BACKGROUND Atopic dermatitis (AD) may be exacerbated by occlusion from items such as occlusive gloves or textiles, especially if the occlusion is removed suddenly, creating a steep humidity gradient. Most previous studies of occlusion have focused on normal skin. Occlusion has been shown to be beneficial in psoriatic skin, but many atopic patients complain of increased inflammation after occlusion. OBJECTIVE To evaluate the response of noninflamed AD skin to occlusion. METHODS Six patients with AD were patch-tested with occlusive polyethylene wrap and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in standard Finn Chambers taped to noninflamed skin of the back. Cytokine and chemokine messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) for interleukin-8 (IL-8), interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1α), and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA), as well as the 18S rRNA housekeeping gene, was obtained via tape-stripping the skin and measured using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. We also measured transepidermal water loss after removal of occlusion. RESULTS Polyethylene occlusion alone with abrupt removal induced IL-8 and IL-1α levels similar to or exceeding that of SLS. IL-1RA was up-regulated by SLS and occlusion, with SLS showing a stronger response. CONCLUSION Removal of occlusion with polyethylene film up-regulates the inflammatory cytokines IL-8, IL-1α, and IL-1RA in patients with AD. This may explain the worsening of AD with the use of occlusive gloves, athletic equipment, and fabrics.