Nation of Strong blog post: What is cellulite anyway?

What is Cellulite Anyway?

Which woman doesn't know it? Cellulite or, more colloquially, orange peel skin. Approximately 80-90% of all women have to struggle with cellulite in various degrees of severity at some point.  

What is cellulite anyway?

First of all, cellulite refers to a change in the fatty tissue and connective tissue in
the subcutis, i.e. the lower skin. It occurs in women; we will explain why in a moment. Visible dents appear under the surface of the skin caused by fat cells that resemble the surface of an orange. This is where the name "orange peel skin" comes from. Cellulite mainly occurs on the thighs and buttocks. Cellulite is divided into the following three degrees of severity:

Severity of cellulite

  • Grade 1: Cellulite appears when the skin is pinched.
  • Grade 2: Cellulite is visible when standing, but not when lying down.
  • Grade 3: Cellulite is visible when standing and lying down.

Women can be affected by orange peel skin for several reasons. They naturally have a higher body fat percentage (than men, for example). The increased body fat percentage of women is due to the fact that the organism is designed by nature to be able to bear children. During pregnancy and the subsequent breastfeeding period, the organism needs increased energy reserves for itself and the offspring, which are drawn from the fat reserves, among other things.

For exactly the same reason, the connective tissue of a woman is structured differently from that of a man. While the connective tissue fibres in men resemble a net structure, the fibres in women run more parallel. The connective tissue is constructed in this way so that the skin can expand and contract again in the event of pregnancy. This is important so that the skin on the abdomen does not hang too limply on the body after pregnancy, but can pull itself back into its original shape. However, the parallel arrangement of the connective tissue fibres also allows the underlying fat cells to pass through the tissue much more easily than with a more networked arrangement. The connective tissue network offers men's skin a higher support function and resilience, which women's skin unfortunately lacks in this way.
Cellulite is also genetically determined in that some women tend to have firmer connective tissue and others tend to have weaker connective tissue.

Three basic causes of cellulite

  1. The sex hormone oestrogen is partly responsible for the development of cellulite. This is also the reason why women are mostly affected. Men also produce oestrogen, but much less than women.

  2. Ageing. Both oestrogen and advancing age cause the strands of connective tissue between the upper two layers of skin to shorten and thicken. Like rubber bands, these strands (medically: septa) pull the upper layer of skin deeper. Especially between the fat pads, the skin is pulled deeper down. The result: the fat cells between the strands of connective tissue that are not pulled down remain on top and thus form dents on the surface.

  3. The third reason is possible hypertrophy of the fat cells. In non- medical terms, hypertrophy is simply an increase in size. This means that when we become fatter and our fat cells under the skin also increase in mass, the dents are consequently also more voluminous and increase the effect of the wavy skin surface.