Impact of Water Exposure and Temperature Changes on Skin Barrier Function

J Clin Med. 2022 Jan 7;11(2):298. doi: 10.3390/jcm11020298.


The frequency of hand hygiene has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is little evidence regarding the impact of water exposure and temperature on skin. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of water exposure and temperature on skin barrier function in healthy individuals. A prospective observational study was conducted. Temperature, pH, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), erythema and stratum corneum hydration (SCH) were measured objectively before and after hot- and cold-water exposure and TempTest® (Microcaya TempTest, Bilbao, Spain) contact. Fifty healthy volunteers were enrolled. Hot-water exposure increased TEWL (25.75 vs. 58.58 g·h-1·m-2), pH (6.33 vs. 6.65) and erythema (249.45 vs. 286.34 AU). Cold-water immersion increased TEWL (25.75 vs. 34.96 g·h-1·m-2) and pH (6.33 vs. 6.62). TEWL (7.99 vs. 9.98 g·h-1·m-2) and erythema (209.07 vs. 227.79 AU) increased after being in contact with the hot region (44 °C) of the TempTest. No significant differences were found after contact with the cold region (4 °C) of the TempTest. In conclusion, long and continuous water exposure damages skin barrier function, with hot water being even more harmful. It would be advisable to use cold or lukewarm water for handwashing and avoid hot water. Knowing the proper temperature for hand washing might be an important measure to prevent flares in patients with previous inflammatory skin diseases on their hands.

Keywords: dermatological diseases; homeostasis; skin barrier; temperature; water.