Skin barrier function in infancy: a systematic review
The skin of neonates and infants exhibits distinct anatomical and functional properties that might be clinically reflected by its characteristic susceptibility to skin barrier disruption. In this systematic review, we aimed to characterize skin barrier maturation as reflected by transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and skin surface pH during the first 2 years of life. We systematically searched MEDLINE and EMBASE via OVID from 1975 to 2013 to identify primary studies reporting TEWL and/or skin surface pH values in healthy full-term infants aged 0–24 months without any cutaneous diseases. After full text assessment, 36 studies reporting n = 8,483 TEWL measurements for 26 anatomical areas and n = 6,437 skin surface pH measurements for 14 anatomical areas were included. The mean age of the subjects ranged from 1.4 h to 1.2 years. The lowest pH of 4.63 was identified on the forehead at the age of 25.6 weeks, whereas the highest of 7.31 was on the volar forearm at 0.0 weeks. The lowest TEWL value of 3.1 g/m2/h was reported for the back at 0.6 weeks and the highest of 43.1 g/m2/h for the upper leg at 58.7 weeks. The skin surface pH reveals a steep decline during the first postnatal week, succeeded by a further gradual site-specific acidification process during the first month. A competent permeability barrier in most anatomical areas is indicated by TEWL, which does not exhibit a time-dependent development during the first 2 years of life.