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What is Cellulite?
Just because a particular condition isn’t harmful to your health, it doesn’t mean it can’t have negative effects on a person’s life.
This guide is going to give you the complete low down on cellulite, something which affects men and women the world over.
We should point out here and now that cellulite is not harmful to health.
It isn’t going to cause you any health problems, it’s not going to make you sick, and it’s not going to be adverse in any way, shape or form.
However, despite the fact that your health isn’t going to suffer as a result of a little cellulite, doesn’t mean your self-esteem isn’t going to suffer instead.
Some people can completely ignore cellulite, others fixate on it.
It really comes down to how you feel about it, the degree to which you have it, and your level of self-esteem in the first place.
Some men and women refuse to go to the beach in swimwear because of cellulite, simply because they’re worried what other people will think; whilst others men and women don’t care at all, and wear their dimples with pride!
If cellulite is causing you issues in this regard, it’s time to do something about it.
Do not force yourself to live with a condition which detrimentally affects your life, whether health-related or not.
A little later in our guide, we’re going to cover some of the things you can do to help reduce the effects of cellulite, including exercises which will help to boost your overall health but also drastically reduce the visual effects too.
In order to really understand cellulite, we need to delve a little deeper into what it is, what causes it, and the real facts, away from the myths.
Article at a glance
- 1 What is Cellulite?
- 1.1 Cellulite
- 1.2 If Cellulite Isn’t Harmful, What’s The Issue?
- 1.3 Quick Facts About Cellulite
- 1.4 What Causes Cellulite?
- 1.5 Hormonal Issues
- 1.6 Lifestyle Changes That Can Help to Reduce Cellulite Formation
- 1.7 Does Cellulite Have Symptoms?
- 1.8 Is Cellulite The Same As Cellulitis?
- 1.9 How Can You Remove or Reduce Cellulite?
- 1.10 Exercises to Help Reduce Cellulite
- 1.11 Conclusion
- 1.12 References
Cellulite is often referred to as ‘the cottage cheese effect’ or ‘orange peel skin’, purely because that is what it often looks like.
Both men and women are affected by cellulite, but women tend to be more affected, with most advertisements promising to banish it aimed towards females.
To give you an idea of just how prevalent this problem is, cellulite can affect anything up to 90% of women.
That basically means that the chances of you having some form of cellulite, reading this guide, is very high indeed.
That also means you’re not alone!
We will get onto what causes cellulite shortly, but the appearance is caused by fat deposits from underneath the top layer of the skin, pushing up through the skin’s connective tissues, which lie above it.
This causes that dimpled look which cellulite is so famous for.
Cellulite can appear anywhere in theory, but there are some specific areas which are more affected than others.
The main problem hotspots for both men and women are the buttocks and thighs in particular.
Again, we need to point out that cellulite is not harmful to your health.
It is not going to cause you harm, but it may affect the way you feel about yourself.
As with any type of skin condition, there are various levels of severity:
Grade 1 cellulite
Is classified as mild.
This usually has between 1-4 depressions in the skin which are quite superficial, and the skin may sag a little.
This is the typical ‘orange peel’ cellulite we hear so much about.
Grade 2 cellulite
Is classified as moderate.
This usually has between 509 depressions in the skin and the appearance is more akin to ‘cottage cheese’ than orange peel.
The skin will drape a little in moderate cellulite.
Grade 3 cellulite
Is classified as severe.
With this type of cellulite there are 10 or more depressions in the skin and draping which is quite pronounced.
The appearance is described as like a mattress, i.e. several lumps and depressions.
These grades aren’t used for diagnosis medically, but may be used if you attend an anaesthetic clinic to try and reduce the appearance of your cellulite.
In this case, don’t be worried if you hear these grades talked about.
If Cellulite Isn’t Harmful, What’s The Issue?
We’ve mentioned a couple of times already that cellulite isn’t going to harm your health or wellbeing, but it can be upsetting for self-esteem.
You might wonder what the fuss is about for something which isn’t a medical problem but why should anyone feel like they need to hide away and not go to the beach, not wear certain types of clothes?
