The majority of our biological functions are directed by proteins. When proteins are mutated, this means that they may not perform their normal functions. Additionally, this also means that those normal body functions that rely on normal protein function may become negatively affected.
Filaggrin is a large protein that is critically significant for the normal structure and function of the skin layer, stratum corneum, which provides a physical barrier against things like the environment, pathogens, and allergens. This layer of skin is also important for maintaining skin water balance, helping skin to retain moisture (1).
For this reason and more, filaggrin is recognized as a central factor in the development of skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis (1). In individuals with a filaggrin protein mutation, the gene that signals for the production of filaggrin is altered, leading to less filaggrin, and ultimately a weaker skin barrier (1). This is what allows irritants and allergens to penetrate the skin more easily, making it more susceptible to inflammation and infection.
This increased susceptibiltiy to allergens, irritants, and bacteria can trigger flare ups and exacerbate eczema symptoms like itchiness, inflammation and overall dryness.
Furthermore, people with eczema have a deficiency in ceramides, which are a lipid component of the stratum corneum that help to maintain barrier function (1). This deficiency can lead to a breakdown of the skin barrier, resulting in increased water loss and decreased hydration, making the skin more prone to damage.
So, What Can You Do?
There are many internal and external influences on filaggrin expression. When eczema or dry skin presents, the use of moisturizers is considered to be standard therapy for the treatment (2).
The most ideal moisturizers repair the skin barrier, maintain skin integrity and appearance, reduce water loss across the skin, restore the lipid barrier’s ability to attract, and hold and redistribute water (2).
Whenever you find yourself shopping for your little one's next skincare product, keep an eye out for the following anti-inflammatory agents in their moisturizer to help alleviate symptoms without the use of topical corticosteroids:
- Aloe vera
- Grape seed
- St. John’s wort
- Coconut oil
- Shea butter
(1) Drislane, C., & Irvine, A. D. (2020). The role of filaggrin in atopic dermatitis and allergic disease. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 124(1), 36-43.
(2) Varothai, S., Nitayavardhana, S., & Kulthanan, K. (2013). Moisturizers for patients with atopic dermatitis. Asian pacific journal of allergy and immunology, 31(2), 91.