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What are Skin Folds?

Mary McMahon
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Skin folds are areas where the skin is loose and folds over as a result of excess tissue, or where the skin is designed to fold to accommodate movement. Many are naturally present in people of all body types, while some can develop as a result of variations in body structure. These structures are of interest to students of anatomy as well as doctors who may have an interest in conditions involving the skin folds. Cosmetic concerns about folds and wrinkles are also a potential issue.

A big concern with skin folds is the potential to harbor yeasts, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms. By their nature, skin folds tend to be dark, moist, and warm, making them an ideal environment for incubation. In people with deep skin folds, like women with large breasts and a big intramammary fold, there can be a risk of developing infections. This may lead to inflammation, open sores, and other problems inside the skin fold.

Hygiene requires people to carefully wash and dry skin folds. In people with big folds and problems like excessive sweating, a doctor may recommend the use of talcum powder, corn starch, and similar products to wick away moisture and keep the skin dry. This can reduce the risks of infection in addition to increasing comfort. In cases where skin folds are the result of weight loss or changes in weight distribution, the patient may consider surgery to remove them for comfort and health.

Many folds appear naturally over time. The nasolabial fold running from the edges of the nose to the mouth is an example. Also known as the “laugh line,” it tends to become more pronounced as people age and the structures of the face change. Other common skin folds can be found around the edges of the elbows and knees, the eyelids, and under the breasts. Sometimes they develop as a result of weight gain, where deposits of fat and skin may grow large enough to start folding over each other. The back and abdomen are common locations for this.

Plastic surgeons can use fillers to plump up folds, minimizing their appearance. It is also possible to have lifting procedures where the surgeon pulls the skin taut to address wrinkles. Surgical removal of skin flaps and folds is also a possibility. In cases where the folds are the result of being fat, the doctor may recommend dieting first to increase safety during surgery and to provide the doctor with more skin to safely remove once the patient reaches a stable weight.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By umbra21 — On May 31, 2012

@croydon - Unfortunately it just happens sometimes when someone loses a lot of weight. Particularly when they lose it quickly and when they are over a certain age.

You can try rubbing skin creams with vitamin E into the skin, but I've heard they don't do all that much.

Another technique I've heard, which works for some people is to get your weight down as far as you can safely go, as the body might get the hint and start tightening the skin.

But that doesn't work for everyone either. Really, the only guaranteed method of getting rid of excess skin is to remove it with surgery. Whether you think it's worth doing that, and whether you can afford it is up to you.

By croydon — On May 31, 2012

@Iluviaporos - There are plenty of Shar Peis around without the exaggerated skin folds if someone just wants a dog with the sweet personality and guardian instincts of the Shar Pei.

Serious skin folds are nothing to seek out intentionally. I was working overseas with a group of US volunteers and several of us lost a lot of weight, leading to excess skin. I was lucky, because mine seemed to tighten up as I lost the weight, but one of my friends ended up with skin so loose around his stomach he had to hold it back with his belt.

He ended up developing a skin fold rash, just because it was so hot over there and almost impossible to keep it dry.

I don't know if there's any way of stopping that kind of excess skin from happening though, it didn't seem like he was doing anything very different from what I was doing.

By lluviaporos — On May 31, 2012

Something to consider if you're thinking about getting a Shar Pei breed of dog is that they need just as much attention to their skin folds as any person who has them.

This is particularly true when they are puppies as they haven't had time to grow into their skin and they have more folds than they will when they are older.

The skin folds were originally bred into them so that, in a fight, their opponent won't be able to get a firm grip on anything important, but will only be able to bite skin.

But people have exaggerated them so much now through breeding that they can lead to serious health problems, like yeast infections, if they aren't cleaned regularly.

A Shar Pei is a lot of work, so if you like the look of the cuddly puppies, do keep this in mind.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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