On a simplified level, Corneotherapy refers to a practice of supporting the long term sustainable health of the skin. This is done through a focus of nurturing and protecting the outermost layer of skin vs the alternate practice of aggressively beating the skin into submission through harsh resurfacing treatments. These harsh treatments sometimes produce more immediate visually pleasing results, but are often temporary and unsustainable.
More specifically, Corneotherapy is the methodology and practice surrounding the core principle of preserving the Skin Barrier at all costs. One of the biggest components of our Skin Barrier is skin cells called Corneocytes. Our Corneocytes actually start out their lives birthed at a much lower level of skin and are known by a different name - Keratinocytes. These nutrient rich skin cells are heavily influenced by internal health factors and diet. Over the course of their lives they migrate up to the surface of the skin where they flatten out and create an oily substance around themselves. Those two parts, the lipids and the now flattened Corneocytes, make up the Skin Barrier; the skin’s main line of defense.
The Skin Barrier is the foundation for good skin health. It is charged with not just keeping external irritants out of the skin but, because of those lipids and Corneocytes. It makes this barrier waterproof. The Skin Barrier effectively keeps hydration in. That hydration is crucial to ensuring future keratinocytes make a healthy and successful transformation into Corneocytes. Healthy hydration also keeps inflammation levels down and regulates many other processes that occur beneath the skin - invisible and undetectable to the naked eye.
Now let’s visualize what this looks like in a real world scenario.
Have you ever had dry skin that flakes or becomes scaly? Those dried up seemingly pointless skin cells you visibly see on the surface are your Corneocytes coming loose, often prematurely, due to a dysfunction within the Skin Barrier. We are often encouraged to remove these dry skin cells, however there can be a deeper physiological reason for this skin response. Either as a result of internal issues or other more superficial factors, the lipids meant to hold the Corneocytes together like the mortar in a brick wall are not present in concentrations required for healthy skin.
It is a common, and frankly harmful and outdated, practice to continuously and cyclically exfoliate the skin. There is an epidemic of over-exfoliation! It is based on the premise that cells desquamate or fall off more slowly as we age and collect on the skin. The issue with this approach and methodology is that hydration regulates cellular turnover. When we constantly prematurely remove our Corneocytes, we leave our skin unable to retain hydration. We are causing the very issue that supposedly requires said exfoliation. When Corneocytes are left intact and hydration within the skin supported, we are then presented with healthy properly functioning skin which does not exhibit the flaky dullness which can often be the motivating force behind seeking out the quick, yet very temporary, fix exfoliation provides.
Unfortunately, in an industry which caters to consumer demand rather than make an attempt to educate the masses, there are not many products which get it right and take a Corneo-therapeutic approach to the skin. Some have a laundry list of dirty little secrets hiding in their seemingly supportive ingredient lists. Certain oils, many surfactants and plenty of emulsifiers have been proven to cause issues within the Skin Barrier with continued use. This can lead to a product sometimes having temporary benefits before it begins to become an issue weeks or even months down the road as that slow developing subclinical inflammation begins to rear its ugly head.
The Skin Barrier itself has plenty of different ways in which it can be supported but the very basics surround the lipids found here; a specific ratio of Ceramides, Cholesterol and Fatty Acids. It is for that reason that the best most Corneo-therapeutic products on the market respect and mimic this ratio without adding things in which could compromise this natural balance found on the skin.