The basic idea behind corneotherapy is that any problems apparent at the surface of the skin -- such as redness or inflammation -- are caused by an immune response produced by deeper layers of skin. This immune response, however, is spurred into action by an initial problem at the surface, chiefly a disruption in the protective layer of the stratum corneum. Through this reasoning, one can stop the unsightly and uncomfortable immune response by returning the outer layer of skin to a state of homeostasis. Once the epidermis is in a state of homeostasis, the risk of infection returns to normal, and excessive water loss can be prevented.
Because corneotherapy tackles the underlying cause (immune response) by treating the outer layer of skin, its practitioners refer to it as an "outside-in" therapy.
Normally, when you try to treat symptoms such as dryness (a result of excessive water loss), you can slow down or prevent healing of the problem that actually caused the water loss. For instance, using petroleum-based products locks moisture in by creating a new barrier through which water can't escape. However, doing so also prevents cellular respiration [source: McCord]. This slows down repair of the outer epidermis, which is actually the root of the problem.
Corneotherapeutic approaches favor using more breathable false barriers for short-term protection and prevention of water loss, which enables normal functioning of the skin-cell cycle and healing of the epidermis to occur beneath the applied false layer of oil or lotion.
This new understanding of skin care was first proposed and developed by Professor Albert M. Kligman in the 1990s. Kligman noticed that the creams we use to help infiltrate more active skin care agents past the barrier were effective all by themselves in treating the outer layer of skin, and that healing this outer layer removed the need to treat underlying layers with pharmaceutical agents.
Next, we'll take a closer look at some techniques of corneotherapy.