Cellulite has a characteristic look that most of us will recognise. It appears as lumps or dimples that make the skin look like the skin of an orange. A lot of people will see this as a bothering factor, whilst others will not worry too much about it. Cellulite is an extremely common condition, most of all for women. It is estimated that 80-90% of all post-pubescent women have or will have some degree of cellulite. It can occur in men but this is more uncommon.
The designation cellulite is believed to have its origin in French medical literature from around 150 years ago. It has been debated whether cellulite is in fact an illness or affliction or just a natural phenomenon in the female body. Other common names are orange peel syndrome, gynoid lipodystrophy or adiposis edematosa – to mention a few of many.
What is cellulite
Cellulite is first and foremost a cosmetic effect on the skin. A short and concise explanation to the bumps and dimples in the skin is subcutaneous fatty tissue expanding and creating bumps. Bulges of fat tissue protrudes and creates lumps on the skin.
A graphical represenation of the fat cells beneath the outer skin layers
To give a more detailed description it is necessary to shortly describe how the skin is layered. The outer layer is called epidermis.
Under the top layer is the middle layer, known as dermis. In this layer we find hair sacks, sweat glands, blood vessels, nerve receptors and connective tissue.
Under dermis is the top layer of stored subcutaneous fat. In this part of the skin we have fat tissue made up of fat cells bound by connective tissue. Fat tissue is not a smooth mass. It is made from fat chambers containing fat cells linked by connective tissue. In other words, the subcutaneous fat consists of lots of fat chambers located next to each other.
When cellulite occurs the number of fat cells in each fat chamber grows. They grow and are enlarged. Larger fat chambers create bulges and dimples on the skin layers above, and will appear like bulges and dimples in the outer skin layer.
Can appear anywhere on the body
Cellulite can appear on any part of the body. Body parts where they show up more often have a higher percentage of subcutaneous fat. Cellulite will most often develop on thighs, buttocks and the lower part of the abdomen. It is not entirely correct to call cellulite a disease. It does not cause any symptoms or issues. It is not contagious between people. Perhaps the only issue it causes besides the physical appearance is that body parts with cellulite can more easily get a sunburn.
There are two kinds of cellulite and what separates them is when they are visible.
1 The first kind is only visible when the skin is compressed. A common example of this variant is the pattern showing as streaks or lumps, which can appear when a woman crosses her legs.
2 The second kind appears when standing or laying down without compression of the skin. It looks like lumps and dimples even when standing or walking normally, even when the skin is not compressed.
Why do cellulite occur
It is not completely clear why it occurs, but there are quite a few speculations regarding likely reasons to what actually triggers the appearance of cellulite.
One common belief is that hormonal changes play an important part as to why it occurs. It often appears in periods of life when the hormone balance is changing, such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Cellulite might also increase when women use hormonal contraceptives such as the birth control pill.
Some believe that genetic factors play a part in the equation. Genes can increase the likelihood of it, since they can increase the probability to develop contributing factors such as a slow metabolism and circulatory deficiency. Further more, the genes affect how the subcutaneous fat is distributed.
It is a common belief that nutrition can have some effect on cellulite. It is likely that people with a high intake of fat, carbohydrates, salt or too low intake of fibres have more severe cases of cellulite.
Another common theory is that your lifestyle can play a part in the probability of being affected by cellulite. People who are smokers, do not exercise on a regular basis or are often sitting or standing in the same position over time will often be more troubled with cellulite.
Everyone can experience cellulite. Furthermore, there are no prophylactic measures that can guarantee that you will not get it at some point in your life. It is not associated with overweight as also people within the normal weight range may be affected. But even so, there is a way to reduce the risk and minimise any occurring cellulite issues through diet and lifestyle.
The first step to prevent cellulite is to have a healthy, balance diet with lots of vegetables, fruits and fibre. Oily fish is good for the body and may prevent cellulite. You should avoid food or nutrition with too high levels of fat or sugar.
Regular exercise keeps the body in shape. If possible you should stop smoking, as the skin is affected by smoking by way of making it less elastic. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help keep the skin elastic and springy as well as keeping the subcutaneous fat on a moderate level. This will reduce the risk of substantial issues with cellulite.
Myths about cellulite
1 A common belief is that cellulite has something to do with damaged blood vessels or weakened capillaries. This misconception has no support in evidence proving a relation between cellulite and damaged blood vessels or weakened capillaries.
2 Another claim is that cellulite is the result of a deficiency in the body’s ability to break down fat and use it as energy. There is yet no evidence that this can affect the occurrence of cellulite.
3 It is a common misconception that only older women experience cellulite. This is not true. The first occurrence of cellulite for a lot of women happen as early as when they reach puberty. Most women will experience cellulite during their pregnancy. As the skin loses its springy texture and elasticity with age, older women will both be more affected by cellulite as well as experience more visible cases of it.
4 Some believe that mostly overweight people is affected by cellulite, however it has nothing to do with weight or overweight. The cause for cellulite is enlarged fatty tissue in the subcutaneous layer of the skin, which causes lumps and irregularities. With the deciding cause being the subcutaneous fat, it means that everyone with subcutaneous fat can be affected by cellulite. However, it will show more in certain individuals, so if overweight causes a tightening of the skin higher than in a person of normal weight, the cellulite will be more protruding.
Cellulite is a cosmetic condition and it does not require treatment from a medical perspective. The uneven appearance of the skin is nevertheless bothering. Most treatments have a goal of removing the cosmetic effects and making the skin even and nice again. The best way to achieve this is to combine some of the available treatments with measures such as a healthy diet and regular exercise. There are many options for treating this condition.
With therapeutic methods it is possible to work on the skin to reduce cellulite. The target will often be to manipulate the subcutaneous fat in different ways to reduce or remove cellulite. A couple of examples of therapeutic methods are massage, heat therapy, ultrasound treatment, radio frequency treatment (RF) or electrical stimulation of the skin.
You can even treat cellulite with agents that act towards the subcutaneous fat. Agents such as this can be found as lotions, gels, pills and injections. Commonly found active agents are methylxanthine, pentoxifylline, beta-agonists and adrenalin, alpha antagonists, amino acids, ginkgo biloba and rutin – just to mention a few.
Cellulite can even be treated with different kinds of laser treatments or with plastic surgery such as liposuction.