Evidence-based treatment of atopic dermatitis with topical moisturizers

G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2018 Jun;153(3):396-402. doi: 10.23736/S0392-0488.18.05898-4. Epub 2018 Jan 24.


Skin barrier restoration represents the mainstay of the treatment of atopic dermatitis and the use of moisturizers is recommended by several international guidelines. The aim of the study was to investigate through an evidence-based medicine analysis the effectiveness and safety of different moisturizing products available for a non-pharmacological treatment of atopic dermatitis. A total of 92 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been identified and analyzed. The results confirm the presence of a reasonable number of studies highlighting moisturizers safety and effectiveness in the treatment of atopic dermatitis by improving disease severity, increasing the time of relapse and reducing the time of flares. Moisturizers containing urea, glycerin or glycyrrhetinic acid seem to show the greater evidence of efficacy being supported by more clinical trials. Among the existing moisturizers, those containing a single agent generally work although the heterogeneity of RCTs does not allow reaching more definitive conclusions. Moisturizers made of a mixture of substances seem to be more effective thanks to the presence of different active substances that may exert a synergistic effect. A meta-analysis of 4 RCTs confirms the efficacy of a medical device containing glycyrrhetinic acid, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, telmesteine, and vitis vinifera in the treatment of atopic dermatitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects
  • Emollients / administration & dosage*
  • Emollients / adverse effects
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Glycerol / administration & dosage
  • Glycyrrhetinic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Urea / administration & dosage


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Emollients
  • Urea
  • Glycyrrhetinic Acid
  • Glycerol