Insulin Resistance: Skin Indicators

Insulin resistance

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Your skin is an extraordinary indicator of your health. It is capable of alerting you to various health problems such as insulin resistance. Discovering resistance early is vital as it may be able to help you avoid type 2 diabetes later on. After discovering that you have become insulin resistant, you may begin to take steps to reverse the problem.

Understanding Insulin Resistance

Insulin Resistance happens when your body’s cells stop being responsive to insulin. Whenever blood sugar levels start to rise, the pancreas begins to produce the hormone insulin which then works to bring blood sugar levels back into balance. Levels usually rise following a meal as glucose begins to join the bloodstream. Insulin then gets to work by getting your body’s cells to start picking up the glucose to use as energy. When resistance is at play, those cells start to ignore insulin and the pancreas is forced to produce more to compensate. Over time, resistance will increase and the pancreas will need to produce more and more insulin to keep up. Eventually, the pancreas will become damaged and no longer be able to keep up. At this point, glucose can become unchecked in the system and type 2 diabetes may develop. Before the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance has usually been present for months or years leading up.

Your Skin Tells All

Insulin resistance may be determined through testing, however, there are several skin conditions that also tend to be reliable indicators. Research shows that as much as 91% of people living with type 2 diabetes are also affected by at least one insulin-resistant related skin condition. It’s important to keep an eye out for the following skin conditions:

  • Acanthosis Nigricans or AN: This skin condition is most commonly caused by insulin resistance. This condition presents as darker velvety skin patches or plaques. It will usually be found on the knuckles, behind the neck, around the armpit, or on the elbows.
  • Skin tags: Seen as small soft skin growths, these are benign tumors that typically appear around the neck, armpit, or groin.
  • Hyperandrogenism is women: The three main manifestations of this are AGA or patterned hair loss, hirsutism or male pattern hair growth, and acne. This condition is also a sign of PCOS. Interestingly, many women diagnosed with PCOS are also experiencing insulin resistance. There is some argument that insulin resistance may even be at the root of PCOS in some.


It is a good idea to talk to your doctor right away if you believe you may have any of the above skin conditions. You will want to find out if insulin resistance is the driving force behind your skin condition. If so, your doctor will be able to help you create a customized plan that aims to reverse insulin resistance. Addressing your nutrition and exercise habits may sometimes be enough to get your body back on track.


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About Cali Naughton

Cali Naughton graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. She joined the marketing team at Empower Brokerage in the spring of 2021 as a marketing specialist and the department photographer.

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