Objectives: To characterize vernix caseosa in newborn infants with respect to factors that influence vernix distribution on the skin surface, vernix effects on thermal stability, skin hydration, acid mantle development, and vernix antioxidant properties.
Study design: Vernix distribution was determined for 430 infants. Thermal stability was assessed in parallel groups following vernix retention (n=66) and removal (n=64). The effects of vernix retention on skin hydration, pH, erythema, and dryness/scaling were determined. Samples were analyzed for vitamin E before and after UV exposure.
Results: Vernix distribution depended upon gestational age, delivery mode, gender, race, and meconium exposure. Retention had no effect on axillary temperatures. Skin hydration was significantly higher for vernix-retained skin. Skin pH and erythema were significantly lower with retention. Vitamin E levels were decreased by ultraviolet radiation.
Conclusions: Vernix is a naturally occurring barrier cream with multiple salubrious effects, which support its retention on the skin surface at birth.