Cellulite can be minimised, and in some cases, it can be removed completely, but it may also be the case that you have to learn to live with it to some degree.
By making positive life changes you can do a lot to minimise the appearance of cellulite, i.e. drinking more water, eating a healthy diet, and also by stopping smoking.
The biggest issue with cellulite tends to come to the fore during the summer months.
Remember that cellulite appears usually on the buttocks and the backs of the upper thighs.
These are areas which are traditionally shown to the world to some degree during the summer months when visiting the beach and pool.
Why should anyone have to bypass summer enjoyment, simply because of a little cellulite? Again, it comes down to how it makes you feel.
The best advice is this – whilst cellulite isn’t harmful and isn’t going to hurt you in terms of your health, if it is upsetting you and stopping you from wearing certain clothes or going to the beach, perhaps it’s time to do something to change it.
We’ll get around to plenty of advice on how to reduce or eradicate cellulite shortly.
Quick Facts About Cellulite
If you search for information on cellulite you will find all manner of stories coming your way.
Of course, some might be false, some might be true, but how are you supposed to know the difference?
It’s best to stick to the facts, i.e. from medical sites, but to help you out, let’s give you some solid, facts about cellulite in general.
- Cellulite can affect both men and women
- Between 80-90% of women are likely to have some kind of cellulite at some stage in their lives
- Cellulite is referred to by many different names, but they all mean the same thing. The most common are ‘orange peel’, ‘cottage cheese’, ‘mattress skin’. The list probably goes on!
- Cellulite is not a serious health problem, i.e. it is not going to harm your health and it is purely superficial
- There is no solid treatment for cellulite, i.e. no proven way to simply get rid of it, but there are many methods you can try to reduce its effects and perhaps temporarily get rid of it
- You can maximise your chances of ridding cellulite by making healthy lifestyle changes
- Cellulite does not give you symptoms, it is simply something you can see in the mirror
- The main areas for cellulite risk are the backs of the thighs and the buttocks, although it can occur in other areas too, such as the lower abdomen and the upper thighs
What Causes Cellulite?
We know what cellulite is, i.e. what causes the appearance, but little is know about what actually causes cellulite to appear in the first place.
There are a few suggestions, which we’ll get onto shortly.
Overall, cellulite appears when fat pockets which are situated far below the top surface of the skin, begin to push upwards towards the connective tissues, which are mid-way to the top of your skin’s layer.
This pushing causes pressure and the connective tissues are unable to hold it back enough to stop it showing on the very top/superficial layer of the skin.
This interaction between the two layers causes that dimpled look which so many people find troublesome.
Women are far more likely to develop cellulite than men, but this doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
The reason is because the connective tissues and fat cells in women are arranged in a different way, e.g. they sit vertically.
When the fat cells push upwards, you get that dimpled look which is so synonymous with cellulite.
It is far easier to see this effect in women because of this vertical arrangement.
The arrangement for men is slightly different, i.e. it has a criss cross pattern, which may be a little stronger, or harder for fat to push up and cause the cellulite appearance.
In this case, there is less room for the change of appearance to occur, and therefore the effects are far more noticeable internally, i.e. you never get to see them.
So, now we know what actually causes cellulite, are there any particular risk factors which may make it far more likely for one person to develop cellulitis over another? It turns out that there very may well be, but again, there is no solid evidence to suggest a firm answer in either direction.
Some of the main potential risk factors are:
- Hormonal issues
- Lifestyle and general diet
Let’s look into each of these in a bit more detail to explore how and why they may be potential risk factors.
By doing this, you may be able to avoid some of them, reduce your risk factor, or you may simply have a greater understanding as a result.
Aside from the different structure of connective tissues between men and women, hormones may also play a part in understanding why women are more susceptible.
Obviously, men have hormones too, but women have all manner of hormones whipping around their bodies as specific times, and with the fluctuations of these, cellulite may become an issue.
The main hormonal influences are down to oestrogen, insulin, prolactin, hormones secreted from the thyroid and noradrenaline.
These hormones help to produce cellulite in some way, and the bad news is that there is nothing you can do to stop this, because you need all of these hormones for the functions your body performs on a daily basis!
