5 min read

Cellulite: How it forms and why orange-peel skin is totally normal!

Does your body have cellulite? Not only is it nothing to be ashamed of – quite the opposite, actually! It’s common, it’s completely natural, and it’s normal! Let’s chat about what cellulite is and why it’s totally okay to accept it rather than fight it.

What is cellulite?

First things first: cellulite is totally normal and harmless! It’s just something that happens when the structure of your skin changes and forms visible dimples. It’s most commonly found on the thighs, upper arms, hips, and glutes. There are a variety of things that cause it, but everybody is different, and individual predisposition plays a large role.

Cellulite is harmless to your health and is particularly widespread among women. The advertising industry has made bank on trying to fight cellulite and earns a fortune with anti-cellulite creams. But “orange peel skin” is really quite natural!

Important note! Cellulite is sometimes confused with cellulitis. Cellulitis is a serious infectious disease that manifests itself in painful red swellings on the skin. Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics to fight the bacteria that cause the disease.

How does cellulite develop?

To understand how cellulite develops, let’s first take a closer look at the structure of your skin. Your skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer. The epidermis consists of the cornified layer and the germinal layer, and it protects you from external influences. The dermis is the middle layer of skin and consists of tight connective tissue. It provides elasticity and firmness to your skin.

The deepest layer, also called the hypodermis, is made up of loose connective tissue that contains fat cells. The fatty tissue under your skin protects you from heat loss and serves as a nutrient store. The amount of fat in the hypodermis is individual and depends on factors like gender and body composition.

Collagen fibers are important building blocks for your connective tissue, and keep the connective tissue firm and elastic. In women, collagen fibers are arranged parallel to each other and have elastic spaces between them. If the connective tissue is weak, fat cells from the subcutaneous tissue can squeeze through the collagen fibers and become visible on the surface. This is how the “cottage cheese” appearance of cellulite typically occurs.

How pronounced cellulite is can be grouped into three grades:

  • Grade 1: You can see dimples when you squeeze or pinch your skin with your hands.
  • Grade 2: You can see them when you stand relaxed without pinching or under certain light conditions.
  • Grade 3: Dimples are clearly visible
A grinning woman of color stands with a water bottle in her hand. Behind her is a scene of mountaintops and sparse evergreens.
©The Good Brigade

Belly, legs, butt – What’s up with the “problem zones”?

Many of us are familiar with the typical problem zones! Our belly, legs, and butt seem to be the most common places to store body fat. Cellulite is mostly found on the butt and thighs, too. But why there in particular?

The hormone estrogen is involved in controlling the menstrual cycle and plays an important role in pregnancy. But it’s also responsible for the fact that women deposit body fat mostly on the thighs and backside. Since cellulite forms where the fat pushes through the connective tissue, this is the area that’s most often affected.

In addition, estrogen promotes the elasticity of the collagen fibers1. As a result, the connective tissue becomes weaker and dimples become visible.

Why don’t men have cellulite?

It sounds a bit unfair, but men almost never have cellulite. This is primarily due to the fact that their subcutaneous tissue is structured differently than in women2. Men’s collagen fibers are organized in a sort of grid, and women’s are arranged parallel to each other. This means that fat cells in the female body can be pushed toward the surface more easily.

In addition to weaker connective tissue, women also have thinner skin than men1. So, imperfections on the skin are easier to see. On top of all that, men generally have less fat than women. 

The distribution of body fat is also different in men. In most cases, fat accumulates at his stomach. Men also store body fat more often between their organs, while women store fat under the skin and in the above mentioned “problem areas.”

By the way, subcutaneous fat is mostly harmless, in contrast to inner abdominal fat, which is also called visceral fat3 and accumulates around the internal organs – which can result in high blood pressure, among other things. Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases are also among the possible consequences.

What causes cellulite?

Your genetic predisposition plays a big role in whether you eventually develop cellulite or not. Body type doesn’t play a role: even slim women can have cellulite. Weak connective tissue is what causes visibly dimpled skin, and a lack of collagen fibers is the reason for weak connective tissue, which again allows fat cells to slip through more easily. This is a completely normal process. The body’s collagen production naturally decreases over time.

You cannot influence your genetics! Also, the decreased amount of collagen is completely natural. So don’t stress about it! Your body is the only one exactly like it in the entire world – and the only one you’ve got! There are, however, certain factors that can help reduce the appearance of cellulite. And, if it’s a goal of yours, that’s something you can act on!

two women jogging outside
©Skynesher

Lack of exercise

If you move too little in your everyday life, your circulation isn’t in as good of shape. In addition, your muscle percentage decreases, while your body fat percentage increases. Physical activity and exercise improve the blood supply throughout your body. As a result, your cells can be better supplied with important nutrients. By exercising, you signal your body to build more muscle and increase collagen synthesis, which makes your skin more firm to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Excess weight

With a higher body fat percentage, the thickness of the fat layer beneath the skin also increases. As a result, there are more fat cells, which can affect the appearance of cellulite. So, make sure to eat a diet rich in nutrients and avoid fatty as well as sugary products.

Extreme diets

Extreme diets can stress your connective tissue, as well as cause a yo-yo effect if you’re losing weight too quickly. This might increase cellulite. That’s why we recommend a balanced diet that will bring you closer to your goal without that yo-yo effect.

Tip: Are you looking for ideas on how to combine healthy foods into a delicious meal? Let our fitness recipes inspire you!

Buddha Bowl
©foodspring
check out our recipes

Unhealthy lifestyle

Smoking, drinking, and sleeping too little can all negatively affect your health and the look of your skin. Nicotine can constrict the blood vessels of the skin and thus reduce blood flow. This can slow down metabolism and weaken the collagen structure of the connective tissue5.

Alcohol contains extra calories, and not getting enough sleep can make you feel even hungrier than normal. These factors contribute to weight gain over time. A higher body fat percentage can, in turn, promote cellulite.

Tip: find your own balance and try to form healthy habits. It’s a great way to put yourself first and do something good for your health in the long run.

Summary

  • Cellulite is harmless and completely normal
  • The development of cellulite is genetic and due to weak connective tissue
  • Men’s skin has a different structure than women’s and rarely any cellulite
  • You can’t get rid of cellulite totally, but you can minimize its appearance
  • Movement, a balanced diet, and a healthy lifestyle can improve your health generally and can minimize the appearance of cellulite
Article sources
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