Rice starch added to bath water was studied for its possible beneficial effects on impaired barrier function as evaluated by transepidermal water loss measurements. The forearm skin of healthy volunteers was irritated by sodium lauryl sulphate. Exposure to rice-starch-containing bath water--twice daily for 15 min--led to a 20% improvement on the healing capacity of damaged skin. The beneficial effect was also observed for a rice-starch-containing lipid-free bath formulation, and an oil-in-water bath lotion enriched with evening primrose oil. Skin barrier function in patients with atopic dermatitis also improved after the addition of starch powder to bath water. Rice starch in powder or formulated in a bath product can therefore be recommended as a skin repair bathing additive for barrier damaged skin, particularly in the case of atopic dermatitis patients.