Barrier function and water-holding and transport properties of infant stratum corneum are different from adult and continue to develop through the first year of life

J Invest Dermatol. 2008 Jul;128(7):1728-36. doi: 10.1038/sj.jid.5701239. Epub 2008 Jan 17.


Skin water barrier development begins in utero and is believed to be complete by week 34 of gestational age. The goal of this investigation was to assess the dynamic transport and distribution of water of the stratum corneum of infants and compare it to those of adults. The interaction of water with the stratum corneum was assessed by measuring capacitance, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), rates of absorption-desorption as well as Raman spectra as a function of depth (a total of 124 infants (3-12 months) and 104 adults (14-73 years)). The results show that capacitance, TEWL, and absorption-desorption rates had larger values consistently for infant stratum corneum throughout the first year of life and showed greater variation than those of adults. The Raman spectra analyzed for water and for the components of natural moisturizing factor (NMF) showed the distribution of water to be higher and have a steeper gradient in infants than in adults; the concentration of NMF was significantly lower in infants. The results suggest that although the stratum corneum of infants may appear intact shortly after birth (<1 month), the way it stores and transports water becomes adult-like only after the first year of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Biological Transport
  • Body Water / metabolism*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Absorption