Atopic skin: knowing how to take care of it and living better with it

La peau atopique : savoir en prendre soin et mieux vivre avec

Perhaps you are one of the 2.5 million French people¹ who suffer from atopic dermatitis, this skin condition more commonly known as eczema?

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that can develop at any age, and whose symptoms truly affect the quality of life! Intense itching and extreme dryness make daily life difficult. Although the symptoms can be bothersome, steps can be taken to improve quality of life. Despite intense itching and dry skin, suitable solutions can make daily management easier.

In this article, we explain everything about atopic skin: the definition of atopic dermatitis, the manifestations, the stages of the appearance of the disease, its biological origins, but also how to support it on a daily basis for greater well-being. be.

1. What is atopic skin?

Is your skin atopic?

By observing your skin and its behavior, some signs can put you on the path to atopic dermatitis such as:

  • An intense drought ,
  • Severe itching (skin pruritus),
  • And the appearance of inflammatory lesions .

And if these manifestations appear episodically, in the form of alternating flare-ups and periods of remission , it is very likely that your skin is said to be atopic .

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Definition of atopic dermatitis

Also called eczema, atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disease, benign and non-contagious, with an allergic (immunological) component² .


What are the differences between atopic skin and sensitive and reactive skin?

Although the symptoms are very similar (itching, redness, discomfort, etc.), atopic skin is not sensitive skin, nor reactive skin .

It is the allergic, or immunological, origin of atopic skin that distinguishes it from sensitive or reactive skin.

Sensitive and reactive skin is skin that reacts more or less intensely in the presence of factors that are aggressive to it (temperature variations, wearing clothes, cosmetic products, etc.) ³ .
In the presence of these factors, their tolerance thresholds are lower (almost zero for reactive skin) than in non-sensitive skin.

Unlike atopic skin, the hypersensitivity of sensitive and reactive skin is not induced by an allergic phenomenon, but rather by an alteration of the barrier function of the skin and a disruption of its nervous system .

To find out more about sensitive skin , discover our dedicated article.

Discover our range of expert sensitive skin care , HYDRA+.

Discover our expert range of care for intolerant skin , CALM+.

2. How do you know if your skin is atopic?

What are the signs of atopic skin?

It itches ! It's impossible to miss it! Atopic dermatitis is essentially characterized by intense itching ; your doctor will surely tell you about skin pruritus . And it's very difficult to resist the urge to scratch. Although it is not painful, itching is nevertheless very uncomfortable , and causes significant discomfort on a daily basis . Insomnia and nighttime awakenings are frequently reported by people prone to atopic skin.

Other symptoms may put you on the path :

  • Extreme dryness of the skin , also called xerosis .
  • More or less extensive red patches .
  • Small rough blistered blisters .
  • These vesicles can progress to a stage of purulent oozing with the formation of crusts.
  • In extreme cases of non-treatment, superinfection may occur.

Furthermore, atopic dermatitis is also associated with symptoms of other atopic diseases such as food allergies, asthma, allergic rhinitis and even conjunctivitis.


What areas of the body are affected by atopic dermatitis?

Atopic skin can affect the entire body and/or with more localized damage to:

  • the face ,
  • the scalp,
  • flexion folds such as the elbow , knee , neck .

However, we observe some differences in locations depending on the age of the infant, child and adult.

3. Why is your skin atopic?

Research shows that atopic dermatitis has a genetic origin : in 50 to 70% [7] of people affected, a parent also has atopic skin.
Overall, atopic dermatitis is generally caused by a combination of several genetic, immune and environmental factors:

  • A genetic component making the skin more permeable:

    Atopic skin is characterized by extreme dryness . In question ? Defects in components essential to the structure of the skin and which guarantee the effectiveness of its barrier function. On the one hand, a deficiency in skin lipids , and on the other hand, a defect in the synthesis of an essential protein , filaggrin. By making the skin more permeable to its environment, these anomalies of genetic origin weaken the skin barrier. The deeper layers of the skin are then exposed to environmental influences, such as allergens or irritants present in the air or in the products we use. All of this can increase the sensitivity of the skin and make it react more easily and more intensely.

