To examine the effect of stress on skin homeostasis, cutaneous barrier recovery was measured in rats exposed to immobilization stress after tape stripping or sodium dodecyl sulphate treatment. The barrier function was evaluated by measuring transepidermal water loss. Barrier recovery was delayed in rats exposed to stress in comparison with untreated controls. This tendency was observed in both male and female animals. The delay in barrier recovery was blocked by application of the sedative drugs diazepam and chlorpromazine. The barrier recovery rate in mice which were kept at a high population density (10 animals per cage) for 2 weeks was slower than that in mice kept at lower population densities (five animals or one animal per cage). These animal models could be useful for objectively quantifying the influence of stress on the cutaneous function.