Changes in Diapered and Nondiapered Infant Skin Over the First Month of Life


Address correspondence to Steven B. Hoath, M.D., Skin Sciences Institute, 231 Bethesda Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45267-0541, or e-mail:


Abstract: Time- and site-dependent differences in epidermal barrier properties were investigated over the first 28 days of life in healthy term newborn infants. Diapered and nondiapered skin sites were contrasted to the volar forearm of adults (mothers). Thirty-one term infants were evaluated in the hospital on postnatal day 1 and at home on days 4, 7, 14, 21, and 28 for a total of six visits. Measurements included baseline skin hydration, continuous capacitive reactance, peak water sorption, rate of water desorption, skin pH, skin temperature, and environmental conditions. Changes in epidermal barrier properties over the first 4 weeks of life included an increase in surface hydration, a decrease in transepidermal water movement under occlusion, a decrease in surface water desorption rate, and a decrease in surface pH. Diapered and nondiapered regions were indistinguishable at birth but exhibited differential behavior over the first 14 days, with the diapered region showing a higher pH and increased hydration. Maternal measurements remained constant throughout the period. We conclude that healthy newborn skin undergoes progressive changes in epidermal barrier properties over the first 28 days. Adult skin testing does not replicate newborn skin during the first month of life.