Background Atopic dermatitis (AD) is characterized by skin barrier dysfunction. Few studies have used noninvasive techniques to measure epidermis function in asymptomatic neonates. Methods Data of 116 infants from our previous randomized controlled study were analyzed. Skin barrier function was measured through transepidermal water loss (TEWL), stratum corneum hydration (SCH), and pH. The association between skin barrier function and time to AD development was evaluated. Patients were classified with high or low TEWL, and SCH and pH were assessed. The survival function of the time to AD development and hazard ratios were estimated. Allergic sensitization to egg white and ovomucoid at 32 weeks was assessed. Results Regardless of a filaggrin mutation, TEWL (optimal cutoff, 6.5 g/m2/h) of the forehead within the first week of life showed a lower p-value than TEWL of the leg, and the SCH and pH measurements. Baseline TEWL of the forehead was not different between groups, except for the mean gestational age, and it was not affected by humidity. We found a significant difference in the cumulative AD incidence between the high and low TEWL groups for the forehead only (p < 0.05). The probability without AD was lower in the high TEWL group than in the low TEWL group. For only the high TEWL group, AD development decreased significantly with daily emollient use. The high TEWL group exhibited a higher rate of sensitization to ovomucoid (p = 0.07). Conclusions TEWL of the forehead during the first week of life is associated with AD development.
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