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What is 'orange peel skin'? And why you definitely want to avoid it

The experts weigh in.
Here's why \"orange peel skin\" has become a big term in skin care.
Here's why \"orange peel skin\" has become a big term in skin care.Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

Orange peels are far more pleasant in our cocktails than on our faces.

Skin care ads often say that “silky smooth” is the ideal texture, but if your face looks and feels more like the rough rind of a fruit than, say, a soft baby’s bottom, don’t panic. You’re likely dealing with something called “orange peel skin.”

Though it's technically not a scientific phrase, “orange peel skin” is a blanket term used to describe teeny, tiny bumps and divots that make your face resemble the skin of an orange. So, what gives?

"With extensive sun damage, the collagen and elastin in the skin breaks down. Over time, this makes the skin look like it has pinpoint pits from depleted collagen, similar to the surface of an orange,” Dr. Lily Talakoub of McLean Dermatology told TODAY Style. She notes that these dimples can be even more pronounced on your chin, where the muscle is very strong. (As for the term itself, Talakoub says it's at least 10 years old, but that she's noticed patients using it more often recently.)

Aside from the annoying aesthetics of the condition, there isn’t anything to be worried about medically. It can happen to anyone, but women with with very thin, dry skin are at higher risk than those with thick, oily skin.

The real make-or-break factor? How often you bake your face: The more sun damage in youth, the more likely you'll be to pay the price with orange peel skin later in life. Here's yet another reason why it's important to lather on that SPF 50 regularly.

If your skin does start to develop these peel-like pits, your first method of treatment is to rebuild collagen. Even the most expensive topical lotions and potions won't do much to reverse years of sun damage, so your best bet is to use an at-home microneedler to stimulate collagen development or head to the dermatologist for a radiofrequency treatment, like Thermismooth, according to Talakoub. The most important thing to remember is that these treatments take time. "It took years to destroy the collagen, it will take months to rebuild it," she explained.

In addition to these collagen depletion-induced dimples, there’s another kind of under-skin situation that may also give your face and body a lumpy look.

“Called lerastosis pilaris, the hair follicles plug with a substance called keratin — which causes rough bumps to form,” Dr. Rachel Nazarian of New York City's Schweiger Dermatology told TODAY. "Occasionally people may find the condition to be itchy, but typically there are no symptoms, and it’s only an aesthetic issue.” She suggests steering clear of any harsh soaps or scrubs that will make the bumps look (and potentially feel) worse, and sticking with a gentle wash and topical creams.

If you're concerned about what's going on beneath the surface, be sure to chat with your doctor.