Atopic-prone skin

What is it atopic-prone skin exactly? (causes, symptoms)

Written in partnership with Dr. Clarence De BELILOVSKY, dermatologist & member of the Mustela experts' circle.
Atopic-prone skin, also called atopic dermatitis, affects one child in five.1, but atopic doesn’t mean atypical. If the signs of this eczema are unpleasant (redness, itching sensations, dryness, etc.), they are not rare, nor contagious to other children, and not irreversible. 
More precisely, atopic-prone skin symptoms can appear by the age of two months (sometimes even earlier) and can abate or disappear at around five or six years old. In the meantime, don’t worry: some care and a little attention can and will soothe your baby (read up on Atopic dermatitis: how can you prevent its appearance?).

What is atopy?

Let’s start at the beginning. Where does it come from?
It comes from a combination of two key factors: an extremely reactive immune system and very dry skin
We talk about atopic-prone skin when the immune system responds excessively when it is in contact with allergens or other, environmental situations (read our advice for the home). It can be hereditary. There is a 40-50% probability that the child will also develop atopic dermatitis when one of the parents is atopic, and a 50-80% probability when both parents are atopic.2 Other causes can also explain its appearance, like pollution or an over-zealous hygiene routine! Indeed, atopic dermatitis is more developed in industrialised countries than in developing ones. 

What is atopic-prone skin and how can it be soothed?

Why does atopic dermatitis affect dry skin? Because it is more sensitive.
The skin usually creates a thin layer of water and oils (lipids) on its surface to protect itself, known as a hydrolipidic film. Furthermore, it produces the filaggrin, a molecule that serves as a “cement” to ensure its permeability. When the level of lipids or filaggrin is not sufficient, the skin allow water to evaporate. It loses its permeability and doesn’t complete its role as a barrier against certain harmful factors; allergens can thus enter the system easily.
In brief: excessive reaction of the immune system + dry skin = atopic-prone skin if there are allergens or in particular environmental situations. This results in more or less inflammatory red patches (see Does my baby have atopic-prone skin?). The skin itches and is irritated, a situation that can affect the well-being of the youngest, especially their sleep quality. However, atopic-prone skin doesn’t disrupt their lives every day. Between two flare-ups, there are some periods of respite that you can extend via simple daily precautions. See for yourself!
1 Sources: Watson 2011, Isaac 1998. 
2 Sources: Böhme 2003, Taïb 2008. 


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