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Let's start off by saying that cellulite isn't a health issue and a reason for concern. It's only an issue if you're bothered by it. Research has shown that more than 80% of women have it, no matter their shape or size. So, if you're a woman, you likely have it too.
It's almost a norm. But, still, many women see it as a body imperfection. And of course, beauty trends worldwide only encourage this perception.
But what exactly is cellulite? Why do so many women have it?
In this article, we'll try to answer all your burning questions related to cellulite and talk about some cellulite treatments that can help you get rid of it – if you really want to.
What Exactly Is Cellulite?
Cellulite is a harmless skin condition and purely an aesthetics issue. It causes a dimpled and lumpy-looking skin, usually on thighs, abdomen, buttocks, and hips, and is often referred to as orange-peel skin, the mattress phenomenon, and cottage-cheese skin.
However, the cause isn't the skin itself – the key culprit sits a bit deeper.
It involves fat and fibrous connective tissue. The fibrous connective cords tether the skin to underlying muscles, and there's a layer of fat in between. When fat accumulates, these cords pull the skin down, while the fat pushes it up, resulting in an uneven and dimpled appearance of the skin.
So, whether we like it or not – everybody has fat and needs it for thermoregulation, protection from mechanical injuries, and as a source of energy. And therefore, almost everybody will sooner or later experience cellulite.
However, regardless of whether cellulite is normal or not – most women, especially of younger generations, simply don't like it and feel insecure because of it.
But, before we get into the battle against cellulite, we need to understand its underlying causes.
What Causes Cellulite?
The precise cause of cellulite is still unclear. Both men and women can have it, slim or curvy. But, it's still much more common in women, and most women develop it right after puberty.
It appears that the reason for this is the way the fat cells and connective tissue are arranged. In women, this structure is vertical, allowing for fat to protrude into the skin layer more easily. While in men, the connective tissue has more of a criss-cross arrangement, and therefore, they are less likely to have cellulite.
In addition to weight gain, which is an apparent cause of cellulite, the following factors, as well as their combinations, can also play a crucial role:
Certain genetic factors may be linked with cellulite. You may inherit a slow metabolism, poor circulation, or a specific distribution of fat under the skin – all of which can result in an orange-peel skin appearance.
#2: Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones, such as estrogen, noradrenaline, insulin, prolactin, and thyroid hormones, play a pivotal role in cellulite development.
Estrogen, in particular, is to blame for cellulite formation. When estrogen levels drop, in menopause, for example, fat cells grow. Also, with lower estrogen, blood flow to the connective tissue weakens, which leads to decreased collagen production and weaker skin elasticity. All of these factors go in favor of the cellulite production process and its visibility.
With age, collagen levels in our skin drop. As a result, our skin becomes thinner, less elastic, and more prone to sagging, allowing for more cellulite to develop and show.
People who eat a lot of fat, carbohydrates (which are converted into fat if not spent through exercise), salt (which causes water retention in the body) will likely have cellulite in abundance. The key to this problem is a diet that contains more fiber, less salt, and more fluid.
Besides poor diet, other lifestyle habits can also lead to more cellulite, such as smoking or lack of exercise. People who sit or stand all day are more prone to cellulite, especially on legs, thighs, and buttocks. Wearing tight clothing or underwear prevents normal blood circulation to the skin, contributing to the formation of cellulite as well.
So, now you know what cellulite is and why it's there. But, you still might be wondering – Can I get rid of it if I want to?
Before getting into all the possible cellulite treatments out there, it's important to note again that cellulite is a purely cosmetic issue and is not dangerous. It refers to unevenly distributed fat deposits under the skin, and it doesn't require medical attention. Cellulitis, on the other hand, is a bacterial infection of the skin and tissues under the skin that causes swelling and pain. It's a potentially serious condition and needs to be treated.
So, if you're still hell-bent on getting rid of cellulite, you need to start from the basics. While you can't change your genes, you can change your lifestyle and diet. So start by eliminating all the factors that you can influence and that contribute to cellulite development. However, it's most likely that this won't be enough and that you'll still have to give it a little nudge.
