British Journal of Dermatology Special Issue launched at SCVIII

It is many years ago that I entered Prof Ronald Marks’ office to be interviewed for a job as electron microscopist in his research team at the then Welsh National School of Medicine.  Little did I know what effect Ronnie would have on the future direction of my career.  If you had told me in 1981 –  during Stratum Corneum I  – that over 30 years later I’d be helping organise Stratum Corneum VIII I’d have laughed in disbelief!  (there is photographic evidence to prove this!).

The start of the Stratum Corneum series of meetings

The start of the Stratum Corneum series of meetings

Like many others I became infected with Ronnie’s passion for this wispy structure covering our bodies.  Together we wondered at the size, shape, orientation and development of these “dead” surface cells.  I remember Ronnie challenging me to think about measuring the resistance to indentation of individual corneocytes – he had already measured this on the macro-scale (pun intended!).  This was brought to mind when I saw recent publication using Atomic Force Microscopy to do just that.

Ronnie’s vision and influence on our understanding of the SC will be celebrated again in Cardiff next week at SCVIII.  Many experts in the field of Stratum Corneum Biology who have been similarly influenced by Ronnie’s wit and wisdom have contributed a “status report” on our knowledge on the topic to be published by the BJD as Ronnie’s Festschrift.

BJD Festschrift  cover

Professors Steve Hoath, Marek Haftek, Lars Norlén, Tony Rawlings, Hachiro Tagami, Gérald Piérard, Marie Lodén, and Ronnie himself have all contributed articles to form a unique publication in celebration of Ronnie’s contribution to Stratum Corneum and the International Society for Stratum Corneum Research.

The good new for attendees at SCVII is that they will receive a complimentary copy of this unique publication.

The publication will also be available on line to subscribers of the British Journal of Dermatology

I look forward to seeing many of you in Cardiff next week in what promises to be another great event!

Steve Barton



Homo sapiens tends to see itself as the centre of the universe, so it is no surprise that “Skin Biology 101” teaches that development of the epidermis works in one direction – from the inside to the outside. One directional thinking also suggests the purpose of the barrier is to protect “our precious inside” from “the wicked outside” (though microbiologists could doubtless argue that biome defence against immunological attack is the philosophical reality!).

There are many external and internal factors that regulate and influence the differentiation and movement of keratinocytes from the basal lamina up through the epidermis to become the anucleate toughened corneocyte “bricks” embedded in lipid-rich matrix “mortar” we know as “the skin barrier”.  As with other biological barriers, its ultimate quality and effectiveness arises from a complex inter-relationship between internal physiology and external environment.

The INSIDE-OUT or OUTSIDE–IN? debate is not just a philosophical discussion, it has important research and practical implications. For example research suggests the skin biome has an important immune modulating effect early in life and the species of this biome from deeper in the SC may be more representative – more part of us than apart from us?

  • What happens when we disturb this system?
  • How reliant are we on the skin biome for barrier homeostasis?

There are many sides to this discussion, but at 16:30 on 18th September at Stratum Corneum VIII in Cardiff,  the “Inside-Out v Outside-In” question will be debated with the proposition:-

Studies of atopic dermatitis and other diseases involving both barrier disruption and immunological factors have taught us that Outside-In (barrier defects) is more important, than Inside Out, (pathogenesis arising from immunology).

In the debate we want to challenge preconceptions in an entertaining, informative and inclusive manner.  Experts will argue the case for and against and delegates will get their chance to question, argue their point and ultimately vote to decide which side has made the best case – Inside-Out or Outside-In?

The winning side will be awarded “The Squame of Reason” plaque!

What’s your view? Let us know here and, better still, come listen and take part in Cardiff.

For more on the programme and registration Click the CARDIFF 2014 STRATUM CORNEUM VIII link in the side panel


Outside In

Steve Barton – SCVIII Organising Committee


Skin Metagenomics: About Life on the Stratum Corneum

We have asked the Stratum Corneum VIII attendees to share with us their topics of interest. In this contribution, Dr Neelam Muizzuddin, Director of Clinical Research at Estee Lauder, US, discusses ‘Skin Megagenomics: About Life on the Stratum Corneum’.

