Variability in transepidermal water loss of the skin: evaluation of a method to assess susceptibility to contact dermatitis in epidemiological studies

  • Henriette A. Smit
  • Jaliya Pinnagoda
  • Ron A. Tupker
  • Jan Burema
  • Pieter J. Coenraads
  • Johan P. Nater


Transepidermal water loss (TEWL) has been suggested to be a measure which can be used to identify subjects at risk for the development of contact dermatitis. Transepidermal water loss is high when the barrier function of the skin is impaired. It is assumed that subjects with a high TEWL have skin which is more permeable to substances causing contact dermatitis. The inter-individual and intra-individual variability of simultaneous TEWL measurements and TEWL measurements over a period of three weeks were estimated in healthy individuals. The intra-individual coefficient of variation (CV) of simultaneous measurements was 13.5%. The intra-individual coefficient of variation of the measurements on consecutive days was somewhat higher (15.1%). The intra-individual coefficients of variation were low compared to the inter-individual coefficients of variation. The results indicate that transepidermal water loss is a stable personal characteristic, which can be studied as a risk factor in epidemiologie studies on contact dermatitis.

Key words

Epidemiologic methods Contact dermatitis Reproducibility 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Berardesca E, Maibach HI (1988) Racial differences in sodium lauryl sulphate induced cutaneous irritation; black and white. Contact Dermatitis 18:65–70Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Blichmann CW, Serup J (1987) Reproducibility and variability of transepidermal water loss measurement. Acta Derm Venereol(Stockh) 67:206–210Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Coenraads PJ, Lee J, Pinnagoda J (1986) Changes in water vapor loss from the skin of metal industry workers monitored during exposure to oils. Scand J Work Environ Health 12:494–498Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hoaglin DC, Mosteller F, Tukey JW (1983) Understanding robust and exploratory data analysis. J Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lammintausta K, Maibach HI, Wilson D (1987) Irritant reactivity in males and females. Contact Dermatitis 17:276–280Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Liu K, Stamler J, Dyer A et al. (1978) Statistical methods to assess and minimize the role of intra-individual variability in obscuring the relationship between dietary lipids and serum cholesterol. J Chron Dis 31:399–418Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Murahata RI, Crowe DM, Roheim JR (1986a) The use of transepidermal water loss to measure and predict the irritation response to surfactants. Int J Cosmetic Sci 8:225–231Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Nilsson GE (1977) Measurement of water exchange through skin. Med Biol Eng Comput 15:209–218Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Pinnagoda J, Tupker RA, Coenraads PJ, Nater JP (1989) Comparability and reproducibility of the results of water loss measurements; a study of 4 evaporimeters. Contact Dermatitis 20:241–246Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Snedecor GW, Cochran WG (1976) Statistical methods. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IowaGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tupker RA, Pinnagoda J, Coenraads PJ, Nater JP (1989) The influence of repeated exposure to surfactants on the human skin as determined by transepidermal water loss and visual scoring. Contact Dermatitis 20:108–114Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Van Staveren WA, Deurenberg P, Katan MB et al. (1986) Validity of the fatty acid composition of subcutaneous fat tissue microbiopsies as an estimate of the longterm average fatty acid composition of the diet of separate individuals. Am J Epidemiol 123:455–463Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Van der Valk PGM, Nater JP, Bleumink E (1984) Skin irritancy of surfactants as assessed by water vapor loss measurements. J Invest Dermatol 82:291–293Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henriette A. Smit
    • 1
  • Jaliya Pinnagoda
    • 2
  • Ron A. Tupker
    • 2
  • Jan Burema
    • 3
  • Pieter J. Coenraads
    • 2
  • Johan P. Nater
    • 2
  1. 1.TNO Institute of Preventive Health CareLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Occupational Dermatology UnitState University HospitalGroningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Environmental and Tropical HealthWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations