We aimed to develop an animal model for atopic dermatitis. HR-1 hairless mice fed a diet with reduced magnesium and zinc levels were compared with mice fed a standard diet. Skin dryness and wrinkle-like changes, scratching behaviour, decreased skin water content, increased transepidermal water loss and raised blood immunoglobulin E levels were seen in the group receiving the reduced magnesium and zinc diet compared with control mice. There were no significant differences in body weight or the weight of the major organs between the two groups. Haematological examination in both groups was normal apart from increased immunoglobulin E levels in mice fed a reduced magnesium and zinc diet. These mice may be useful models of atopic dermatitis; preparation of the animals is not particularly time consuming, the reproducibility is 100%, and atopic dermatitis symptoms occur even in a specific pathogen-free environment.