Orange Peel Skin: What Is It and How to Remove It?

Orange peel skin is the name used to refer to a particular skin texture. We'll show you its characteristics, causes, and treatment.
Orange Peel Skin: What Is It and How to Remove It?
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by el médico Diego Pereira.

Last update: 24 February, 2023

Orange peel skin, also known as peau d’orange, is the name given to a particular skin texture. It’s characterized by thick, pitted, and porous skin. It isn’t a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. It can develop anywhere on the body, but it is much more common on the torso, extremities, and face.

Sometimes the changes in texture are accompanied by a yellowish or orange hue, which makes it even more like the fruit it takes its name from. Sensitivity and scaling are also common. It’s often associated with inflammatory breast cancer, but the truth is that there are other possible explanations. Let’s have a look at the causes of orange peel skin and what can be done to treat it.

Causes of orange peel skin

Peau d’orange is a symptom of different medical conditions. They’re very varied, and depending on what has caused it, the patient can develop other symptoms at the same time. We have compiled 4 causes of orange peel skin according to scientific evidence.

1. Cellulite

As the experts point out, cellulite is among the main causes of orange peel skin. Cellulite, also known as gynoid lipodystrophy, is estimated to affect between 80% and 90% of postpubertal women.

Its causes are multifactorial, and can be explained by the sexual dimorphism of the subcutaneous connective tissue, the effects of localized increases in tissue tension, and local inflammatory and circulatory abnormalities.

2. Inflammatory breast cancer

Orange peel and breast cancer.
In some types of breast cancer, changes in skin color can be associated, and it usually means a poor prognosis.

Researchers agree that orange peel skin is one of the first symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer. It is thought that this symptom is a consequence of the presence of tumor emboli in the mammary dermis.

This is a rare type of breast cancer that develops rapidly and causes the breast to turn red and swell. When people think of peau d’orange it’s often in relation to this type of cancer.

3. Lymphedema

Lymphedema has also been linked to the main causes of peau d’orange. Lymphedema is the accumulation of protein-rich fluid that is generated as a result of a malfunction of the lymphatic system.

As a consequence, swelling appears, initially in the arms and legs. It’s a frequent sequel to the removal of lymph nodes after cancer treatment.

4. Graves’ dermopathy

Finally, specialists point to Graves’ dermopathy as another trigger for orange peel skin. Graves’ dermopathy, also known as Graves-Basedow disease, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the thyroid gland.

As a consequence, hyperthyroidism appears. It’s rare, but should be considered if the person has other symptoms of the disorder.

Other possible explanations for peau d’orange are infectious processes, pseudoxanthoma elasticum, and elephantiasis. As you can see, inflammatory breast cancer isn’t the only explanation, especially when orange peel skin develops in places other than the woman’s breast.

Orange peel skin treatment

Orange peel skin can be treated.
There are several local treatments that can be applied to provide some relief from orange peel skin, although it depends on the cause.

As you surely already know, the treatment of the peau d’orange depends on its causes. As we have already pointed out, cellulite is counted as its main cause, and attacking this manifestation the symptom can be reduced.

There’s no completely effective treatment to address this problem, although experts point out the following options as being the most effective:

  • Focused massages
  • Topical creams
  • Extracorporeal shock wave therapy
  • Radio frequency
  • Laser and light-based devices
  • Liposuction
  • Subcision
  • Clostridium histolyticum collagenase (enzyme injections)

Since weight plays an important role in improving or worsening cellulite symptoms, exercise and diet are also part of its treatment. You can’t always completely remove it, but you can greatly improve its appearance. If the cause of orange peel skin is cellulite, you can address it in this sense.

For other causes, the intervention of a specialist is necessary (cellulite can be diagnosed based on appearance). If you manifest complications associated with the appearance of the skin, don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance. Do this especially if the orange texture is concentrated in the breasts, as this could point to a primary symptom of cancer.

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