Synopsis The biology and physical properties of the uniquely human skin cream ‘vernix caseosa’ are discussed. This material coats the foetal skin surface during the last trimester of gestation and provides multiple beneficial functions for the foetus and newborn infant. Vernix has a complex structure similar to stratum corneum but lacks lipid lamellae and is more plastic due to the absence of desmosomal constraints. In utero, vernix is made in part by foetal sebaceous glands, interacts with pulmonary surfactant, detaches into the amniotic fluid, and is swallowed by the foetus. At the time of birth, vernix has a remarkably constant water content approximating 80%. Postnatally, vernix is simultaneously a cleanser, a moisturizer, an anti‐infective, and an anti‐oxidant. Vernix facilitates acid mantle development and supports normal bacterial colonization. Its hydrated cellular structure and unusual lipid composition provide a ‘best’ solution for the needs of the foetus and newborn, not least of which is the attraction of caregivers. Vernix is an important natural biomaterial of potential interest to cosmetic scientists, and other disciplines involved in product development and therapies targeting the complex interface between the stratum corneum and a changing terrestrial environment.
International Journal of Cosmetic Science – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 2006
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