Clinical observation and histologic examination of excised wounds have confirmed that occlusive dressings promote rapid wound reepithelialization. However, normalization of barrier function has not been routinely assessed in studies of occlusive dressing effects on wound healing. We examined the effects of occlusive dressings on the reestablishment of the cutaneous barrier to transepidermal water loss (TEWL) after standardized skin wounds were produced in human subjects. We confirmed previous observations that occlusive dressings augment reepithelialization. No significant improvement in the rate of reestablishment of the barrier to TEWL was measured between the covered test or uncovered control sites in each subject, however. TEWL declined in an exponential fashion after wounding. Measurements of TEWL were over twice that of adjacent normal skin when epithelialization was judged to be overtly complete and did not return to normal until 4 weeks after wounds were produced.