes.  Corneotherapy has to do with the study of the skins barrier function. Barrier damage is often mistaken for dehydration when actually dehydration is often a symptom of the larger issue of barrier dysfunction. Lipids trap water between cells but when the lipids are damaged, water evaporates – causing the skin to become dehydrated. This is called TEWL “Trans Epidermal Water Loss”.  Inflammatory chemicals are also released when barrier function is in disrepair causing inflammation in the skin.

Barrier dysfunction also sets the stage for premature aging and inflammation. In order to solve many skin issues we must first address barrier function and repair. If we do not do that first and foremost, any positive changes in the skin may be short-lived. It really is all about maintaining and keeping a healthy barrier function to have our best skin.

In 1979, Dr. Peter Elias discovered lipids between skin cells – naming his discovery the “brick & mortar” model of the skin.  This was a very important discovery since before that we thought the skin cells were alone – learning that this lipid barrier exists changed the way we treat the skin.


When we have a healthy skin barrier our skin retains moisture, feels smooth and inflammation is lessened. When the barrier is damaged moisture escapes, skin feels rough and inflammation occurs.

There are many environmental influences on barrier damage:

  • UV Exposure
  • Climate Changes
  • Air Pollution
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Cosmetics
  • Microbes
  • AHA’s, Retinoids, Peels
  • Allergens
  • Topical or Oral Drugs
  • Diet
  • Alcohol
  • Hot Water
  • Computer Screens
  • Smart Phones

There are also many Internal Influences on Barrier Damage

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Emotional Stress
  • Hormones
  • Illness
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Acne
  • Acute Dermatitis

A healthy stratum corneum is our first line of defense and limits penetration into the body of:

  • environmental toxins
  • Microorganisms
  • Mold
  • Yeast
  • Fungus
  • Bacteria
  • Yeast
  • Insects

Our skin truly is our defense from the outside world and our stratum corneum is on average only as thick as one strand of the individuals hair.

The first person to assemble symptoms of Stratum Corneum damage under one treatable condition was internationally acclaimed research dermatologist Albert Kligman, MD.  Dr. Kligman named the process to repair damaged stratum corneum “Corneotherapy” in the 1960’s. Corneotherapy is an old term that is now becoming popular in esthetics.

The Three Core Principles of Corneotherapy:

1. Prevent: Avoid Exposure to barrier-damaging chemicals, products, environments and events

2. Protect: protect lipids from oxidation

3. Correct and Supplement: Use barrier repair, hydration and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

It important to avoid potential irritants and remember that most barrier damaging ingredients are dose-dependent.

  • Strong sulfates: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – 0.5% or higher
  • Strong Emulsifiers – used in moisturizers
  • Uncontrolled , Low pH AHA’s 3.0 or lower
  • Retinoids
  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Esssential Oils: Cinnamon, Clove, Geranium, Peppermint, Sandalwood, Bergamot
  • Synthetic Fragrance
  • Avobenzone – chemical sunscreen

What can we do to repair and restore our lipid barrier? Ingredients to look for include:

  • Ceramides
  • Linoleic Acids
  • Tocopheryl Linoleate
  • Squalene
  • Cholesterol
  • Phtyosterols
  • Plant oils: Sterols, GLA, Omegas

Remove and Revive:

  • Glycolic and Lactic Acids – when you do light peels skin cell turnover rates increase, elastin and collagen levels increase and lipids are increased

Ingredients that trigger our own cells to create lipids:

  • Petrolatum
  • Phospholipids
  • Lecithin
  • Magnesium Ascorbic Phosphate
  • Farnesol/Farnesyl Acetate
  • Beta Glucans

Using gentle cleaners and applying serums is a great way to restore lipids and prevent lipid oxidation.  I recommend that when getting a facial clients bring their products with them to their appointment so their esthetician can see what products they are using to make sure they are the right ones for your skin. Using prescription Retinols over .025% can cause barrier damage as can harsh cleansers.

Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) keeps skin moist – ingredients to look for

  • Urea
  • Lactates
  • Sugars
  • NaPCA
  • Metal Ions
  • Amino Acids

Humectants are very important for hydration and barrier function – some popular ones:

  • Panthenol
  • Honey
  • Hyaluronic Acid- Sodium Hyaluronate
  • Polysaccharides
  • Laminaria digitata
  • Lactic Acid
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Algae Peptides
  • Amino Acids

In closing, we want to avoid environments that cause barrier damage, use skincare products formulated specifically for barrier damaged skin, i.e.. “professional products”. We want to avoid irritants and common allergens, hydrate and seal and protect newly formed lipids from oxidation.




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  1. Dusty rose

    Can you recommend face washes and moisturizers with these ingredients?

    1. Pearl

      Hi Dusty, Please email me at pearl@glamologie.com and I can see what’s going on with your skin and make a personal recommendation. Thank you!


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