Atopic Skin

What causes Atopic Skin And How Common Is It?

Atopic skin is a very common dry skin condition that can affect almost anyone, but tends to be most common amongst young children.

Fortunately, it clears up in most cases by the age of 16. This condition comes in several levels of severity; mild symptoms include itchiness and redness while more severe symptoms include inflamed or dry cracked skin.

Atopic Skin

Average ratio

Atopic skin is an inflammatory condition that occurs when the skin's protective barrier becomes weak. When the skin’s natural oil and fats are low, the skin cells are less able to retain hydration. This leads the skin cells to shrink leading to increased flaking and cracks. This causes moisture to be lost from the deeper layers of the skin and bacteria and irritants can pass through more easily. The skin can become red and inflamed on contact with allergens and everyday irritants.

Atopic skin can be dry and cracked and, in more severe cases, can be weepy and crusty.

Where Does Atopic Skin Tend To Occur?

This condition usually occurs in small patches all over the body. The areas affected tend to vary by age.

  • In babies and infants it often occurs on the face and scalp and the outer surface of the arms and legs.
  • In children it tends to occur on the sensitive areas of skin around the joints, such as inside the elbows or backs of the knees.
  • With the adults, hands are often the most affected.
  • Atopic skin affects up to 1 in 5 children under three and 1 in 10 adults*

*Source:, April 2013

You can find out more information about this condition from websites such as

How Can I Help Manage Atopic Skin?

In most cases, atopic skin can be managed successfully by following the advice of your healthcare professional and following a specially designed skincare regime. Once you learn what triggers your or your child’s skin condition, you can take the necessary steps to limit external factors to avoid flare-ups and restore the wellness of your skin.

What Triggers Atopic Skin? 

The following external factors can irritate the skin:

  • Perfumed productsPerfumed products
  • StressStress
  • Certain foodstrigger Atopic skinCertain foods
  • Bubble bathsBubble baths
  • Hot weatherHot weather
  • Cold weatherCold weather
Picture of diary

To help identify you or your child’s triggers, you may find it helpful to keep a diary including:

  • DietDiet
  • EmotionsEmotions
  • WeatherWeather
  • Toiletries usedToiletries used
A pharmacist

Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about your or your child’s skin condition and products that may be able to help manage it.

Asking for help

There may also be a specialist skin clinic in your area that can give you more advice on managing atopic skin. Your healthcare professional should be able to give you more information about these clinics.

Using The Right Combination Of Products

It is important to use products made with emollients as they are specially formulated for cleansing and hydrating atopic skin. Emollient washes and creams work together to keep atopic skin moisturised and soothed throughout the day. For best results, use a combination of these products regularly, not just when the skin is particularly dry or sore, to moisturise and soothe your atopic skin.

Picture of Cleansing & Moisturising


With emollient washes, baths or oils.


With emollient creams, lotions or ointments

Picture of Creams and lotions
For moisturising

Creams and lotions

Soothing and moisturising, can help to calm your skin during the day

Picture of Ointments
For moisturising


Rich and soothing, can be used at night to moisturise very dry skin

Picture of Bath and shower
For washing

Bath and shower

Cleanse your skin gently and leave a layer of protective oil

Picture of Emollient washes
For washing

Emollient washes

Use mild cleansers to gently wash your skin without drying it out

When using emollients it is important to remember:

  • Always use products that have been specifically developed for atopic skin 
  • To avoid irritating your skin, apply lotions and creams gently downwards in the direction of hair growth, as rubbing can further irritate the skin 
  • Take warm showers or baths, as very hot water can further dry or irritate the skin 

While emollients form the basis for management of dry and atopic-prone skin other products such as steroid creams and bandages may be prescribed during flare ups or in more severe cases. Steroid creams can be very potent and should only be used as prescribed by your healthcare professional in order to avoid unnecessarily thinning the skin.

This condition can sometimes lead to additional symptoms such as weeping, crusting, fever and the development of pustules. In this case, it is important to consult your healthcare professional for an appropriate treatment.

You may have to try several combinations of products before you find the one that is suitable for your or your child’s skin. It’s always worth speaking to your healthcare professional if you feel that the products you are currently using aren’t working.

For more information about atopic skin please visit: