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The structure of the stratum corneum (SC) and corresponding skin barrier develops from before birth up to about 4 years of age. Understanding the evolution of skin barrier structure during the first few years of life is the first step to developing solutions for improved infant skin health.
The purpose of a study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology was to evaluate how the skin barrier properties like SC structure and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) change with a child’s age and with changes in Body Surface Area (BSA) as compared to the mother’s skin.
The present study included 171 Infants and toddlers who were between 3-49 months old, for three months, along with 44 mothers, 25-40 years of age. The impact of age on TEWL and structure of SC was assessed. Additionally, the impact of BSA on TEWL was also analyzed.
The results showed that the SC thickness increases with age until 4 years of age, at which point the SC thickness is similar to that of adults. The SC thickness, increases rapidly and continues to increase beyond two years of life, through puberty—although at a lesser rate.
On the other hand, young infants experience three to four times more water loss than adults, when calculated as a function of the total body mass.
As the child grows from an embryo to an infant, the BSA increases rapidly and continues to increase beyond 2 years of age through puberty, though at a lesser rate. Furthermore, elevated TEWL was observed in infants than adults. After 4 years age, TEWL was found to become similar to the adult TEWL.
The findings indicated that SC thickness increases and TEWL decreases with age, but does not reach adult values until 3-4 years of age. It was stated that precautions must be taken to protect young children from conditions that cause depletion of water mass and damage to their already fragile skin barrier.
Source: Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2016;29(3):111-8. doi: 10.1159/000444805.