Cellulite is a collection of fat pockets that form under the surface of the skin. These fat pockets protrude into the dermis – the skin layer located directly beneath the outer layer of skin – causing a dimpled, bumpy appearance. When the connective tissue bands located in the dermis weaken, it allows the fat pockets to push through, creating the lumps and bumps called cellulite.
Women are more likely to have cellulite than men for a number of reasons. Women naturally have more fatty tissue than men to begin with and estrogen also plays a role. The hormone works to decrease collagen production during pregnancy, allowing skin to stretch as the baby grows. However, this drop in collagen also weakens the skin’s structural support system.
Cellulite occurs in people of all ages and sizes, but men are less prone to cellulite than women due to the basic structural differences in their skin. Since male connective tissue develops in a tighter, narrower weave pattern, fat tends to spread laterally rather than protrude into the dermis.
Cellulite is not harmful, therefore, dermatologists consider it a cosmetic issue rather than a medical one.
Improving the appearance of cellulite has proved challenging. Reducing body fat isn’t an effective way to get rid of cellulite. In fact, even individuals of normal or low body weight often have cellulite.
Liposuction, while helpful in some cases, has actually been found to worsen cellulite in others. A few newer treatments are currently being used to combat cellulite including a 1440 nanometer pulsed laser approved by the FDA in 2012, cryolipolysis (fat freezing) and high-intensity ultrasound to destroy fat deposits.
Factors that can worsen cellulite include hormonal imbalances, dehydration, poor circulation and a high-sugar diet. To minimize the appearance of cellulite without costly medical procedures, many dermatologists recommend following a healthful diet that includes plenty of fiber, regular exercise, avoiding weight fluctuations and not smoking.