  • Hyperactivation of the immune system:

    In the case of atopic dermatitis, the immune system reacts disproportionately in response to the presence of environmental allergens such as pollution , microorganisms , pollen , dust mites , animal hair ... This phenomenon leading to a chronic inflammatory reaction is all the more important as the permeability of the epidermis is high in atopic skin.

    Recent scientific work tends to show that other potential factors contribute to atopic dermatitis :

    • Abnormalities in the synthesis of skin lipids.
    • Damage to cutaneous nerve fibers.
    • The involvement of the skin microbiota.

4. What are the aggravating factors of atopic dermatitis?

As we have mentioned, atopic dermatitis is of allergic origin . That is to say, in the presence of allergenic components, the skin becomes allergic and sets up an inflammatory response (redness, discomfort, etc.).

Different types of allergens can trigger atopic dermatitis flare-ups:

  • food allergens : cow's milk, egg, etc.
  • environmental allergens : pollution, pollen, dust mites, animal hair, etc.
  • chemical allergens : molecules from care products, cosmetics, makeup, textiles, etc.

Other irritating factors can also cause attacks such as heat , sweating or wearing clothing .

5. When does atopic dermatitis start?

Atopic dermatitis is a progressive disease that generally begins very early, in infants. With age, it persists during childhood, and most of the time regresses in adulthood.

  • The baby :

    Atopic dermatitis begins to appear in infants, around the age of 3 months . However, it can occur from the first days of life. In infants, lesions develop mainly on plump areas of the face (particularly around the nose ), arms and legs , buttocks , but also on the scalp .

  • The child:

    Quite common in children, atopic dermatitis affects around 20% of children . Generally, atopic dermatitis in children [7] is localized more in folded areas such as the neck , elbows and knees . Lesions can also appear on the face and hands .

  • The adult:

    If atopic dermatitis tends to disappear during childhood (50% before 5 years), it is estimated that 10 to 15% of cases persist until adulthood. It is rare for atopic dermatitis to begin only in adulthood [8]. At this stage, the lesions are mainly located in the folds of the elbows and knees .

6. How does atopic dermatitis affect your quality of life?

People suffering from eczema say it: they have to face many inconveniences in their daily life [5] with consequences that are sometimes difficult to live with :

  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression for 43%.
  • Itching which disrupts sleep (between 5 to 7 nights per week) for 50%.
  • Discomfort for more than 12 hours a day caused by itching for 63%.
  • A reduction in activities and leisure activities for 44%.
  • A loss of professional productivity caused by itching for almost 50%.

The psychological impact of atopic dermatitis can affect the social life of those affected. If you are suffering, we advise you to seek help from a professional .

7. How to take care of your atopic skin?

Although atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition, it is, however, possible to improve the daily life of atopic skin through certain practices that allow outbreaks to be spaced out and better managed, thus helping to live more peacefully with our atopic skin


React from the first outbreaks to limit progression:

It is important to diagnose atopic dermatitis from the first manifestations , at the infant stage. Indeed, it is observed that the first inflammatory outbreaks encourage new attacks, thus generating a bad vicious circle.

At the first suspicion, do not hesitate to quickly consult a general practitioner, a pediatrician or a dermatologist.


Adapt the support according to the degree of intensity:

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, several solutions may be necessary in agreement with your doctor [9]:

Mild atopic dermatitis:

  • The application of emollient treatments promoting hydration of your skin and restoring the skin barrier.
  • Avoidance of irritants and allergens .

Moderate atopic dermatitis:

  • Topical anti-inflammatory treatments based on glucocorticoids (dermocorticoids).
  • UVB or UVA phototherapy .

Severe dermatitis:

  • Immunosuppressive treatment .

Adopt a few simple actions for atopic skin:

  • Moisturize your skin regularly by applying moisturizers suitable for atopic-prone skin.
  • Avoid frequently suspected allergens as much as possible: pollen, animal hair, dust mites, food allergens, etc.
  • Prefer soft, breathable cotton clothing (wool and synthetic materials are more irritating to the skin).
  • Prefer quick showers and baths that are not too hot .
  • When drying, avoid rubbing the skin and prefer light tapping.
  • Since stress can accentuate certain symptoms of atopic dermatitis, adopt stress management techniques such as meditation , yoga or deep breathing . By reducing the damage caused by stress, these practices help maintain healthy skin.