This is the point where you could consider doing more heavy-duty treatments. The research shows the following therapies, reviewed by the American Academy of Dermatology, may be successful in the reduction of cellulite:
#1: Acoustic Wave Therapy
This is a non-invasive cellulite treatment that uses sound waves to target fat layers in the thighs and abdomen. For best results, you would need to do several sessions of acoustic wave therapy and possibly combine it with other cellulite treatments.
#2: Laser Treatment
There are several different laser treatments available. The most popular and the least invasive is Cellulaze laser treatment. During this treatment, a thin laser fiber is injected beneath the skin, breaking down the tough connective tissue bands - the main reason cellulite is visible.
Cellulaze also makes the skin thicker, which is essential because cellulite makes skin thin. Thicker skin will reduce the orange-peel appearance. Depending on your skin condition, the results of this treatment can last up to one year or longer.
#3: Mechanical Subcision
Mechanical Subcision, or Cellfina, is another non-surgical procedure. It involves a suction device and inserting a thin blade underneath each dimple, breaking up the tough bands of connective tissue. It improves the overall appearance of the skin and decreases skin dimpling. The results are visible for up to two years or even longer.
#4: Vacuum-Assisted Precise Tissue Release
During this procedure, a doctor will use a device with small blades that cut connective tissue bands. It allows the tissue to move upwards, filling up space underneath the skin and reducing the appearance of bumps and dimples. The results of this treatment will last up to three years, potentially longer.
This procedure involves inserting CO2, carbon dioxide gas, right underneath the skin. It increases the blood flow to the affected area, reducing the appearance of cellulite. It might cause slight discomfort and pain during the procedure and temporary bruising. You might need to do 7 to 10 treatments to see any results.
This treatment involves a deep tissue massage using a vacuum-like device. It's usually needed to do several sessions of 45 minutes to see any results. The studies show, however, that the results are short-lived and that cellulite tends to return after only one month of finishing treatments.
During this treatment, radiofrequency energy is used to heat the fat deposits under the skin and increase blood circulation. This helps reduce the appearance of cellulite but only yields short-term results. Doctors suggest combining it with other treatments, such as laser, deep tissue massage, and suction for best results.
#8: Manual Subcision
Manual Subcision is an invasive surgical procedure where a doctor inserts a blade, a needle, or other tools underneath the skin and manually cuts or breaks fibrous bands. You may experience pain and bleeding, but the results will last longer.
#9: Dermal Fillers
This procedure involves using injectable dermal fillers, such as diluted Radiesse, which contains calcium hydroxylapatite, or diluted Sculptra, which is poly-l-lactic acid. These fillers are supposed to stimulate collagen production in the affected area and, therefore, decrease the appearance of cellulite.
At-Home Cellulite Treatments
The prices of these professional treatments and procedures can get quite steep, depending on the size of the treated area, the number of treatments you need, and the treatment itself.
If you're not ready to immediately burn a hole in your pocket, you might want to give some of these home remedies for cellulite a shot:
Aerobic exercises and strength training are excellent for burning fat and toning your muscles. With your body more muscular with less fat, your skin will look smoother and firmer with less noticeable cellulite.
Combined with a healthy diet, this is bound to give you great results, not just for your looks but also for overall health and well-being.
Exfoliating is the best way to remove dead skin cells, promote cell turnover, and stimulate collagen production. Exfoliating will make your skin tighter, and therefore, cellulite will be less visible.
Coffee grounds exfoliation is a popular at-home remedy for cellulite. Coffee is supposed to reduce skin dimpling and bumpiness by increasing blood circulation to the skin and stimulating lymph flow.
You could mix coffee grounds with your favorite massaging oil, like olive oil or coconut oil. Gently massage the affected area for a couple of minutes, and then leave the blend on your skin for ten minutes or so before rinsing it off.
For anti-cellulite massage to work, you need intense pressure and movement. You can make use of a number of at-home cellulite massaging devices.