What you can do is ensure that your hormones are in balance, e.g. if you feel particular symptoms which you feel might be down to a hormonal imbalance, get checked out by your doctor and try and pull the hormonal levels back into the normal range.
Whilst it is entirely possible to develop cellulite at any age, there are certain times which are thought to be higher in terms of risk.
There is some suggestion that around the time of the menopause, e.g. in the peri-menopausal, from the 40s upwards, there could be an increased chance of developing cellulite.
Oestrogen reduces around this time, obviously as the menstrual cycle becomes less reliable, and this affects blood flow in and around the connective tissues, as well as the blood flow which feeds them.
This means that the connective tissue is likely to reduce also, and as extra fat pockets push upwards, there is far less connective tissue to hold it back.
This is a recipe for cellulite formation.
Of course, age also means that skin has less elasticity and can thin as the years tick by.
Thinner skin, less elasticity and the chance of sagging also means that cellulite is far more likely, because the process of fat deposits pushing up against connective tissue will meet less resistance, due to these factors.
There isn’t a huge suggestion that cellulite is hereditary, but it is often the case that lifestyle factors are passed on through generations.
For instance, if you grew up in a household which promotes unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise, then it’s far more likely that you will continue these habits into your adult years.
Again, this is also something you could pass on to your children if changes aren’t made.
We’ll discuss shortly about lifestyle factors and how these can greatly increase your risk factors for cellulite too.
Aside from that, there are certain genes which automatically aid the development of cellulite.
Certain factors linked to genetics, such as your ethnicity, your level of circulation activity, your metabolic speed, and how the fat is distributed under the layers of the skin, can all affect the changes of cellulite appearing.
These are also things which are determined by your genes.
Again, nothing you can do about this? In this case, not really!
Lifestyle And General Diet
The fact that cellulite is caused by fat deposits or pockets forcing themselves up against the connective tissue should tell you a lot about why lifestyle and diet could play a major part in cellulite development.
If you eat a poor diet, e.g. high fat, too many carbs, too much salt and not much in the way of health fiber, the chances of you developing cellulite are far greater than someone who focuses on healthy fats, plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, etc.
In addition by eating a poor diet and not doing any exercise to counteract the effects to some degree, you’re also increasing your chances of cellulite coming your way once more.
Smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, e.g. sitting in one position for a long period of time, are both risk factors for cellulite.
It might be that you can’t do a lot about sitting still, e.g. if you work in an office and you need to work at a computer for long periods of time, but you can get up and move around as much as possible, and make sure that you are active during your down time.
Stopping smoking is also a must, not only for reducing cellulite risk factors, but for your overall health and wellbeing too.
You might wonder why you see quite skinny people on the beach who also have cellulite, because most people assume that only those who are overweight have a chance of developing it.
That’s actually a myth; anyone can develop cellulite, whether overweight, underweight or average.
Of course, it’s far more likely to be evident in someone who is overweight and leads an unhealthy lifestyle.
It’s also more likely to occur after the age of 25, because these health effects have time to build up, but it’s not unheard of for teenagers to show signs of cellulite too, particularly if they are overweight also.
As a side note, it is thought that wearing too tight underwear, e.g. with the elastic that presses into the buttocks or tops of the thighs can be a reason for blood flow to be compromised and in that case, cellulite can occur, as well as other health issues.
Always make sure that your underwear isn’t too tight!
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help to Reduce Cellulite Formation
It’s unlikely that you will get rid of any cellulite that is already there by changing your lifestyle, but you can do a lot to perhaps reduce its appearance slightly, and certainly reduce the chances of new cellulite forming from that point onwards.
We’ve just been through the major risk factors, but for completeness’ sake, let’s pull together the changes you can make from that list, which may hep you to reduce your cellulite and stop further cellulite from appearing on your body.
Have any issues checked out by your doctor to ensure they are not down to hormone imbalances.
This can add to the risk for developing cellulite.
Getting imbalances corrected with not only lower your cellulite risk but will resolve your symptoms too.