Treatment of atopic dermatitis: support your skin with a suitable care routine:

It is very important to intensely hydrate your skin, every day, with an emollient treatment . Milks, creams, balms... there is necessarily the right solution depending on the degree of dryness of your skin.

When washing , choose a very gentle cleanser , preferably without soap and with fatty substances, such as shower oils .

To help you find products suited to your atopic skin, here are some criteria to prioritize:

  • Short formulas with few ingredients,
  • Ingredients specially selected for atopic skin ,
  • Emollient and hydrating ingredients like betaine and glycerin,
  • Highly nourishing ingredients like linseed and camelina oils, shea butter, beeswax,
  • Soothing ingredients like Allantoin and Bisabolol,
  • Very gentle cleansing bases (avoid aggressive surfactants),
  • Formulas without perfume or whose perfume has been specifically developed for atopic skin ,
  • High tolerance ” formulas, i.e. good tolerance clinically verified on atopic skin.

Finally, know that you can find advice and support from associations dedicated to patients affected by atopic dermatitis, such as the French Eczema Association . Our DA PROTECT face cream, cleansing oil and emollient body balm formulas have been tested and approved by this association.

Discover our range of expert care for atopic skin and atopic dermatitis , DA PROTECT.

TOPICREM formulas have all been designed to provide protective hydration and preserve the skin barrier of sensitive skin for the whole family.

To do this, our laboratory relies on its expertise derived from pharmaceutical excellence:

  • Selection of high tolerance ingredients with proven effectiveness,

  • Development of clinically tested formulas on sensitive skin,

  • Effectiveness proven by science and approved by consumers.

Through the comfort and emotional well-being they provide, our cares help you feel confident with your skin and with yourself, to better reveal yourself to others, and thus to fully enjoy every moment of life.

Bibliographic references:

¹ MA Richard et al. Prevalence of comorbidities in psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Analysis based on the Objectifs Peau study. Annals of Dermatology and Venereology. Volume 144, Issue 12, Supplement, December 2017, Page S55

² Weidinger, S., & Novak, N. (2016). Atopic dermatitis. Lancet (London, England), 387(10023), 1109‐1122.

³ Ref: Misery L, Ständer S, Szepietowski JC, Reich A, Wallengren J, Evers AW, et al. Definition of sensitive skin: an expert position paper from the special interest group on sensitive skin of the IFSI (International Forum for the Study of Itch) Acta Derm Venereol. 2017;97:4-6.

Dharmage, SC, Lowe, AJ, Matheson, MC, Burgess, JA, Allen, KJ, & Abramson, MJ (2014). Atopic dermatitis and the atopic market revisited. Allergy, 69(1), 17‐27. (information site of the French Society of Dermatology). Hives.

Weidinger, S., & Novak, N. (2016). Atopic dermatitis. Lancet (London, England), 387(10023), 1109‐1122.

7 Barbarot, S., Auziere, S., Gadkari, A., Girolomoni, G., Puig, L., Simpson, EL, Margolis, DJ, de Bruin-Weller, M., & Eckert, L. (2018) . Epidemiology of atopic dermatitis in adults: Results from an international survey. Allergy, 73(6), 1284‐1293.


[9] Wollenberg, A., Barbarot, S., Bieber, T., Christen-Zaech, S., Deleuran, M., Fink-Wagner, A., Gieler, U., Girolomoni, G., Lau, S ., Muraro, A., Czarnecka-Operacz, M., Schäfer, T., Schmid-Grendelmeier, P., Simon, D., Szalai, Z., Szepietowski, JC, Taïeb, A., Torrelo, A., Werfel, T., ... European Dermatology Forum (EDF), the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV), the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), the European Task Force on Atopic Dermatitis (ETFAD), European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations (EFA), the European Society for Dermatology and Psychiatry (ESDaP), the European Society of Pediatric Dermatology (ESPD), Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GA2LEN) and the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS). (2018). Consensus-based European guidelines for treatment of atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) in adults and children: Part I. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: JEADV, 32(5), 657‐682.