Cutaneous Body Image: How the Mental Health Benefits of Treating Dermatologic Disease Support Military Readiness in Service Members

Cutis. 2022 Jun;109(6):310-313. doi: 10.12788/cutis.0541.


It is well established that many common skin diseases may result in mild to severe cosmetic disfigurement. Similarly, patients with these conditions have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, feelings of stigmatization, and self-harm ideation. There also is an increased risk for hospitalizations for mental health in patients with acne, rosacea, and hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). Cutaneous body image (CBI) is an individual's mental perception of the condition of their hair, nails, and skin. A positive CBI may be related to increased quality of life, and a negative CBI may be associated with poorer outcomes, such as insomnia, worsened overall morbidity of dermatologic disease, and intentional self-injury. For military service members who face a multitude of operational demands and who must be ready to "fight tonight," a holistic approach that addresses both physical and mental health is critical. Military dermatologists have the tools and expertise available to treat cutaneous disease, which by extension may improve body image, quality of life, and morale in military service members. Herein, we discuss how dermatologic treatments that often are thought of as nonessential cosmetic therapies can positively influence CBI and thus increase military readiness.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Body Image* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Military Personnel*
  • Quality of Life