Try to do exercise at least twice a week
Exercise regularly to maintain the elasticity of your skin as much as possible.
Avoid wearing too-tight underwear
Avoid wearing too-tight underwear, as this could restrict blood flow and cause cellulite formation
Eat healthy foods
Make sure you eat healthy foods, a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Move your body periodically
If you have a job which entails sitting for a long period of time, make sure that you get up and move around as much as possible throughout the day, and perhaps go for a lunchtime walk to get a dose of exercise.
Drink plenty of water
This will help with overall health and wellbeing, but there may be some suggestion that it could help to flush out build ups within the body, and therefore possibly reduce cellulite risks, when completed as part of a healthy diet.
Remember, cellulite isn’t caused by toxins, simply fat pockets pushing upwards.
Stop smoking right now!
Not only will your body thank you overall, but you’ll do a lot to reduce your chances of extra cellulite forming.
If you’ve been smoking for a long period of time and you live an unhealthy lifestyle generally, the chances of you already having cellulite are quite high, but extra cellulite is something you can avoid if you change your lifestyle right now.
Now we know about the lifestyle changes you can make to avoid extra cellulite coming your way, and perhaps to reduce the appearance of any cellulite you already have, we need to look into the other possible treatment options at hand.
Remember, any treatment for cellulite is likely to be a temporary measure, e.g. something you will need to keep doing in order to maintain the effects.
By combining this with a healthy diet, you’ll not only increase your general health and wellbeing, but you’ll also ensure that you’ll be feeling confident and happy on the beach this summer, rather than totally lacking in confidence.
First things first, does cellulite actually have symptoms?
Does Cellulite Have Symptoms?
The only thing you will notice is the appearance.
Remember, cellulite isn’t a disease or condition, it is a superficial problem which is only annoying if you let it be.
There are no symptoms in terms of tingling, pain, bruising, or anything else which you might associate with skin problems, and all you will notice is how it looks.
We’ve mentioned that many people liken cellulite to cottage cheese, orange peels, or the top layer of a mattress, and this should tell you a lot about the appearance you’ll notice when cellulite first shows itself on your body.
This is likely to be in those hotspots, e.g. the buttocks, backs of the thighs, or abdomen, but don’t be alarmed if you spot it elsewhere too.
Basically, wherever the connective tissue is weak and fat deposits dwell, there is potential for cellulite formation.
Is Cellulite The Same As Cellulitis?
No! This is another thing you need to be aware of.
Whilst they are both associated with the connective tissues and the skin, they couldn’t be further away from each other in terms of their severity.
Cellulite isn’t dangerous, it is not a disease or a condition.
Cellulitis, on the other hand, is a very serious condition which is an infection of the connective tissue or the skin itself.
It is really important not to get these two mixed up, so if you are dealing with cellulitis, you know to head out and get treatment as a matter of urgency.
The symptoms of cellulitis are:
- Warmth at the site of the issue
- Red spots or blisters potentially
If you notice these signs anywhere on your body, seek out medical attention urgently.
If however, you’re only concerned about cellulite itself, e.g. the orange peel/cottage cheese issue, then you do not have to seek medical attention, and this is something you can try and eradicate and minimise yourself if indeed you want to.
Do not get the two mixed up, they are very different indeed.
How Can You Remove or Reduce Cellulite?
There are many things you can try to reduce cellulite, but you should bear in mind than none of them are 100% guaranteed to work and many of them are a case of trial and error.
What works for one person may not work for another, and this is something you need to realise before you begin pinning all your hopes on one method.
The lifestyle changes we mentioned a little earlier should be your first port of call, but you should then try something a little more locally focused, to try and make changes to the existing appearance of the cellulite you have.
There are some invasive methods and some non-invasive.
Most of the invasive techniques, e.g. procedures that you will need to visit a spa or health clinic for, and pay quite a sum of money for a series of treatments, usually focus on breaking down the bands which have formed between the connective tissues, at the point where the fat is pushing upwards.
By breaking down these bands, the fat is no longer pushing, and the effect should no longer be there.
From there, you will need to tone the area and tighten up, to get rid of the appearance you are trying to target.
