Cellulite is a hard-to-treat condition that causes lumpy, bumpy, dimpled skin in places like your legs, stomach and yes, your bottom. Some people say that cellulite looks like cottage cheese or the dimpled surface of an orange rind.
However, the condition is much more common than you might think. The truth is, nearly 85 percent of women over the age of 20 have the problem. Concerns about cellulite have led to an active (and expensive) search for a potential treatment.
It has also transformed into a popular topic for the mainstream media, especially within the beauty and fashion industry.
History of Cellulite
It’s only relatively recently that has been considered a normal condition that appears in women rather than a medical disorder. The term first appeared in France in the 1920s, when some spa and beauty services used the term “cellulite” to attract women to use their services.
But it was only in the 1960s when the term became popular enough to appear in magazines and newspapers. The earliest known appearance was in Vogue magazine in April 1968. From that point on, this dimpled skin began to be considered a condition that could be treated, if not entirely cured.
What is Cellulite?
It is caused when fat held in place by the connective tissue of your body starts to bulge out. If the connective tissue is not strong enough then the fat can begin to create ripples or dimples on the skin’s surface. That’s what causes the lumpy look of orange-peel skin – little chunks of fat have been pushed to the skin’s surface. Since women tend to have thinner skin and less connective tissue than men due to genetics and hormones, the condition is primarily noticed in women, although some men do have it.
The good news is that even though it looks unpleasant, it doesn’t result from any disease in your body. In fact, this lumpy fat deposits occurs in 95 percent of women over the age of 30, so it can be considered a natural condition rather than a disease.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Cellulite?
The most common symptom is having lumpy or dimpled skin in your lower body or abdomen area. If you start to notice that your clothes don’t fit correctly, you may have it. Without looking in a mirror, though, you may not be able to tell, unless you are wearing tight clothing.
Another common sign that you might have it is if your skin begins to sag, or if you think you are putting on too much weight. While it is going to occur in women after age 20 no matter what your diet or exercise regimen is like, you can prevent it to some degree by reducing fat from your diet and taking active steps to lose weight.
What Causes It?
The causes are not well understood, but there are several theories that have been put forth as explanations. Among these are:
- Hormonal factors – hormones likely play an important role in cellulite development. Many believe estrogen, insulin, noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and prolactin are part of the cellulite production process.
- Genetics – certain genes are required for cellulite development. Genes may predispose an individual to particular characteristics associated with it, such as gender, race, slow metabolism, distribution of fat just underneath the skin, and circulatory insufficiency.
- Diet – people who eat too much fat, carbohydrates, or salt and too little fiber are likely to have greater amounts of cellulite.
- Lifestyle factors – may be more prevalent in smokers, those who do not exercise, and those who sit or stand in one position for long periods of time.
- Clothing – underwear with tight elastic across the buttocks (limiting blood flow) may contribute to the formation of lumpiness of the skin.
There are several factors that cause cellulite, but two of the biggest factors are hormones and heredity. There’s not much you can do about heredity, since you have the DNA that your parents gave you. This genetic material codes for all kinds of things in your body, like the overall elasticity of your skin, the strength of your body’s connective tissue, and how fast your body’s metabolism works to break down fat.
Hormones play a very important role in how and when cellulitis appears. Doctors know that a lot of different causes can impact the hormones, including changes in the food that you eat and the type of exercise that you get.
The reason why women suffer from orange peel syndrome more than men is because the female hormone estrogen is thought to be the most important factor in how much you will develop. Of course, there are other hormones at work – but estrogen is the one that everyone talks about.
While there is a wide range of factors that cause the formation of orange-peel skin – including your sex and race – most doctors agree that the following factors are the most important:
- Hormonal Changes – The female hormone estrogen plays a very important role in the formation of cellulite, so if you’re female, you’re a lot more likely to develop cellulite than if you’re a man.
- Genetics – Certain types of genetic material can act within the body to make an individual more susceptible to cellulite, such as having weaker connective tissue that holds your body’s fat in place. Some people just have bad genes.
- Lifestyle Factors – The more stress in your life, the more cellulite you are likely to develop, due to the release of certain hormones.
- Diet – While it is often considered to be a symptom of being overweight, the reality is that simply cutting certain foods out of your diet may not have the desired effect, due to hormones or aging. If your skin is very inelastic, for example, rapid weight loss may actually cause your skin to sag rather than tighten.
While there is no single treatment that has been proven to be successful in reducing the orange-peel appearance, but there are several treatments that can have an impact:
- Cellulite Creams – Anti-cellulite creams that are applied to the surface of the skin tighten the skin temporarily. The action of rubbing them into the skin helps to release firming agents such as caffeine that tighten up and firm the skin. Some of the most popular anti-cellulite creams under $100 include:
- Nivea Good-Bye Cellulite Fast Acting Serum ($16)
- Clarins Super Restorative Redefining Body Cream ($45)
- Dior Svelte Reversal ($64).
