Impact of anatomical location on barrier recovery, surface pH and stratum corneum hydration after acute barrier disruption

Br J Dermatol. 2002 May;146(5):770-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04695.x.


Background: It is not known whether distinct anatomical locations will respond with different recovery rates following acute barrier challenges.

Objectives: To investigate whether barrier parameters differ at five body sites during recovery from acute disruption.

Methods: Acute barrier disruption was achieved by tape stripping and by acetone extraction of stratum corneum lipids. Transepidermal water loss (to assess barrier function), capacitance (for stratum corneum hydration) and skin surface pH were measured at each of five different body sites in 14 human volunteers. Individual measurements were obtained every 24 h for 96 h.

Results: Lipid-rich skin areas (e.g. the forehead) were the most vulnerable to barrier disruption by either method. While acetone treatment affected barrier function and decreased stratum corneum hydration, tape stripping similarly altered barrier function but increased capacitance values. Although the effect of barrier disruption on surface pH appeared to vary with location, no significant pattern of variation emerged. Independent of the method used for barrier disruption, the pH normalized within 96 h.

Conclusions: Skin at different body sites shows distinct patterns of barrier recovery that are likely to be related to structural and physiological differences. Therefore, 'anatomically specific' regimens appear possible and relevant for the treatment of cutaneous disorders. In addition, adequate statistical analyses are essential to detect real differences in barrier recovery parameters.

MeSH terms

  • Acetone / pharmacology
  • Adult
  • Body Water / metabolism
  • Epidermis / drug effects
  • Epidermis / injuries
  • Epidermis / physiology*
  • Female
  • Forehead / injuries
  • Forehead / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lipids / physiology
  • Male
  • Water Loss, Insensible / drug effects
  • Water Loss, Insensible / physiology*
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Lipids
  • Acetone