Post-milking measurements of teat skin chapping score, teat thickness and colonization by Staphylococcus aureus were determined for 11·5 d. Three teats on each of twelve Holstein cows, free from Staph, aureus intramammary infections, were immersed in 1 M-NaOH solution to induce teat chapping; the fourth teat served as a control. To achieve different degrees of chapping, one teat per cow received one immersion after each milking for three consecutive milking periods, a second teat received two immersions, and the third teat received one immersion which coincided with the last immersion of the other two teats. All teats were challenged twice with a skim milk broth culture of Staph, aureus (5 × 106 cfu) after the first and second milking following NaOH treatment. Measures were initiated with the milking following the last Staph, aureus challenges. Tissue thickness of the lateral side of the teat (barrel) and colonization by Staph, aureus declined with time. Thickness of the teat end varied more erratically. Teat skin chapping score was positively correlated (P < 0·001) with tissue thickness of the barrel and Staph, aureus colonization. Thickness of the barrel was not significantly correlated with Staph, aureus colonization. Barrel thickness as a covariate had a significant effect (P < 0·05) on teat skin colonization of Staph, aureus, whereas teat skin score and teat end thickness had no significant effect. Thus, thickness of the lateral side of the teat explained the greatest variation in Staph, aureus teat skin colonization in the model tested.