ARTICLE: Models to Study Skin Lipids in Relation to the Barrier Function: A Modern Update on Models and Methodologies Evaluating Skin Barrier Function

April 2021 | Volume 20 | Issue 4 | Supplement Individual Articles | s10 | Copyright © April 2021

Published online April 6, 2021

Rebecca Barresi, Hawasatu Dumbuya PhD, Xue Liu PhD, I-Chien Liao PhD

L’Oréal Research and Innovation, Clark, NJ

to irritants and increased TEWL, indicating that these two CER species are essential for barrier function.63 One research group demonstrated that a twice-daily regimen of a synthetic CERcontaining cleanser and moisturizer in AD patients significantly improved skin condition, clinical outcome, and quality of life after 42-day treatment.64 Similarly, combining synthetic skinidentical CERs 1, 3 6-II with multi-lamellar vesicular emulsion (MVE) technology can effectively deliver these lipids within the skin layers over a sustained period of time.65 This unique approach to CER-containing formulation was shown to restore skin barrier integrity and improve clinical appearance of rosacea, eczema, skin dryness, and more recently in conjunction with combination therapy, for treating facial acne vulgaris.65–69 While there is clear evidence of barrier restoration following the mentioned routines of ceramide-infused skin products, continuous research is essential in identifying the correct combination of skin essential lipids in conjunction with a proper delivery system in order to improve and maximize skin health.


Lipid abnormalities, stemmed from inherited, exogenous, or pathological factors, are often associated with impaired skin barrier function and integrity. To achieve optimal results and bring the right strategy for skin care formulation, it is crucial to utilize models to not only understand skin barrier function but the role of lipids in maintaining barrier integrity. In situ, ex vivo, and RHE models are value tools in understanding the relationship of lipids with skin barrier integrity without the ethical constraints present in clinical evaluations. However, such models exist in controlled and simplified conditions that may not hold true for real-world applications. Ex vivo models are able to provide a comprehensive and clinically relevant understanding to barrier components because of its intact barrier. As the models grow in complexity, the full barrier function, especially lipid composition, can be thoroughly evaluated; however, there is an increasing limitation in study size and biological variability.

Because of their benefits in promoting health barrier function, improving appearance of lesions, minimizing skin irritation, and increasing patients’ compliance and treatment efficacy, incorporation of CERs and other barrier-enforcing lipids into formulas have become increasingly popular across the skincare field. In the future, it would be critical to determine the benefits of these lipids-containing formulations on compromised skin barrier caused by daily skin stressors, such as pollution and UVR.


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