The rise in atopic dermatitis prevalence seen in industrialized countries in unexplained. Some authors have suggested that the increase in the use of skin care products is partly responsible. There are few studies examining skin care practices commonly used in treatment of children. We hypothesized that the use of moisturizers early in life may alter the risk for developing atopic dermatitis.
A case-control study utilizing two control groups was performed. Cases were defined as children under six years of age who developed atopic dermatitis. A normal control and a high-risk control group were used for comparison. Parents or caregivers of children were questioned regarding skin care practices used in early life in an attempt to identify practices that increased the risk of developing atopic dermatitis.
The regular use of a moisturizer on the child during the first six months of life was very common in all groups, 76%, 74.7%, and 78% in the atopic, non-atopic, and high-risk groups, respectively. Because of the high rate of moisturizer use in all groups, no significant differences were found between groups. Watery lotions were the most commonly used moisturizer.
Despite published guidelines advising to the contrary, the regular use of moisturizers was common in this population. Although no one specific skin care practice was associated with atopic dermatitis, the frequent use of products potentially detrimental to the skin barrier raises concern.