Cellulite - what it is, what causes it and cellulite treatment
One thing is clear: there’s nothing wrong with having cellulite. It doesn’t have an adverse effect on your health and at least 90 per cent of women (and 10 per cent of men) have it.
However, there is also nothing wrong with wanting to get rid of it.
You wouldn’t be alone, with the cellulite treatment market predicted to reach an incredible US $1.439 billion by 2026.
Finding the right cellulite treatment for you can be a little tricky. So, what is cellulite, what causes it and what can you do about it?
Find a clinic or practitioner near you and enjoy a risk-free booking process thanks to free in-clinic consultations and the option to pay in-clinic. Also, you can now split the cost of your treatment into four equal, interest-free instalments using Tabby.
In this article:
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is a term for the fatty tissue that presses up against your connective tissue, resulting in a puckered ‘orange peel’ appearance to the skin.
Cellulite on legs, specifically the upper thighs, is especially common, as is dimpling on the buttocks and tummy.
It’s measured in four grades, from zero (no visible cellulite) to three (cellulite visible when you look in the mirror or lie down), depending on the frequency and depth of the dimples.
What causes cellulite?
When it comes to causes of cellulite, diet, lifestyle, and genetics can all play their part.
Women are more likely to develop cellulite, mainly down to the way a woman’s body carries fatty tissue. While men carry it in a ‘criss-cross’ structure, women carry theirs vertically, which are more likely to protrude into the lower levels of skin tissue and cause the dimpling effect of cellulite.
You are more likely to experience cellulite over the age of 25, though it can affect all ages. Skin loses its elasticity as we get older, making it harder to ‘bounce back’. Also, our epidermis (the outer layer of our skin) thins, making cellulite that may have been unnoticeable before, more apparent.
Fat cells often ‘swell’ when oestrogen levels drop, so the likelihood of getting cellulite increases during the perimenopause and menopausal years.
Poor circulation and poor lymphatic drainage
If your circulation is compromised, the resulting lack of oxygen can be linked to decreased collagen levels which then increases the risk of dimpling. Equally, if the lymphatic system – which serves as drainage ridding the body of waste – becomes bloated by unhealthy habits, you’re more likely to have a higher grade of cellulite.
Diet and lifestyle
Diets high in saturated fat and salt may increase your risk of cellulite, while chronic smoking and lack of exercise also factor. In general, having a higher level of body fat makes it more likely you will experience a higher grade of cellulite.
It’s hardly a surprise to know that if your parents experienced cellulite, you mostly likely will too. However, as with all the reasons above, you can have a positive influence on your genetics by taking steps your parents might not have.
How you might get rid of cellulite
There is still no ‘cure’ for cellulite. However, there are plenty of cellulite treatments and removal techniques that help minimise its appearance.
Eating a varied diet, with lots of fruit, vegetables, fibre and wholegrains helps remove waste and toxins from your intestinal tract. While avoiding inflammatory foods, such as dairy products and fizzy drinks, also helps lessen cellulite.
Staying hydrated (3.5 litres of water a day for men, and 2.5 litres for women) is recommended can do wonders, as can incorporating movement, from walks to yoga, into your daily routine. Cellulite is less apparent on darker skin tones, so a gentle application of fake tan may lessen its appearance. And if you smoke, seek help from your doctor or a professional to stop.
Massages can help to reduce the appearance of cellulite by increasing blood flow to affected areas, reducing fluid build-up, and stimulating collagen production.
Remember, the key component to success is the massaging process over time.
If you’re massaging at home, try a foam roller for added stress relief and treat yourself to a moisturiser that boosts the effects of your efforts. Creams that contain caffeine are thought to cause blood vessels to constrict and fat cells to temporarily shrink. Retinol body treatments resurface the uppermost layers of your skin, as do lotions with alpha-hydroxy acids.
This form of deep massage therapy can be used to treat cellulite by disrupting the fluids trapped in fatty tissue. Practitioners typically apply a hand-held device that massages and compresses the skin, with sessions often lasting as little as half an hour.
Laser treatments are popular and non-invasive. A dermatologist uses a fine laser to break up the bands holding fatty tissues together, so they can spread out and create a smooth surface. The procedure also thickens the skin, which is important in minimising the appearance of cellulite, while results can last up to six months.
Discover more insights on our laser treatment explainer page.
Acoustic wave therapy
By exposing your skin to acoustic waves (also called shock waves), a handheld device breaks up the bands around your fatty tissue. It’s also shown to stimulate metabolic processes and improve connective tissue elasticity.
If you have moderate or severe dimpling, you’ll probably need a few treatment sessions with acoustic wave therapy before you notice an improvement.
You should see results within two to three weeks.
Using a needle, your dermatologist will break up the fibrous bands beneath your skin, so the fatty tissue can fill out the dimpled areas.
Further study is needed on how long the effects of subcision last. There are suggestions that it looks like the improvements could last for two years or more. This would make it one of the longest-lasting cellulite removal treatments.
Radio frequency treatment
Radio frequency, or RF, is widely accepted as being the most effective and affordable cellulite reduction technology available today. It’s thought to be superior to lasers, which do not penetrate as deep as RF does. By applying intense heat beneath your skin, radio frequency destroys the bands around fatty tissue, as well as helping to increase skin tightness.
For more insights on this treatment, visit our radio frequency page.
Cryolipolysis, more commonly known by its brand names CoolSculpting or CoolTech, works by bringing your fatty tissues into contact with a cool plate to help reduce your levels of body fat in targeted areas. However, though it is commonly used to target subcutaneous fat, it is not usually used to treat cellulite.
Cryolipolysis is a relatively modern treatment. You can find out more about how it works on our cryolipolysis page.
When considering how to remove cellulite, liposuction is more of an invasive treatment, and a professional consultation is also necessary before booking such a procedure.
Liposuction doesn’t affect the structure of your connecting tissues like other cellulite treatments, so it won’t tackle existing cellulite. However, it can help to reduce fat levels – so there are fewer fat cells to push up through your connecting tissues.
You can find out more about liposuction here.
VelaShape is a non-invasive body contouring treatment that uses a combination of RF, light treatment, vacuum suction, and massage to penetrate and reduce fat cells.
Find out more about it here.
The word ‘cellulite’ first appeared in a French medical dictionary in 1873 and was a general term used to describe cells or tissues in a state of inflammation or infection.
In the first half of the 20th century, as women became more visible (figuratively, through their roles during the World Wars, and literally, with rising hemlines) a beauty industry boom meant the definition of cellulite shifted, referring to the dimpled fat deposits predominantly found in women’s thighs.
The word ‘cellulite’ first appeared in English in Vogue in April 1968.
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