The most important function of the skin is to form a barrier between the body and
the external environment. The epidermal barrier prevents transepidermal water loss from the
skin, but also serves as a barrier to the entry of harmful environmental allergic, toxic or
infectious substances. Inherited defects in the genes encoding the components of the epidermal
barrier result in the development of rare genetic disorders, whereas polymorphisms in
these genes together with environmental factors cause frequent inflammatory skin diseases,
such as atopic dermatitis. In this review, components of the skin-barrier function will be
reviewed with special emphasis on how the altered epidermal barrier might be repaired. The
different strategies to increase the transdermal penetration of drugs is also discussed.
Keywords: Cutaneous barrier, barrier development, barrier impairment, barrier repair.
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