Skin Anatomy and Physiology—What They Mean for Your Peristomal Skin

Your skin is an amazing organ that is your body’s frontline of defence. Learn more about the skin and why caring for peristomal skin is so important. 


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Learn more about your peristomal skin.

To gain a good grasp of the importance of peristomal skin health, it helps to understand the anatomy and physiology of the skin. Explore some interesting facts about your skin, including how it protects you and key factors like pH levels. 

Did you know?

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and renews itself every 26-42 days. It’s easy to take it for granted, but your skin has many roles you may not realise, such as: 

  • Serving as a protective barrier from outside elements such as bacteria and other pathogens
  • Regulating blood flow and body temperature
  • Allowing for sensory perception
  • Synthesising vitamin D


Skin anatomy

The outermost visible part of the skin is the epidermis, which is divided into five layers. The epidermis is relatively thin, but tough. It’s mostly made up of cells called keratinocytes that slowly migrate up toward the surface, where they are shed and replaced by newer cells from below. This very top layer of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum.


The structure of the stratum corneum is a bit like bricks and mortar. Mature cells are the “bricks” that provide skin strength. The “mortar” that hold the cells together is called the intercellular lipid matrix. Included in this intercellular lipid matrix is ceramide.

Stratum Corneum


The importance of ceramide

The health of the stratum corneum is essential for maintaining a protective skin barrier, as well as preventing excess water to keep the skin hydrated. Healthy and supple levels of ceramide are present in healthy skin, while decreased levels are associated with dry skin and skin diseases, such as contact dermatitis and psoriasis. Less-than-healthy levels of ceramide can make the skin more vulnerable to common peristomal skin complications (PSCs). These include PSCs associated with excess moisture and those related to the use of medical adhesives in ostomy products, such as skin barriers.

Moisturisers help hydrate the skin, helping to maintain the normal pH level of skin. Ostomy skin barriers products infused with ceramide can help to prevent irritation.

Your skin and pH levels

You may not think of your skin in term of pH levels, but it’s actually an important factor in fighting infection and environmental stress.

Healthy skin has unique pH properties. It is mildly acidic, with typical pH values in the 4.0 to 6.0 range. This skin environment is known as the acid mantle.

The acid mantle supports the ability of the skin to serve as a protective barrier. A disturbance in pH can break down the acid mantle. This makes the skin vulnerable to irritation and damage, which compromises the skin’s ability to protect itself.

Peristomal skin complications (PSCs)

PSCs can range from mild to moderate to severe. In mild cases, the skin is still intact, but there may be redness, itching or discomfort. In severe cases, the skin is broken and there may be weeping, ulcerations, pain and bleeding. PSCs can have many negative impacts, including a decrease in quality of life, so it’s a good idea to make every effort to avoid them with some simple routine skin care.

Now that you know a little more about this amazing organ that protects your body in so many ways, you probably have a greater appreciation for why it’s so important to protect your peristomal skin.  


View video: What Is Ceramide.