Objective: The aim of the study was to investigate skin barrier function in neonates in different anatomic sites during the first 2 days of life.
Design: The study population consisted of 44 healthy full-term newborn infants. Transepidermal water loss (TEWL), stratum corneum hydration (SCH), and skin surface pH were measured in different anatomic sites (forehead, flexor part of forearm, upper back, abdomen, inguinal region, palms, and soles) during the first 10 hours of life and 24 hours later. Measurements were recorded with a Tevameter, a Corneometer, and a skin pH meter with a flat glass electrode. Results were compared with those in 20 healthy adults.
Results: TEWL was lower in infants than in adults in the forehead, palms, soles, and higher in the forearms. It was significantly higher on day 1 than on day 2 in the soles, palms, and forearms, and in the forearm, palms, and inguinal region compared with the other anatomic sites. SCH was significantly lower in the infants on the forehead, back, and abdomen, and higher on the forearms and palms; it was significantly higher on the first day of life on the forearms and palms, and lower in the inguinal region. Skin surface pH was significantly higher in the infants in all body sites (>6.6 in most measurements). On day 2, it was significantly lower than on day 1, but still higher than in adults. SCH correlated positively with TEWL in the neonates but not in the adults. None of the variables were related to gestational age, sex, mode of delivery, or body weight.
Conclusions: Changes take place in SCH, water loss, and pH in the first 2 days after birth, suggesting that the stratum corneum barrier is still in the process of adapting to extrauterine life. The significant anatomic variability in TEWL and SCH should be taken into account in evaluating the permeation of skin care products and topical medications in newborns.