How Obesity Compromises Skin

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A common occurrence is the presence of altered skin health among those struggling with obesity. The physiology of skin changes in direct relation to a person’s weight as it moves from healthy to overweight and beyond.


There are distinct commonalities that skin care professionals worldwide see when addressing the needs of overweight and obese clients. There is always a disruption in sebum production, which directly impacts the protective nature and hydration health of the skin. The epidermal barrier is often noticeably compromised at a superficial level, so there is an increased chance of skin infections. At the deeper layers of the skin, there can be discrepancies within the collagen production and structural integrity of the skin. At all levels, there is unnatural strain and stress on the body which affects the skin.


Direct connections certainly exist between obesity and dermatologic conditions. These external and internal diseases affect the superficial and deeper layers of the skin. The most common diseases seen by professionals among their clients struggling with obesity are acanthosis nigricans, skin infections, and striae.


Acanthosis nigricans present as velvety, darker brown or black skin patches of thick skin and are linked to high insulin levels that are common with obesity. Clients struggling with obesity often have high levels of a specific protein which causes skin cells in the dermis layers to divide, quickly. Within the medical community, this accelerated division is thought to be the cause behind acanthosis nigricans.


Skin infections are exacerbated due to excess moisture and skin friction. This lends to a perfect landscape for infections from yeast, bacteria, and fungus. Some visible infections include ringworm (scientifically referred to as tinea cruris), candida infections, and folliculitis (very common on the face, neck, and back). High body mass tends to lead to deeper skin folds and excess sweating, which can cause friction, moisture, and skin maceration.


Striae – more commonly referred to as stretch marks – are more visible with obesity due to the unnatural pull of skin from weight gain – both sudden and over time. These stretch marks are found in areas of skin tissue perpendicular to the direction of the highest amount of tension, usually in the areas of the body most prone to visible cellulite and transformation during the natural aging cycle. These areas typically include the belly, breasts, and buttocks.


STOCS1The increased risk for infections, personal and psychological discomfort, and poor collagen formation that result from obesity challenge the skin in being able to restore itself. Diets often associated with obesity, including calorie-dense foods that are laden in sugar and fats and low in real nutrition, create a cycle that exacerbates all of the above concerns. Nevertheless, there is hope.


Many skin malfunctions due to obesity can be arrested with the adoption of a more active lifestyle, partnering with a skin care specialist for restorative, professional, topical skin treatments, and addressing nutritional needs, such as deficiencies in zinc, vitamins C and A, and healthy protein consumption. Stress management can play a role in achieving healthy skin, as well.

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