What is Cellulite and How to Get Rid of It
Is anything worse than cellulite?
Cellulite is one of the most frustrating aesthetic puzzles for women of all ages and sizes. Women in their 20′s get cellulite ALL the time–just look at Lauren Conrad, Tara Reid, and Mischa Barton. All three are gorgeous and in unbelievable shape (or were, Tara Reid’s kind of gone downhill a bit lately), yet cellulite manages to plaster their backsides like stucco paint. What gives?
If you have cellulite you’re actually in the VAST majority–over 80% of women over the age of 20 develop cellulite at some point in their lives (1). Although men can get cellulite, about 90-98% of cellulite cases occur in women. Sorry women, that’s 100% courtesy of your genetics.
What is Cellulite?
Cellulite is the bumpy, dimpled, cottage cheese-y skin that shows up around the butt, abs, and thighs. Yum.
Cellulite results from enlarged packets of body fat–deposited deep underneath the skin–that push up against the underlying connective tissue. When the underlying fat cells balloon up it limits the space under the skin, which places a TON of upward pressure on the connective tissue.
That pressure forces the fat right up against the top layers of skin, pushes EVERYTHING upwards, and creates a visibly dimpled look on the surface. When multiple fat compartments expand, multiple hills pop up, and cellulite spreads across a wider surface area.
Imagine a room with an elastic, trampoline-like ceiling that’s PACKED out with as many standard-sized balloons as possible–they’d all fit, albeit snugly within the walls of the room.
Now imagine that those same balloons–still within the same room–all doubled in size. You’d have MASSIVE amounts of pressure pushing on all 4 walls due to the lack of space. Like the connective tissue between each compartment of fat cells, walls are sturdy and won’t budge, which gives the balloons only one option–to push upwards into the elastic ceiling, stretching it out and creating a “bumpy” roof.
That’s cellulite, in practical terms.
- Cellulite – Left, Smooth Skin – Right
Why is Cellulite More Common in Women Than in Men?
When it comes to cellulite it’s all about the anatomy of the body’s largest organ–the skin. There are three major reasons why women are MUCH more likely to develop cellulite than men:
1. Thicker Epidermis
Men have a much thicker epidermis–the very top layer of the skin (#1 in the picture). A thicker epidermis makes male skin MUCH more resilient to structural change and dimpling, which protects it from cellulite.
On the other side, women have a thinner epidermis, which exposes it to lumpiness and disfiguration.
Think of it as a suit of armor. Men have a strong, outer layer that prevents the fat from bulging through the surface. Women, well, don’t.
2. Different Skin Structure
Male and female skin is fundamentally different. Female fat cells sit within large, side-by-side, separate compartments that form columns underneath the skin’s surface (# 4 on the right).
When female fat cells…fatten…the compartments overflow and have no choice but to expand vertically. At this point the fat pushes upwards, puts massive pressure on the skin’s surface, and eventually creates the bumps known as cellulite.
On the flip side, male skin follows a crisscrossed pattern. Male fat containers are smaller, and when they grow they tend to create one, big, solid blob of fat (if it even penetrates the thick epidermis). Although beer bellies are annoyingly common, especially in America, most guys won’t have cellulite.
Tight underwear constricts blood flow around the butt and thighs, which speeds up cellulite development. Seriously–stick to thongs, loose-fitting underwear, or even go commando–it’s healthy. Oh la la.
What Else Causes Cellulite and How Do I Get Rid of it?
Talk about a serious waste of money–the market for cellulite-reduction devices is projected to hit $62 million by 2013 (2). Too bad none of them work.
I’ve seen creams, massage therapy, liposuction, drugs, “skin smoothing”, and things as ridiculous as magnetic therapy and radio frequency therapy.
The reality is that there’s no scientific evidence to prove that cellulite treatments actually work. They’re marketing scams–stop wasting your money. Liposuction can actually make cellulite WORSE!
At the core, cellulite is one thing–fat. If your body fat is low you probably won’t have cellulite, or at the very least minor cellulite. The only sure ways to prevent cellulite are:
- Eat a healthy diet that maximizes protein and healthy fats, and limits sugar.
- Do cardio.
- Lift weights–muscle tone hardens the skin’s appearance.
- Wear loose underwear, thongs, or go commando.
- Don’t smoke–cellulite is more common in smokers.
- Be a man. Just kidding.
While I sincerely apologize that I don’t have a “miracle treatment” for cellulite, knowing that one doesn’t exist is a blessing in-and-of itself. And seriously…is anything in the fitness world ever a quick fix? I sense a recurring theme of hard work and dedication.
The only true way to prevent cellulite is to lead an all-around healthy lifestyle. It’s all under your control–go bust your butt to make it happen.
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1. Cellulite 101: Questions, Causes, and Treatments
2. NY Times – Treating Cellulite? It’s Still There