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Insulin Resistance & How It Affects Skin

The skin is also surprisingly insulin responsive. You may have heard that diabetes causes skin issues—people who have diabetes tend to have extremely dry, itchy skin; are prone to frequent skin infections, and can have trouble healing wounds.

Insulin resistance is characterized by the inability of the cells to respond to insulin, resulting in poor absorption of glucose from your blood. This leads to an increase in blood glucose levels, the pancreas secreting more insulin, and consequently, increased insulin levels. The majority of the skin cells are responsive to insulin. As the insulin levels rise beyond control, cells tend to become hyperactive and growth activities are accentuated. This leads to excessive growth, hyperpigmentation, or skin becoming more prone to infections.

Skin & Insulin Resistance

There are a few skin problems that are common in people with insulin resistance and these could start to appear during the initial stages as well.

Acanthosis nigricans or Skin Pigmentation Disorder

Melanin is a skin pigment that gives color/ tone to your skin. Overproduction of melanin leads to the darkening of the skin, mostly around the armpits, neck, and groin. Additionally, it could appear as patches on the arms, legs, or face.

Melanocytes are responsive to insulin, and insulin resistance leads to the overactivity of melanocytes and acanthosis nigricans. This condition is common in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus, usually characterized by insulin resistance. Even children with insulin resistance can develop acanthosis nigricans.

Skin Tags

Skin tags (acrochorda) are small bumps on the skin that usually appear around the armpits, neck, groin, etc. You might have already seen these little flaps on your skin or anyone else’s skin. These little bumps are quite common in people with insulin resistance and diabetes. Skin tags appear in the same areas as acanthosis nigricans.

Skin tags are considered to be related to hyperinsulinemia—a prominent characteristic of insulin resistance. Hyperinsulinemia accentuates the growth and division of keratinocytes—cells responsible for providing structure to the skin, leading to the appearance of little protuberances on your skin.


Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by chronic inflammation and usually appears as defined areas of skin turning reddish or purplish and covered by silver-white scales. Psoriasis Vulgaris is quite common and appears on the scalp, elbows, knees, or midsection. Psoriasis has been associated with insulin resistance and people with psoriasis are almost 3-times more likely to develop psoriasis.


Insulin resistance is associated with increased glucose levels and is considered to be higher in people with acne. Specifically, obese people are more prone to acne as they are at a higher risk of developing insulin resistance.

Skin thickening delayed wound healing, blisters, sores, and increased risk of skin infections are associated with insulin resistance and increased blood glucose levels.

Others might experience dry skin, skin-colored bumps (granuloma annulare), reddish-yellow bumps (eruptive xanthomatosis), reddish-brown patches (necrobiosis lipoidica), or yellowish scaly patches around eyelids (xanthelasma).


Adopt a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet and exercise regime to keep insulin resistance at bay. This will help you to avoid skin-related conditions and other complications associated with insulin resistance.


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