This study assessed pH gradient changes in relation to stratum corneum (SC) depth and possible differences between white caucasian and black African-American skin. Ten white and eight black people entered the study. SC was progressively removed by cellophane tape stripping on the volar forearm and weighed with a microbalance. Transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and SC pH were measured every three tape strippings. Significantly increased TEWL and decreased pH values were found with increasing SC depth in both races. Significantly increased TEWL in black people was found after three and six tape strippings (P < 0.05 and 0.03, respectively); pH was significantly decreased in black people after three tape strippings (P < 0.005). No differences were found between the races after nine, 12 and 15 strippings, i.e. in the deeper SC layers. The data confirm that pH in the superficial SC layers decreases with SC depth; only total SC removal results in increased pH values. In the superficial layers, there are significant differences in both water evaporation and skin pH, possibly explaining the contradictory literature.