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.