- Dietary Supplements – Supplements help reduce the appearance of cellulite from the inside out. By taking these supplements 1-2 times per day, you can get the nutrients needed to firm up your skin. One of the most popular options is Murad Firm and Tone Dietary Supplement Pack ( costing at $138 for a 4-week supply).
- Laser or Light Therapy – Unlike diet or exercise, surgical procedures involving lasers or light therapy provide long-lasting results. The first minimally invasive laser treatment to remove cellulite was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012. For example, Cellulaze is a one-time treatment that uses a small laser fiber inserted under the skin through tiny incisions to tighten the skin and change the structure of the fibrous connective tissue that causes dimpling. The cost of a Cellulaze procedure can be as much as $5000-$7000, but usually does not require follow-up treatments.
- Ultrasound – This is a non-invasive procedure approved by the FDA that uses high-intensity in getting rid of orange-peel appearance, focused ultrasound energy to break down or melt targeted fat without harming surrounding skin.
- Liposuction – While liposuction does not get rid of cellulite directly, it does treat the fat that causes cellulite. It is a method to reshape the body and treat small areas of stubborn fat deposits in areas such as the abdomen, thighs, neck and arm. The cost of a liposuction procedure can be as much as $5000.
- Massage – Massage treatments can help to improve the appearance of the skin, but results are only temporary. That’s because these massages do not reduce the fat responsible for the cellulite or change the connective tissue that holds fat in place. The typical cost of a massage treatment is $50 to $150 each.
- Mesotherapy – Developed in 1952 in France to treat sports injuries as well as vascular and infectious diseases, the technique involves the injection of small amounts of various substances into the layer of the skin where the fat and connective tissue are found.
The basic idea behind mesotherapy is to melt the fat under your skin using a combination of FDA-approved medications, plant extracts and vitamins.
Natural Home Remedies to Treat Cellulite
Of course, nobody wants to go to a doctor or a clinic if they don’t have to, and that’s why home remedies or natural treatment for cellulite are so popular. Here are just a few of the most popular:
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Consuming apple apple cider vinegar provides nutrients and minerals to the body to improve the elasticity of your skin and prevent further cellulite from forming, but does not act directly to reduce pre-existing cellulite. Apple cider vinegar can also be directly applied to the skin.
- Coffee Ground Scrub – The caffeine found in coffee grounds can be beneficial in reducing cellulite as well. The massage and exfoliation improves your skin by stimulating blood flow and making your skin smoother and less lumpy. The caffeine dehydrates the area where the cellulite is, tightening and firming the skin for a temporary smooth appearance.
- Coconut Virgin Oil – Natural options for skin care and moisturizing can also improve the appearance of the skin. Simple coconut oil will work as an all-purpose moisturizer, but will not actually act to break down the fat deposits.
- Green Tea – Green tea assists in the accelerated metabolism of fat cells, making it an effective way to boost any weight-loss efforts.
- Self-massage – Massage devices can work to loosen and soften the fibrous connective bands between the skin and fat. Massage helps prevent cellulite by stimulating circulation and draining excess fluids from under the skin.
- Change your diet – Introducing new foods into your diet can help to accelerate your body’s metabolism, making it easier for your body to break down fat deposits and control your body’s weight.
Given the fact that it is now a multi-million-dollar industry globally, it’s clear that the psychological effects of cellulite are tremendous. For most women, the appearance of fat deposits affects body image, which affects self-confidence, drive and desire. It also leads to a psychological tendency to embrace the potential of new cures or treatments, no matter how unproven or expensive they are.
There are several steps that you can take to prevent dimpling appearance of your skin. By changing your lifestyle now, you can prevent the arrival of dimpling skin later.
- Get plenty of exercise – Exercise not only acts to reduce fat via weight loss, it also helps to improve circulation and the body’s metabolism. That makes it harder for stubborn fat deposits to appear.
- Avoid too much salt and sugar – Sugar gets stored in fat cells and causes them to expand. So, the less sugar, the less chance that fat will bulge to the surface of the skin. Second, limit salt intake, since sodium causes fluid retention, making it even worse.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water daily – Water helps flush out toxins that hide in the fat layers beneath the skin and make cellulite lumps even more visible.
- Change your diet – Foods such as sea kelp help the body burn fat, while natural fats found in coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados can replace traditional fats in your food. You can also sprinkle flaxseed on your breakfast cereal to boost your body’s level of collagen, which is responsible for strengthening the skin and reducing the appearance of dimpling.
- Get regular massages – While massage treatments are not a long-term solution, they can help to firm up the skin and prevent the build-up of fluids under the skin.
It is an unpleasant skin condition primarily affecting women that is caused by fat deposits forcing their way to the surface of the skin. By changing their diet and starting exercise routines to lose weight and reduce fat, women can minimize the appearance of cellulite. Low-cost treatments such as creams or natural home remedies can also be effective.
However, for many women, new surgical procedures costing thousands of dollars are the only way to truly limit fatty deposit formation and prevent the telltale dimpled look of skin caused by cellulite.