Skin, the human body’s largest organ is colonized by a diverse milieu of microorganisms, most of which are harmless or even beneficial to their host. Colonization is driven by the ecology of the skin surface, which is highly variable depending on topographical location, endogenous host factors and exogenous environmental factors. Metagenomics is the study of genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples.
A microbiome is “the ecological community” of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space. This term was originally coined by Joshua Lederberg, who argued the importance of microorganisms inhabiting the human body in health and disease. The human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. Modern DNA sequencing techniques have enabled researchers to find the majority of these microbes, since the majority of them cannot be cultured in a lab using current techniques.
The human skin microbiome could provide insight into the impact that human colonizing bacteria can have on health. The approach provides access to the functions carried out by dominant skin colonizing taxa, including Corynebacterium, Staphylococcus and Propionibacterium, revealing their specific capabilities to interact with and exploit compounds from the human skin. These functions, which clearly illustrate the unique life style of the skin microbial communities, stand as invaluable investigation targets for understanding and potentially modifying bacterial interactions with the human host with the objective of increasing health and well being.

Lets Live Stratum Corneum

Let’s live Stratum Corneum (SC)

A biennial scientific meeting exploring different aspects of the superficial layer of the skin will be held in September 2014 in Cardiff. Top three reasons to attend?

1. Interdisciplinary Community. Tucked away in Cardiff, the meeting creates a space for discussion among a distinct community – scientists, academics, clinicians and the industry. The SC attendees differ in their expertise, perspective and approach to SC research, yet the benefit is in finding common denominators. Cross-functional scientific meetings often facilitate innovation through collaborative networks.

2. Fostering Innovation. Innovation happens at the periphery of science where different functions merge. All of these functions focus on stratum corneum; the fundamental research or applied research related to topical products. Skin integrity is essential for human health. Skin barrier breakdown, due to ageing or disease, has a detrimental effect on quality of life as well as socioeconomic consequences. Both the Personal Care and Pharmaceutical industry are seeking to understand the skin barrier – to either maintain it, as the holy grail of good skincare, or to overcome it for the topical delivery of drugs. At the same time Clinicians are looking for new ways to assess its function and contribution to disease. Focusing on the stratum corneum for these 3 days fosters innovation.

3. Looking to the Future. The key assets of the SC meetings have been the future of skin barrier research, its genetics, metabolism and clinical application in dermatology and skincare.

What’s on offer in 2014? The 8th SC meeting has a line up of excellent keynote speakers. The leading themes for this year are SC movement, structure, construction and deconstruction but also metagenomics, the microbiome and clinical implications of gene variation in dermatology.

Join us in Cardiff on 17th – 19th September 2014 for an interesting meeting!

Dr Katerina Steventon MSc. PhD

Stratum corneum as a barrier – does size matter? (by Clotilde Cheignon)

