An Introduction to Cellulite

When we think of the “ideal” human form, we think of a thin but fit, tight body with smooth skin and clean shapes. But aging, genetics, and more can all cause issues that affect that appearance, and in some cases those issues may cause you to feel less confident in your body, and not as beautiful as you should feel.

Cellulite: A Common Cause of Distress

For many women, one of the most common reasons for losing body confidence is due to cellulite. Cellulite goes by many names. Some call it “cottage cheese,” or “orange peel” syndrome, but no matter what name you have for it, the look is the same – areas of the body that look like dimpled fat pockets that take away from the smooth and healthy look of the skin. Cellulite can happen in many places, but are most common on the:

  • Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Abdomen

Cellulite bears a striking resemblance to the way we view fat –lumpy – which is one of the reasons that it causes so much distress for those that struggle with it. It can give the body an unhealthy appearance, and make you less confident with the way you look.

What is Cellulite?

A common misconception is that cellulite is, itself, the growth of fat. Cellulite is in fact pockets of fat that reside in a tight meshwork of connective tissue that anchors the skin to the underlying muscle surface. Each dimple within the cellulite surface represents a connective tissue attachment that goes from the skin to the muscle. As the fat within this meshwork grows and expands, it bulges the skin out while the anchoring connective tissue keeps the skin attached firmly in place. It is the nature and the number of this connective tissue matrix that dictates the severity of cellulites. If a person has many tight connective tissues, then the slightest weight gain will result in many fat bulges and skin dimples. If a person has loose or few connective tissue anchors, then they will be less prone to developing cellulite but more prone to having skin laxity as they age. The nature of the connective tissues, their numbers, their tightness all vary from one person to another and is genetically pre-determined.

Because cellulite is not necessary the growth of fat, but fat cells that have pushed to the surface, weight gain actually plays little role in the development of cellulite.

What Causes Cellulite?

Despite how prevalent cellulite is, it’s not entirely clear what causes cellulite from person to person. Most scientists agree that it is related to at least one of the following:

Hormones – Because cellulite risk increases during pregnancy and menopause, it has been linked to hormones, although there isn’t yet any research that confirms hormonal involvement. It is believed to be related to estrogen, but that is just speculation.Genetics – There is some degree of genetics involved as well, as cellulite tends to run in families. Studies have shown that certain enzymes may also play a role in the development of cellulite, which are generally caused by genetic factors. Some races and backgrounds are also more likely to have cellulite than others, confirming the link between genetics and cellulite development.Stress – One of the few controllable factors that may cause the development of cellulite is stress. Those under considerable amounts of stress appear to be at higher risk for gradual cellulite development. Once again, the cause of this development is not entirely clear.

No matter the cause, experts agree that once you have cellulite, it can be difficult to remove it on your own. There are specific treatments that may be necessary to address cellulite on different areas of the body.

Can Cellulite Be Targeted With Diet and Exercise?

Because cellulite is not necessarily related to weight gain, weight loss does not significantly help the cellulite problem. The primary reason for this cellulite is a form of “stubborn fat” – fat that is in some ways kept away from where the body can reach it. When you diet and exercise, your body uses your fat as fuel. But cellulite is trapped underneath the skin, and your body doesn’t have the tools necessary to reach it there.

Some doctors also theorize that cellulite can actually worsen when you lose weight, since it may push cellulite to the surface, although others recommend that you still exercise thoroughly, as fitness tends to improve the tension and strength of the body which may hide some of the unevenness of the skin.

Nevertheless, diet and exercise alone will not cure cellulite, nor are they the cause of most cellulite on the body.