Orange peel. Jelly deposits. Hail damage.
Your mom probably called it “cottage cheese,” but it all amounts to the same body bummer — cellulite. Dimples may be cute on your cheeks, but you generally don’t want to see them adorning other body parts.
Tough luck. Cellulite likes to collect around your thighs, flanks, upper arms, butt, and even stomach. But you already know that. That’s why you’re here.
The secret of how to get rid of cellulite has stumped (mostly) women since time immemorial. And while it isn’t harmful to your body, it can mess with your self-esteem. The women surveyed in a study commissioned by Today/AOL reported that cellulite is as big a drag on body image as their butts.
Let’s fix that by first understanding what causes the dreaded lumpy-mattress look, then considering strategies for minimizing its impact on our minds and that perfect body we’ve been working on with Openfit.
What Causes Cellulite?
The first thing to know about cellulite is that it’s often hereditary. “Research suggests that it has a strong genetic component,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content. “If your mother had it, there’s a good chance you will, too.”
The scientific explanation for cellulite is a little tricky. Fortunately, we found the perfect guy to spell it out in simple terms.
“There are three structural components to cellulite,” explains dermatologist Bruce Katz, M.D., director of the JUVA Skin & Laser Center and member of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Basically, he says, those hills and valleys that show up under your skin are caused by:
• Fat cells pushing against collagen fibers, or connective tissue, and causing raised areas in your skin.
• Fibrous bands beneath the skin pulling down and causing depressions (dimples) in your skin.
• Skin laxity (looseness), which allows the first two things to happen.
Why don’t more men get cellulite?
According to a 2014 study, cellulite affects up to 90 percent of women, while it’s present in about 2 percent of men. The difference is due to simple anatomy.
The arrangement of connective tissue fibers beneath the skin differs between genders. In men, these fibers have a crisscross pattern that discourages dimpling. In women with cellulite, the fibers tend to run in parallel, vertical rows, forming rectangular compartments that allow fat to bulge out. When cellulite does affect men, it usually appears in the neck and belly.
3 Ways to Reduce Cellulite
You can only do so much to overcome your genes, but that shouldn’t discourage you from putting up a fight.
1. Diet and exercise
The fact that you get to blame Great Grandma Rose for your skin craters shouldn’t stop you from doing all you can to prevent their appearance, which can be helped by keeping your weight in check.
“Being overweight does make the appearance of cellulite more noticeable,” says Katz, since the more fat you have underneath your skin, the more likely it is to put stress on your connective tissue and bulge out of its weak spots. “You can prevent cellulite from getting worse by not getting obese.”
Yo-yo dieting doesn’t help either, by the way. In fact, it can result in stretching and contraction of the skin and loss of elastic fibers, all contributors to cellulite, says Beverly Hills-based, board certified plastic surgeon Brent Moelleken, M.D.
2. Proper hydration
Keeping properly hydrated seems simple, yet it’s something many people overlook.
A survey of 300 physicians undertaken by UK nonprofit The Natural Hydration Council found that nearly a quarter of patients don’t know how much water they should drink per day. (Answer: at least eight glasses.) One of the most common reasons reported for doctor visits was fatigue caused by chronic dehydration.
Skin’s strength and elasticity can be affected by hydration, making water consumption vital to smoothing out the appearance of cellulite. Sufficient amounts of low-sodium water intake have been correlated with the minimization of mild to moderate cellulite.
3. Medical treatment
Historically, there haven’t really been any fast fixes for cellulite. Liposuction, for instance, can actually make it worse by loosening the surrounding skin and causing more depressions in it, says Katz.
Topical creams and lotions won’t erase cellulite, either, he says, although they may temporarily make your skin appear tighter and smoother. The same goes for massages.
That aligns with the guidance of both the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). Both organizations, however, do acknowledge two treatments in particular that studies show have been effective in the prolonged minimization of cellulite.
Known clinically as photomology, Cellulaze is the brand name for this relatively new, in-office, minimally invasive laser treatment. “It addresses all three structural components of cellulite,” says Katz, who performs the procedure in his New York offices.
The process melts the fat pushing up against the skin, cuts the fibrous bands pulling down at the skin, and, finally, stimulates the growth of collagen, the major structural protein of the skin. With one session and minimal downtime, Katz says most people will see a 70 to 80 percent improvement in their cellulite with results lasting a year or longer, according to the AAD and ABCS.
The other treatment option indicated by both organizations in the sustained reduction of cellulite is a procedure called subcision. The FDA-approved version of the method is called Cellfina, in which a needle or blade is inserted a few millimeters below the skin to cut the strands of connective tissue that contribute to cellulite’s bulging appearance. ABCS claims Cellfina’s effects last the longest of any procedure, with results observed up to three years.
4. Accept it
Cellulite is largely a function of hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, explains Katz. This is another reason you see it mostly in women, especially during menopause, when wavering levels of estrogen can compromise the skin’s integrity, according to a 2014 article published in the journal Menopause Review.
It affects all body types. “I’ve had extremely thin and fit triathletes come to me with cellulite,” says Katz. You don’t have to be overweight to have it, he explains.
“When will you accept yourself?” The Smiths asked this poignant question back in the ’80s. (Ask your mom about that one, too). If you haven’t already figured out the answer, here it is: NOW!