Obesity and the skin: skin physiology and skin manifestations of obesity

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 Jun;56(6):901-16; quiz 917-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2006.12.004.


Obesity is widely recognized as an epidemic in the Western world; however, the impact of obesity on the skin has received minimal attention. The purpose of this article is to highlight the association between obesity and dermatologic conditions. We review the impact of obesity on the skin, including skin physiology, skin manifestations of obesity, and dermatologic diseases aggravated by obesity. Obesity is responsible for changes in skin barrier function, sebaceous glands and sebum production, sweat glands, lymphatics, collagen structure and function, wound healing, microcirculation and macrocirculation, and subcutaneous fat. Moreover, obesity is implicated in a wide spectrum of dermatologic diseases, including acanthosis nigricans, acrochordons, keratosis pilaris, hyperandrogenism and hirsutism, striae distensae, adiposis dolorosa, and fat redistribution, lymphedema, chronic venous insufficiency, plantar hyperkeratosis, cellulitis, skin infections, hidradenitis suppurativa, psoriasis, insulin resistance syndrome, and tophaceous gout. We review the clinical features, evidence for association with obesity, and management of these various dermatoses and highlight the profound impact of obesity in clinical dermatology.

Learning objective: After completing this learning activity, participants should be aware of obesity-associated changes in skin physiology, skin manifestations of obesity, and dermatologic diseases aggravated by obesity, and be able to formulate a pathophysiology-based treatment strategy for obesity-associated dermatoses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acanthosis Nigricans / epidemiology
  • Acanthosis Nigricans / physiopathology
  • Adiposis Dolorosa / epidemiology
  • Adiposis Dolorosa / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Elasticity
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing / epidemiology
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa / epidemiology
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Intertrigo / physiopathology
  • Lymphedema / epidemiology
  • Lymphedema / physiopathology
  • Microcirculation / physiopathology
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / genetics
  • Psoriasis / epidemiology
  • Sebaceous Glands / physiopathology
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Skin Diseases / physiopathology
  • Venous Insufficiency / epidemiology
  • Venous Insufficiency / physiopathology


  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin