Background/objectives: Prior studies have demonstrated that both the skin surface pH and epidermal permeability barrier function vary with skin pigmentation types. Although melanin deficiency is the main feature of vitiligo, alterations in cutaneous biophysical properties in vitiligo have not yet been well defined. In the present study, stratum corneum (SC) hydration, the skin surface pH and epidermal permeability barrier function in vitiligo were evaluated.
Methods: A total of 30 volunteers with vitiligo comprising 19 males and 11 females aged 13-51 years (mean age: 27.91 +/- 2.06 years) were enrolled in this study. The skin surface pH, SC hydration, melanin/erythema index and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) were measured by respective probes connected to a Courage-Khazaka MPA5. SC integrity was determined by measuring the TEWL following each D-Squame application. The barrier recovery rate was assessed at 5 h following barrier disruption by repeated tape stripping.
Results: In addition to SC hydration, both melanin and erythema index were significantly lower in vitiligo lesions than in contralateral, nonlesional sites, while no difference in skin surface pH between vitiligo-involved and uninvolved areas was observed. In addition, neither the basal TEWL nor SC integrity in the involved areas differed significantly from that in the uninvolved areas. However, barrier recovery in vitiligo-involved sites was significantly delayed in comparison with uninvolved sites (40.83 +/- 5.39% vs. 58.30 +/- 4.71%; t = 2.441; p < 0.02).
Conclusion: Barrier recovery following tape stripping of the SC is delayed in vitiligo. Therefore, improvement in epidermal permeability barrier function may be an important unrecognized factor to be considered in treating patients with vitiligo.