Histological development of the epidermis was studied on skin samples from 169 infants (gestation 24-40 weeks, age up to 1 year). Gestation markedly influenced epidermal development. Before 30 weeks, the epidermis is thin, has few cell layers and a poorly formed stratum corneum, but by 34 weeks it has largely matured. Postnatal influence on epidermal development is marked in the preterm infant, so that histologically the epidermis of the most immature infant resembles that of a term infant by 2 weeks of age. These changes in histology exactly parallel the development of the barrier properties of newborn skin.