In this article, findings from in-depth interviews with 12 people diagnosed with atopic dermatitis (AD) are described. The findings describe the range of strategies used to manage atopic dermatitis, including use of conventional medicines. A strong theme identified in informants’ accounts centred on concerns about the risks of illness and long-term use of conventional medicines, which acted as a strong incentive for patients to seek alternatives to conventional treatments. However, despite their significant efforts to do so, patients were eventually forced to return to and rely on conventional medicines because of their efficacy in alleviating and treating symptoms. These findings are discussed in relation to the sociological literature on consumerism, risk and reflexivity in health. We argue that our findings exemplify how living with and managing a chronic illness may not be straightforward and the choices of treatment at hand may be limited. Consequently, this may limit the potential opportunities accruing from adopting a reflexive or consumerist approach to managing illness.