These devices can have rollers, balls, or feelers that you practically rub over your thighs. Unlike using only your fingers, these devices will provide additional stimulation to your skin and improve circulation.
#4: Dry Brushing
This technique is a perfect combination of exfoliation and massage. It will remove dead cells from your skin, and stimulate blood circulation and lymph flow. As a result, you will kick start lymphatic drainage, tighten the skin, and eventually reduce the piled-up cellulite.
You can use a body brush or a plant-based rough sponge and gently massage and smooth the skin for several minutes. For best results, you can start from your feet and work your way toward your thighs. Use circular motions or upward fluid strokes. It would be best to do this before the shower.
#5: Honey and Apple Cider Vinegar
Both of these ingredients contain antioxidants and organic acids that accelerate your body's metabolism and detox and stimulate the normal function of the lymphatic system. Since the active components from apple cider vinegar and honey speed up digestion, they accelerate the burning of calories and, thus, melt fat under the surface of the skin, which causes cellulite.
Dilute two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water, and add a teaspoon of honey. You should take it only once a day in the morning and before breakfast.
Note! Apple cider vinegar is safe to consume as long as you don't take too much of it. If you experience pain or burning in your stomach after drinking this blend, you could try to add only one tablespoon of the vinegar to a glass of water. If discomfort persists, you should discontinue using it.
Do Topical Cellulite Treatments Really Work?
Lotions and creams containing caffeine and retinol may improve the appearance of the cellulite-affected skin, but these won't make it magically disappear.
Caffeine-rich topical treatments for cellulite break down fat by dehydrating fat cells and making them less visible.
Retinol is highly effective in making the skin thicker, tighter, and smoother, which reduces the appearance of cellulite. However, you will likely have to apply a retinol-rich cellulite cream for six months or longer for any visible results. It's also important to note that some people may be sensitive to it and develop allergic reactions. For this reason, you should do a 24-hour patch test before applying it to a larger skin area.
It's not uncommon for topical cellulite treatments to contain aminophylline. There have been reports of racing heart, breathing problems, and increased anxiety symptoms in people using products that contain this ingredient. So, if your anti-cellulite cream contains aminophylline, make sure to do a patch test first.
Whatever path you decide to take in your fight against cellulite, make sure to consult with your dermatologist or doctor beforehand. They are the only ones that can assess what's best for you and choose the most effective treatment for your specific problem.
However, don't jump right into this fight unprepared. Before going any further and taking more drastic steps and treatments, focus on changing your lifestyle habits that may have influenced cellulite development in the first place. A balanced diet and regular exercise alone can significantly improve your overall health and look, and reduce the appearance of cellulite.
What is cellulite caused by?
The cause of cellulite is fat that sits underneath the skin as well as fibrous connective tissue. The connective tissue cords connect the muscles and skin, with a layer of fat sitting in between. When this layer of fat grows, the cords pull the skin down, while, naturally, the fat pushes the skin up, leading to a dimpled appearance of the skin or cellulite.
Can you get rid of cellulite once you have it?
Yes, but it will take some time and persistence. You can opt for a number of in-office treatments, such as acoustic wave therapy, laser, mechanical subcision, vacuum-assisted precise tissue release, carboxytherapy, endermologie, radiofrequency, manual subcision, or dermal fillers.
Can you massage cellulite away?
Yes, but as with other cellulite treatments, the process is long and can be painful. This is because, for it to work, the pressure needs to be intense. That's why it's better to use a massaging device (like massaging rollers and other devices with feelers) rather than your fingers.
What exercises get rid of cellulite fast?
It all depends on your current fitness and capabilities. The point is to keep your body moving. So, if you're leading a predominantly sedentary lifestyle, brisk walking will do for now. If you're already fit but still have cellulite, try to challenge your body with some harder exercises, such as Pilates, aerobic exercises, swimming, and the like.
Will apple cider vinegar help with cellulite?
Apple cider vinegar can speed up your digestion, and is, therefore, great for burning calories and fat. Pour two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a glass of warm water. For better taste, add one teaspoon of honey into the mix and drink in the morning before breakfast.