Did you know that your skin is your body’s largest organ? Protecting your skin is vital to your overall health.

The stratum corneum is composed of 15-20 layers of flattened cells. As recently as the 1960’s, researchers believed that the stratum corneum was only a collection of dead, shedding cells without any function. As it turns out, this layer of skin is vital. It is a barrier to protect underlying tissue from stresses such as infection, chemicals, and dehydration. The stratum corneum is the largest and most visible interface between humans and their environments: the skin.

As the protective barrier to the body’s largest organ (the skin), the stratum corneum contains a dense network of keratin, a protein that aids with skin hydration and prevents water evaporation. This balancing layer of the skin can harm overall health by becoming too acidic or alkaline. The pH level of skin plays a big role in body’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria and starts with the acidic mantle of the stratum corneum.

Researchers continue to explore the impact of skin care products on the stratum corneum. They have discovered that the protective and supportive capabilities of cleansing and antimicrobial products vary, and that some products actually exacerbate conditions that can lead to damage and/or infection. This means that caregivers can unknowingly contribute to poor skin condition and suboptimal patient outcomes simply by using a counterproductive cleansing product.

Products used on your skin can have a significant impact on skin health. Raising awareness about the body’s largest organ and the function of the stratum corneum to support anti-osmotic and antimicrobial capabilities, will contribute to better health.

In September 2016, the FDA banned 19 chemicals used in antibacterial soaps, including triclosan and triclocarban, stating these may be dangerous to your health. “If the product makes antibacterial claims, chances are pretty good that it contains one of these ingredients,” said Theresa Michele, director of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products.

With this ban, it appears there may be more studies into the function of skin and the role it plays to our health. “There is some evidence that triclosan, triclocarban and the other chemicals can disrupt hormone cycles and cause muscle weakness,” says Mae Wu, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which originally asked the FDA to ban the ingredients.

The interesting tie in here, is the potential tie in to muscle weakness. Suggesting the health of the skin could be tied to muscle health. Researchers, scientists and many doctors agree the stratum corneum is essential to the skin’s natural antimicrobial defenses, and maintaining a healthy pH level of approximately 5.0 can protect the risk of infection.

It will be interesting to see the developments in skin and muscle health over the new few years as we continue to learn more about our body’s first line of defense, the stratum corneum.