Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a chemical sensor that is expressed abundantly in epidermal keratinocytes. Oxidative AHR ligands induce the production of reactive oxygen species. However, antioxidant AHR ligands inhibit reactive oxygen species generation via activation of nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor-2, which is a master switch for antioxidative signalling. In addition, AHR signalling accelerates epidermal terminal differentiation, but excessive acceleration by oxidative ligands, such as dioxins, may induce chlo-racne and inflammation. However, antioxidative phytochemical ligands induce the beneficial acceleration of epidermal differentiation that repairs skin barrier disruption. The upregulated expression of differentiation molecules, such as filaggrin, is mediated via the AHR-OVOL1 axis. This AHR-OVOL1 system is capable of counteracting skin barrier dysfunction in T-helper type 2-shifted inflammation. This article reviews the dynamic and multifaceted role of AHR in epidermal biology and discusses the potential use of antioxidative phytochemical ligands for AHR in inflammatory skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis.
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