The stratum corneum as a physical barrier has been of increased interest over recent years, as scientists have studied the effect of the nanoparticles ingredients on the skin, in medical and cosmetic applications. Earlier findings suggested that they could enhance penetration into the skin delivering active ingredients.
In 2000, V. Jenning, A. Gysler, M. Schäfer-Korting and S. H. Gohla, Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2000 May; 49 (3): 211-8. studied the Vitamin A use in topical [Vitamin A loaded solid lipid nanoparticles for topical use: occlusive properties and drug targeting to the upper skin]. The use of solid lipid nanoparticles helps for a penetration of retinyl palmitate and retinol format onto the skin.
With “Nanoparticles and microparticles for skin drug delivery“ Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2011 May 30;63(6):470-91, T. W. Prow and Cie, in 2011, demonstrated that depending on the size of the particles of the carrier (smaller or bigger than 10 nanometers), the drugs will be delivered on the top of the skin or via a deposition on the follicule.
In 2007, S. E. Cross, B. Innes, M. S. Roberts, T. Tsuzuki, T. A. Robertson and P. McCormick in their publication “Human Skin Penetration of Sunscreen Nanoparticles: In-vitro Assessment of a Novel Micronized Zinc Oxide Formulation” Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2007;20(3):148-54 could not demonstrate a deep penetration of Zinc Oxide in the skin, but concluded that further studies need to be performed regarding other format of ZnO as well as other ingredients, as safety concerns have been raised.
For other scientists, such as S. K. Murthy, declared in 2007, that nanoparticles have a future in medicine applications [Nanoparticles in modern medicine: State of the art and future challenges].
In cosmetic application, the issue is that regarding the regulation you do not want ingredients penetrating deeply into the skin – indeed for sunscreens and some barrier enhancing ingredients it is preferable for them to stay close to the surface, However in medical applications, greater penetration could be a benefit.
The fear in cosmetic industry is so real that in October 2011, the EC adopted the recommendation 2011/696/EU on a common definition of the term “nanomaterial” to facilitate the regulation of products containing such materials.
From July 2013, cosmetic products placed on the market in the European Economic Area are obliged to comply with the European cosmetics regulation (EC) 1223/20092. Therefore the nanoparticles must be specified on the label with such an ingredient using the suffix “nano”.
Following the European commission, a series of methods have been proposed to measure the particle size of nanoparticles.
In 2012, Professor Guy’s group, challenged the view that nanoparticle ingredients could penetrate deeply the skin [Objective assessment of nanoparticle disposition in mammalian skin after topical exposure, C. S. J. Campbell, L. R. Contreras-Rojas, M. B. Delgado-Charro, R. H. Guy,  J Control Release. 2012 Aug 20;162(1):201-7. ].
His team used a laser scanning confocal microscopy to examine fluorescently-tagged polystyrene beads (ranging in size from 20 to 200 nanometers) absorbed into the skin.
Their conclusion is that even when the skin was damaged by stripping outlayers with adhesive tape, the nanoparticles did not penetrate further down the Stratum corneum over time. Despite the conclusion, it should be emphasised that this research has clearly not been able to make a systematic evaluation of nanoparticle disposition on the skin for the entire spectrum of particle properties, including shape and charge. The impact of such other important variables remains to be determined.
The findings could allow the safe use of insoluble nanoparticles into cosmetic applications, such as sunscreens.
It reinforces the fact that the Stratum corneum, which first role is to act as a barrier and to reduce the water loss, works well.
It will be interesting to see how this field of stratum corneum research develops.  There maybe people working on this right now; if so it would be good to hear your views.

Read further at


ISSCR Forum, Dec 13

Last September, after SCVII,  I took over from Tony Rawlings chairing this group –  International Society for Stratum Corneum Research.  Tony is a hard act to follow and I am very grateful to him and Paul Matts for all  the work they did supporting Professor Ronnie Marks keeping his brainchild going through the most recent of its seven events.

For the last year I’ve been thinking through what ISSCR is all about. I’ve had many conversations with Ronnie and other members of the committee and Sarah Spanswick from Management Forum. One important focus has been the 2014 Symposium Stratum Corneum VIII but other aspects of ISSCR still need addressing.  With SCVIII launched I took a holiday and a reflective deep breath for a month.

During that time, on more than one occasion, the ISSCR has come to mind whilst not in “ISSCR business mode”. Sad though you may think me but I’m still excited about stratum corneum almost 35 years after being introduced to its existence by a certain Professor Ronnie Marks – more of which later.

It is no surprise that reading a journal offers the time to reflect on SC biology. The October issue of International Journal of Cosmetics Science’s excellent review article by Clive Harding and colleagues at Unilever revisiting filaggrin [i] raised questions not only about the name filaggrin but also its role in healthy skin, disease, and endogenous defence against microbes and UV.  So keynote presentations at Stratum Corneum VIII, from Alan Irvine, an expert on filaggrin loss of function genes and Pascal Simonet on interactions between microflora and SC are clearly going to provide a great opportunity for discussion.

MGalapagos2aybe more surprising is that fulfilling a life-long ambition to visit the Galapagos Islands  in October also made me think about ISSCR. I could not get over the impressive elasticity, but apparent dryness, of the neck of these Giant Tortoises. This remarkable physiology and their sociological history is very interesting. Their ability to survive long periods without water made them ideal meat source for sailors on long voyages (their aquatic counterparts the turtles’ flotation sacs were a source of fresh water!). The skin biologist in me longed for the opportunity to look even closer; but touching wildlife in Galapagos is forbidden for very good reasons.  Once again Stratum Corneum VIII to the rescue; I’m looking forward to hearing more from Gopi Menon on what we can learn from the nature of the barrier in other animals.

