Skin Conditions And Weight


While not inherently apparent, obesity or malnutrition can have many manifestations on the skin. For obesity, this might include acanthosis nigricans (dry, dark patches of skin that appear in the armpits), cellulitis, psoriasis, acne, and hirsutism (abnormal hair growth in people assigned female at birth (AFAB), in areas such as the face, chest, and back). In contrast, a malnourished person might suffer from skin depigmentation. In this article, we will talk about some very common conditions, then discuss the link between obesity and skin conditions. 

What are the most common skin conditions?


Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that affects people of all ages, races, and gender. It usually occurs when skin oils (known as sebum) prevent the skin from drying up and dead skin cells start blocking the skin pores. Prevalent mostly in young adolescents, it occurs on the face but can also be found on the back, chest, and shoulder.1 

Some of the most common types of spots that can be caused by acne include:1

  • Blackheads: Bumps that can be black or yellow. They appear black since the air causes the sebum to get discoloured
  • Whiteheads: Formed due to blocked hair follicles, they are similar in appearance to blackheads but usually stiffer and firm 
  • Papules: Red, inflamed lesions that appear on the skin and are tender or sore 
  • Pustules: Also known as pimples, these have a white tip in the centre due to the building up of pus 


This is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause rashes, itchiness, and most commonly, dry skin. There are many different types of eczema but the most common one is referred to as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. In atopic dermatitis, you get dry skin due to the overactivity of the immune system. Eczema is often treated with moisturisers, topical steroids, anti-histamines, and corticosteroids.3


This is an inflammatory, immune-mediated skin disorder that causes patches, scales, and plaques to form on the skin. This occurs due to increased immune system activity which promotes skin cell growth. Hence, skin cells, instead of shedding every month (like they do normally), accumulate on the skin surface. The plaques and patches can burn, itch, or sting and are most commonly seen in elbows, knees, and scalp but can be found anywhere in the body.4

The connection between obesity and skin conditions

Increased prevalence of skin problems

Obesity can affect the structure of the skin itself thereby changing its physiological attributes. In the morbidly obese, the skin barrier function is damaged leading to a greater water loss across the skin surface – as you can imagine, this would lead to dry skin. Obesity is also associated with the increased production of androgens and growth hormones. Raised levels of these hormones can lead to increased occurrence of acne.5

Obesity is associated with changes in collagen structure

Research suggests that due to hypertrophy (increased growth) of the subcutaneous (underneath all layers of the skin) adipose tissue (fat), collagen structures can get degraded leading to defectively organised dermal (skin) collagen structure.6

Skin folds increase irritation

As you know, obesity can cause skin folds. Sometimes these folds can rub against each other, and the friction can therefore irritate. This could eventually lead to a condition known as intertrigo which essentially is a rash that occurs in the areas of the skin folds.7


Obesity can not only cause well-known cardiovascular and respiratory conditions but can affect the skin too. Depending on how obese someone is, the dermatological condition can be severe. This fact potently outlines yet another reason why it is necessary to keep our weight in check.


  1. Nancy Garrick DD. Acne [Internet]. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 2016.
  2. NHS Choices. Overview - Acne [Internet]. NHS. 2019.
  3. National Eczema Association. Eczema Symptoms & Causes | National Eczema Association [Internet]. National Eczema Association. 2017.
  4. National Psoriasis Foundation. About Psoriasis [Internet]. 2021.
  5. Obesity and Skin Problems [Internet]. 2013.
  6. Matsumoto M, Ibuki A, Minematsu T, Sugama J, Horii M, Ogai K, et al. Structural changes in dermal collagen and oxidative stress levels in the skin of Japanese overweight males. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2014 Aug 19;36(5):477–84.
  7. Intertrigo (Rash in body folds): Causes, Images, and More — DermNet [Internet].

Punyaslok Mishra Mishra

MB BCh BAO - Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland

Punyaslok is an emerging medical professional from Queen's University Belfast with a specialization in Medicine. He has showcased leadership as the President of the Asian Medical Students’ Association in Northern Ireland since August 2022. Besides, he contributes as a Peer Mentor and has recently undertaken a vital role as a Medical Writer Intern at Klarity, where he pens insightful articles for a health library, discussing topics from angina to the enzymes in papaya. Notably, Punyaslok's research on the potential of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in treating Anthracycline Induced Cardiomyopathy is affiliated with Queen's University, signifying his deep interest in advancing therapeutic measures in the medical realm. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818