How to treat atopic skin?

Skin diseases are numerous and access to care is increasingly difficult while one in two French people are self-conscious about their skin (Ifop study for Sanofi), a phenomenon accentuated by social networks.

Eczema is a frequently talked about condition. The most common forms are atopic dermatitis and contact eczema. We explain their causes and how to alleviate the symptoms.

How to recognize eczema?

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that develops in outbreaks. It is common in children but can occur at any age.

It is characterized by hypersensitivity, dry skin sometimes with red, itchy skin lesions that may crack or ooze if left untreated.

There are two main ones: atopic dermatitis (or atopic eczema) and contact eczema.

Contact eczema, we take stock

Contact eczema is caused by an allergic reaction which will cause skin inflammation. This reaction occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen where the skin has been exposed to it. It can remain localized or spread to other parts of the body.

Contact eczema can be caused in people without a genetic predisposition.

Atopic dermatitis, what is it?

Atopic eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic and inflammatory skin disease caused by genetic factors that predispose to hypersensitivity. It therefore differs from contact eczema which is acquired and can be treated by imitating the trigger.

It is important to note that atopic dermatitis is not contagious, which means that it is impossible to contract it by being around someone who has it.

Who is affected by atopy?

This disease can affect people as adults, but it tends to appear very early in life. It would affect more than 2.5 million people in France.

What causes atopic eczema?

Atopic dermatitis is caused by a multitude of factors: a genetic predisposition, an atopic background and sensitivity to the environment.

The precise causes of this skin condition are not fully understood but here are some factors involved:

  • Genetic factors : atopic-prone skin occurs in people with a family history of allergic diseases such as eczema, asthma or allergic rhinitis.
  • Immune system dysfunction : People with atopic dermatitis have an overactive immune system and increased reactivity to allergens and irritants, leading to an inappropriate inflammatory response in the skin.
  • Altered skin barrier : allergens therefore penetrate the skin more easily and aggravate inflammation. The effectiveness and role of the skin barrier therefore become less.
  • Environmental factors : These can worsen the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. They can include dust mites, mold, irritating chemicals, temperature changes, stress etc.

What are the symptoms of atopic dermatitis?

The main symptoms of atopic dermatitis are dry skin, itchy red patches, thickening of the skin, the appearance of small blisters and alternating periods of eczema flare-ups and remission.

The flare-up phases are always accompanied by severe itching which causes irritability and prevents you from sleeping.

During the remission phases, the skin remains dry and tight, to the point of itching.

Atopic dermatitis appears mainly in the folds of the elbows and knees as well as on the hands, neck and face.

Signs of atopic dermatitis

Condition of your atopic skin

Skin dryness:

In cases of atopic dermatitis, the production of skin lipids is limited. The skin is therefore often very dry, which contributes to the fragility of the skin barrier and the loss of hydration. It is therefore important to constantly hydrate your skin with moisturizing active ingredients and ceramides.

Altered skin barrier:

The skin barrier in people with atopic dermatitis is compromised. It no longer fulfills its protective role and allows allergens and irritants to easily penetrate the skin.

Chronic inflammation:

Atopic dermatitis is characterized by persistent skin inflammation. Immune cells overreact to irritants and external aggressions, which leads to excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (signaling molecules produced in response to an infection) which will then promote and amplify the body's inflammatory response.


Chronic inflammation will cause redness which will be visible on different parts of the body.

Itching and skin lesions:

They are the most common symptom of atopic dermatitis. They cause great discomfort and can lead to skin damage due to excessive scratching.

Physiological functioning of atopic dermatitis

How to get rid of your atopic eczema?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to get rid of atopic eczema which is a chronic condition. But there are ways to reduce the symptoms and soothe the itching.
Here are some steps to take to better manage atopic eczema:

Consult a dermatologist : he will be able to establish the precise diagnosis and provide you with advice specific to your situation.

Hydrate your skin : it is essential to maintain your skin barrier and reduce dryness. Use fragrance-free moisturizers whenever your skin needs it.

Avoid triggers : Identify the triggers for your eczema flare-ups and avoid them as much as possible.

Manage stress : it can actually make eczema symptoms worse.

Wear soft, breathable clothing : rough clothing can irritate the skin and contribute to inflammation.

Avoid excessive washing of the skin : especially with hot water for too long which can cause dehydration.

What ingredients for atopic skin?

It is essential to see a dermatologist to obtain his precise recommendations. However, here are some commonly recommended ingredients for atopic skin:

Ceramides : these are lipids naturally present in the skin barrier. They help strengthen this barrier and prevent moisture loss.

Hyaluronic acid : it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, which helps keep skin hydrated.

Glycerin : it attracts moisture from the surrounding air and retains it in the skin. It also strengthens the skin barrier and prevents transepidermal water loss.

 Natural oils : Some oils are rich in fatty acids and help seal moisture into the skin.

Niacinamide : it is known for its moisturizing and soothing properties which help strengthen the skin barrier.

What habits and care can make atopy worse?

Certain habits can make atopy symptoms worse. Here are a few :

Aggressive soaps and shower gels : cleansing products containing perfumes, dyes or strong foaming agents (sulphates, MEA, TEA, etc.) can irritate atopic skin. It is therefore preferable to use gentle cleansers composed of rebalancing ingredients such as probiotics.

Excessive hot water : it can dry out the skin and worsen dry skin.

Excessive rubbing : When you get out of the shower, it is best to gently pat the skin dry.

Perfumes and scented products : Perfumes and scented skincare products can trigger allergic or irritant reactions. It is therefore recommended to use fragrance-free care products.