Acoustic Wave Therapy
One method of doing exactly this is called acoustic wave therapy.
This is a pain-free method which involves a handheld device held over the affected area and sound waves are transmitted deep below the skin’s surface.
By doing this over a series of sessions, the bands are broken up naturally, and you can then go on to have a tightening procedure, usually via another hand held device, or you can work towards exercise as a route for toning and tightening.
Studies have shown that acoustic wave therapy is a safe and effective way to target troublesome cellulite areas, although several sessions will be required in order to gain the best results.
The number of the sessions depends up on the person involved and how severe the cellulite is, i.e. the grade of cellulite.
There are several laser treatments on the market, all under different brand names, which aim to do the same thing as the acoustic wave therapy we just mentioned, but in a slightly different way.
Laser treatment may help to reduce the appearance of cellulite for a prolonged period of time, usually up to one year, and there will be several sessions required in order to achieve the desired results.
After the results begin to show once more, e.g. after around one year has passed, a repeat treatment series will be needed.
Laser treatment is slightly more invasive than acoustic wave therapy because a small probe needs to be inserted under the skin, however, it is generally pain-free and effective.
Once in situ, the laser is fired up and the tissue breaks down.
The other effect is encouraging natural collagen production, which helps to add strength and elasticity to the connective tissues below the surface of the skin.
Whilst there are many different types of laser treatments, each lasting for various amounts of time, studies have shown them to be generally safe and effective for targeting cellulite.
Studies have shown that subcision could be an option for treating cellulite, with long-lasting results, anything up to two years or even more in some cases.
This is an invasive option however and one which does require a needle being inserted into the skin, with the aim of manually disturbing and breaking up the bands of connective tissue which have formed as cellulite.
A vacuum is also used to help break up these bands and cut them with a small blade, whilst the tissue which sits underneath the bands naturally moves to fill up the space that was originally occupied by the cellulite.
Again, toning up will completely remove any sign of the cellulite, for 2-3 years on average.
Other Invasive Options
There are countless other options around but many of them are not deemed to be that effective, and some haven’t been approved as safe by the necessary bodies.
Two others we should mention are carboxytherapy and endermologie.
The first involves carbon dioxide being inserted underneath the surface of the skin, at the point where the cellulite is at its worst, which works to break up the bands and lift the skin.
There are some side effects to this, however, such as a little pain and bruising, and it isn’t known to be that effective.
Endermologie uses a vacuum device to give a deep massage.
This sounds comfortable, and compared to some of the other treatments, it is! The skin is lifted as a result and cellulite may be reduced.
However, this is one of the less effective methods.
Could regular exfoliation help with cellulite? In some ways, yes, but it probably won’t get rid of it completely.
The idea here is that you use a specific cellulite scrub and a mitt, and you use small circulation motions over the area in order to boost circulation and encourage collagen growth.
By doing this, you’re adding strength to the connective tissue.
The problem is that you may not drastically change the appearance, but you will see improvement.
You only have to look on the shelves of a health care or beauty store to see the countless creams and potions which are aimed at reducing cellulite, but most of them don’t actually work.
This is a marketing ploy, aiming towards men and women with a weakness, i.e. their desire to get rid of their cellulite.
Some men or women will spend a tidy amount of cash in their aim, but a lot of the time it’s like throwing cash in the ocean.
There is one product which may work, however, and that is retinol.
Now, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not use retinol at all.
Otherwise, you’ll find many products which contain this ingredient, and it has been shown to be quite effective for cellulite, compared to the other lotions and potions on the market.
We have included this one because it is so popular if you search for ways to reduce cellulite, and whilst there is some sense behind why it may work, it should be approached with caution if you want a treatment method that has definitive results.
The idea is that you’re compressing the arteries, which therefore increases the flow of blood and lymph, reducing cellulite.
These are normally worn as cycling shorts, which cover the main hotspot areas, e.g. the buttocks and the upper thighs.
Studies have shown encouraging results which may help people with a certain grade of cellulite.
