Atopic xerosis: Employment of noninvasive biophysical instrumentation for the functional analyses of the mildly abnormal stratum corneum and for the efficacy assessment of skin care products

Hachiro Tagami, Hiromi Kobayashi, Kenichiro O'goshi, Katsuko Kikuchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


The subtle dryness of the skin surrounding the lesions of atopic dermatitis (AD) is called atopic dry skin or atopic xerosis (AX). AX is more susceptible to the development of AD skin lesions under various environmental stimuli than the clinically normal skin of the people who have or have had or will have AD, which might be called normal atopic skin (NAS) that shows no functional differences as compared to the skin of normal individuals. Routine histopathologic studies of AX that involve the invasive procedures of biopsy are not so helpful in clarifying the underlying pathogenesis. Modern, noninvasive biophysical instrumentation provides rich and quantitative information about various functional aspects of skin. The stratum corneum (SC) of AX reveals not only decreased hydration but also mildly impaired barrier function demonstrable as an increase in transepidermal water loss, elevated pH values, and an increased turnover rate of the SC consisting of thick layers of smaller-sized corneocytes. These data suggest that AX is related to mildly increased epidermal proliferation as a result of the presence of subclinical cutaneous inflammation. Although AX skin does not display any impairment in the recovery of barrier function after physical skin irritation by tape-stripping, it produces a much more severe, long-lasting inflammatory response together with a delay in barrier repair after chemical irritation such as that induced by sodium lauryl sulphate. The SC of AX is biochemically characterized by reduction in the amounts of ceramides, especially ceramide I, sebum lipids, and water-soluble amino acids. None of these changes in SC functions are seen in NAS, which includes not only the normal-looking skin of AD patients long after regression of all active lesions but also of latent atopic skin such as neonates who later develop AD. This suggests that all of the observed functional as well as biochemical abnormalities of AX are a reflection of subclinical inflammation. The presence of the underlying inflammation in AX also differentiates it from senile xerosis. The mildly impaired SC functions of AX can be improved by daily repeated applications of effective moisturizers, i.e., corneotherapy, which is effective in preventing the exacerbating progression of AX to AD resulting from inadvertent scratching of the skin that facilitates the penetration of environmental allergens into the skin. The biophysical confirmation of such efficacy of moisturizers, including cosmetic bases on the mildly impaired barrier function and decreased water-holding capacity of the SC of AX, definitely substantiates the importance of skin care for the cosmetic skin problems that affect every individual in the cold and dry season ranging from late autumn to early spring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cosmetic Dermatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Jun
Externally publishedYes


  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Atopic xerosis
  • Barrier function
  • Hydration
  • Moisturizer
  • Senile xerosis
  • Stratum corneum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


Dive into the research topics of 'Atopic xerosis: Employment of noninvasive biophysical instrumentation for the functional analyses of the mildly abnormal stratum corneum and for the efficacy assessment of skin care products'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this