Then, reading the most recent issue of The Biologist, a perhaps less surprising thought came to mind.  In an Opinion article Eva Amsen explored aspects of the move to open access and post-publication review [ii].  Of the many questions this raises the prospect of readers being able to see reviewers comments and their names, as well as the need for readers being more critical in their reading.  This brought me back to thinking about the purpose of the International Society for Stratum Corneum Research. I direct you to ISSCR aims on the Welcome page of this site.

The purpose of Ronnie Marks’ original Stratum Corneum symposium was to gather together the, then small,  but disparate scientists with an interest in Stratum Corneum.  The ISSCR is possibly the only place where this small but amazingly complex and essential structure forms the basis of all discussion – keeping the outside out and the inside in. We have symposia every 2 years but we need to think how we best use this community between these gatherings.

The committee are looking into establishing the ISSCR more formally.  One aspect is how to best fulfil the aims –  go ahead and read them again. One aspect of this will be addressed by canvassing your views; a survey will be coming out soon.  I don’t wish to prejudge the outcome, but it strikes me we should aim for THIS site to be THE place where current knowledge and debate on STRATUM CORNEUM can be put in context and commented on for and by professionals.

I have been fortunate to work with Ronnie, not only learning with him and the team in Cardiff but also many of his contacts, often outside formal symposia proceedings. I’d like future scientists working on stratum corneum and its many facets to gain more from membership of ISSCR;  this community has so much experience to offer more widely.

I urge you to complete the survey,  but I also invite comments.  It is your society; we need to engage you, its members, in its growth and development.

Holiday2Finally I wish you all the very best for whatever sacred or secular festivities you will be celebrating over the next few weeks – here’s to a successful 2014 and a successful SCVIII conference.

Steve Barton





[i] CR Harding, S AHo, CA. Bosko . Filaggrin  – Revisited.
Int J Cos Sci 2013 35(5) 412

[ii] E Amsen  The journals they are a-changing
The Biologist  2013 60(5) 10




Looking Ahead: Corneocare and Comfort Science (by Dr Katerina Steventon)

The concept of corneocare stems from corneobiology and corneotherapy, yet highlights the importance of epidermal sensation. Personal grooming is a rewarding activity that releases endorphins and promotes a positive mood. The concept of corneocare was introduced by DSM at the 2013 in-cosmetics Paris, where the company focused on “comfort science”— a holistic approach to epidermal skin sensation, connecting a youthful appearance to a healthy, functioning epidermis. This brings a different dimension to the SC by recognising it as an interface for imparting visual and tactile sensory signal processing.Dr Tony Rawlings presented on this subject as well, speaking at the Society of Cosmetic Scientists’ Medal Lecturer on 7 March, 2013, in London. Here he focused on enhancing epidermal sensation by building a strong barrier function.


Recent paper by Dr Rawlings

Exploring New Research at Stratum Corneum VII (By Dr Katerina Steventon)

Report from the last STRATUM CORNEUM 2012 meeting:

The International Society for Stratum Corneum Research held its seventh biannual Stratum Corneum (SC) conference on Sept. 10–12 as a joint meeting with the Skin Forum. The event’s namesake is the top layer of the skin that functions primarily as the skin barrier, and it plays a vital role in many aspects of personal care.
The three-day conference was attended by researchers working in basic and applied research of SC biology, organization and function, transdermal absorption and their applications in personal care, pharmaceutical technology and dermatology. Professor Ronald Marks, opened the event and set the scene in defining the SC as an important barrier membrane, acting also as “a canvas on which we paint a pleasing supplement to our aesthetic selves.” The SC has impressive protective functions, including: mechanical (preventing incisional, torsional and scratch injury), antimicrobial and ultraviolet. In addition, it also has an impressive viscoelastic nature and pliability, allowing digits to move without cracking.
Read more online