The structure of the stratum corneum (SC) and the corresponding skin barrier develops from before birth up to about 4 years of age. Large subject-to-subject variability within an age group requires a large population to observe trends in skin barrier properties over time. Barrier function, quantified by transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and SC thickness, was measured on the upper inner arm and dorsal forearm in subjects aged 3 months to 4 years (n = 171) and a subset of mothers (n = 44). The rate of skin surface area expansion as a function of age peaked before birth (∼90 cm2/week) and declined to a steady plateau (∼10 cm2/week) by 1 year of age. SC thickness increased and TEWL decreased, but did not reach adult values until 3-4 years of age. A better understanding of how skin hydration changes after birth suggests that barrier function may be related mechanistically to skin surface area expansion.

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