Exercises to Help Reduce Cellulite
Now we have talked about invasive and non-invasive methods of reducing and possibly eradicating cellulite, we need to talk about exercise.
The methods we have talked about above all cost a certain amount of money, especially if you’re going to go down the route of acoustic wave therapy or laser treatments, but exercises are completely free.
Not only will tone up and get some general heart-boosting exercise, but you’ll be able to focus your attentions firmly on your cellulite-affected area too.
By doing this, you should see results.
There are countless different exercises you can try, but let’s focus on three effective choices to try.
Exercise 1 – Multi-Directional Lunges
This is an effective take on the classic lunge:
- Stand with your feet apart, about a hip’s width, and your hands on your hips
- Step forward in a lunch with your right foot
- Lower your right leg until it is at a 90 degree angle. Your left knee should be bent and almost touching the ground
- Pause for a second and push back to your standing position
- With your right foot, take a large step outwards to your right
- Bend your right knee, but make sure that your left leg stays straight
- Pause for a second and return to standing
- Repeat with your left leg
Exercise 2 – Squat And Heel
- Stand with your feet apart, around three feet
- Move downwards into a squat, pausing when your thighs are almost in a parallel position with the ground
- Pause for a second and return to standing
- Repeat 15 times
- For the next set of 15, repeat the squat above, but lift your right heel as you move into the downwards position
- For the last set of 15, repeat the same process with your left heel raised
Exercise 3 – Squat And Raise
- Again, stand in a pre-squat position with your feet apart, about a hip’s width
- Bend your knees and lower down until your thighs and the ground are parallel
- Pause for a second and return to standing
- Lift your heels and move your weight forward to the balls of your feet
- Pause for a second and return to standing
- Repeat the whole process 15 times
These are exercises which you don’t need any special equipment for, and you can even do them during your lunch break! If you want to know more about exercises, click here and check 20 Simple Exercises to Get Rid of Cellulite (Buttocks, Thighs and Legs).
And that concludes our ultimate guide to cellulite.
You now know everything there is to know about cottage cheese, orange peels, mattresses, or whatever else you want to call it.
You are also now very aware that cellulite is not going to harm you, but if you allow it to control your life, it will harm your self-esteem.
If you’re avoiding wearing certain clothes or avoiding the beach or pool, it’s already dug its claws in.
If your cellulite is becoming a focus then do something about it, but make sure that you only ever do it for yourself, and not because yo’ure concerned about what other people are thinking.
A huge number of people have cellulite of some kind; remember, 80-90% of women have it, and even men aren’t saved from the possibility either! This is something which happens so easily, but is actually quite difficult to get rid of once it’s there.
In some ways, acceptance and changing to a healthier lifestyle is the best option.
If you do want to do something about your cellulite, then we have given you plenty of information on where to start and what to do.
Remember to shop around for prices when it comes to treatments but always go with a quality option over a cheaper option.
In these cases, you often do get what you pay for.
For example, Joey Atlas has created an online training that teaches a method with simple exercises to get rid of cellulite once and for all.
Hexsel D, Camozzato FO, Silva AF, Siega C. a Brazilian Center for Studies in Dermatology, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil, 2017. Acoustic wave therapy for cellulite, body shaping and fat reduction. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27997260
Barry E. DiBernardo, MD, Gordon H. Sasaki, MD, Bruce E. Katz, MD, Joseph P. Hunstad, MD, FACS, Christine Petti, MD, FACS, and A. Jay Burns, MD, 2016. A Multicenter Study for Cellulite Treatment Using a 1440-nm Nd: YAG Wavelength Laser with Side-Firing Fiber https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5127477
Daniel P Friedmann, Garrett Lane Vick, Vineet Mishra, 2017. Cellulite: a review with a focus on subcision https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5234561
Piérard-Franchimont C, Piérard GE, Henry F, Vroome V, Cauwenbergh G, 2000. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of topical retinol in the treatment of cellulite. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11702613
Harriet Sharman, Victoria Smith, Mark S Whitely, 2015. Cellulite: does wearing compression hosiery work? https://www.thepmfajournal.com/features/post/cellulite-does-wearing-compression-hosiery-work
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