Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an inflammatory disease characterized by pruritic skin lesions. The pathogenesis of AD may include disrupted epidermal barrier function, immunodysregulation, and IgE-mediated sensitization to food and environmental allergens. AD is also part of a process called the atopic march, a progression from AD to allergic rhinitis and asthma. This has been supported by multiple cross-sectional and longitudinal studies and experimental data. Research on the mechanisms of AD has been centered on the adaptive immune system with an emphasis on the T-helper 1 (Th1)-Th2 paradigm. Recently, the conceptual focus has largely shifted to include a primary defect in the epithelial barrier as an initial event in AD providing a significant insight into the disease initiation and pointing to a complex secondary interplay of environmental and immunological sequelae with barrier disruption. Further understanding of AD will help the development of more effective treatment for AD and ultimately, preventative algorithms for the atopic march. In this review we highlight recent advances in our understanding of the pathogenesis of AD and the atopic march.