As women, we all have a mutual friend called cellulite. It affects most of us at some stage in our life. It may vary in intensity, but we are all familiar with this biological female phenomenon. We all know what it looks like, but do we actually know what it is and why it occurs in our bodies? Let’s unravel the science of cellulite from the inside out…

First we look into the structure of the skin. Our skin is made of three layers:

  • The epidermis, the outermost layer of skin that forms a protective barrier.
  • The dermis, the middle layer that contains strong connective tissue, hair follicles and sweat glands.
  • The hypodermis, made of adipocytes (fat cells) and  connective fibers (elastin and collagen). It is in this layer that cellulite originates.


The adipocytes have 2 roles:

  • LIPOGENESIS – Storage of fat as an energy reserve.
  • LIPOLYSIS – Release of the stored fat in the form of fatty acids to meet the body’s energy needs.


Cellulite is a combination of three factors:

1.  Localised accumulation of fat and toxins

This is due to a Lipogenesis/Lipolysis imbalance, causing a build-up in fatty acids and sugars, which leads to an increase in the size of fat cells. As the fat cells get increasingly larger (hypertrophy), this causes differentiation of fat cells, creating more fat cells capable of storing fat.

2.   Water retention

When the fat cells grow, blood vessels are compressed, causing leakage of water from blood vessels into tissue. This causes water retention.

3.  Hardening of connective tissue

Just like the water, sugar also leaks from the blood vessels into the tissue. The sugar bonds with collagen fibers in the tissue – hardening it. Fat lobules are now encapsulated by the hardened tissue, causing a deformation in the surface of the skin – known as the “orange peel” effect.


Unfortunately this occurrence is irreversible, but luckily there are ways to reduce its appearance and prevent the formation of new cellulite.