Iron and skin health: iron stimulates skin function

  • T. HirobeEmail author
Part of the Human Health Handbooks no. 1 book series (HHH, volume 2)


Iron (Fe) and the Fe (II) and Fe (III) dimer are important for normal development of the skin and its appendages such as hair and nails. Although iron is an essential trace metal, the mechanisms regulating iron uptake from the intestinal mucosa and the skin are not well understood. The skin is involved in regulating bodily iron content. Excess iron is lost through perspiration as well as hair and nail growth, but the mechanisms controlling these actions are also not well known. The human body contains 3–5 g of iron, of which up to 75% may be bound in haemoglobin, with lesser amounts in ferritin, myoglobin and transferrin. However, the minimal levels necessary for the structure and function of the skin seem to be quite low. A normal iron concentration is required for maintaining healthy epidermis, dermis, hair and nails. Fe (II) and Fe (III) dimers such as ferrous ferric chloride are very important for regulating proliferation and differentiation of mouse and human skin cells. Low ferrous ferric chloride concentrations can stimulate mammalian skin functions. Moreover, ferrous ferric chloride can stimulate fibroblast proliferation synergistically with low-molecular-weight collagen and melanocyte differentiation in combination with herbal medicines. Most importantly, ferrous ferric chloride can stimulate proliferation and differentiation of mouse and human skin cells from a distance without being added to the culture medium. These results suggest that ferrous ferric chloride is involved in regulating skin homeostasis through the regulation of the skin-cell turnover.


keratinocyte fibroblast melanocyte hair epidermis 



Basic fibroblast growth factor


Dibutyryl adenosine 3’:5’-cyclic monophosphate


Deionised and distilled water


Ferrous ferric chloride


Melanoblast-defined medium


Melanocyte-proliferation medium


Melanoblast-proliferation medium


Fibroblast-proliferation medium


Melanocyte-differentiation medium


Melanocyte-stimulating hormone


Natural moisturizing factor


Protein kinase A


Protein kinase C


Reactive oxygen species


Superoxide dismutase


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Copyright information

© Wageningen Academic Publishers 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Radiation Effect Mechanisms Research GroupNational Institute of Radiological SciencesAnagawa, Inage-ku, ChibaJapan

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