Cellulite: What Is It & How to Reduce the Appearance of It

When you listen to any list of skin issues, or problems people – notably women, feel they have with their bodies, you can always bet cellulite will be on top on both lists, if not actually at number one. During the summer time, it tends to be talked about more, with worries paramounting as it is the season for shorts, bathing suits, short skirts and sleeveless tops. Most commonly cellulite is found on the thighs, followed by the hips and buttocks, but there are still many other places it can present itself, such as the upper arms and the stomach. While some men do experience cellulite, it seems to be an issue mostly reserved for women. When we understand what cellulite actually is and how it is formed, we not only see why it is a more specific problem for women, but also what we can do to avoid it as well as reduce its appearance.

Cellulite is known by the typical “dimpley” appearance on the skin’s surface. However, the story of cellulite goes slightly deeper than that. While known best in terms of its appearance, for many people, cellulite creates a feeling of tightness or heaviness where it has been developed, and when the skin is touched or massaged, the affected areas can also be tender or sensitive.

Cellulite: What Is It & How to Reduce the Appearance of It

The differences between the structural design of the tissue actually responsible for “showing” cellulite can be more easily seen and explained with a pinching test. When you pinch the skin on the thigh of a woman, the skin itself will, in reaction, dimple or bulge – similar to how cellulite looks, even if that area does not have it otherwise. In contrast, when a man’s thigh is pinched, generally the skin will simply fold, without really dimpling. Why does this happen?


See also: DIY Anti-Cellulite Scrub Recipes

Removing Cellulite from the Thighs


Right below the surface of the skin, the subcutaneous tissue can be found, which binds skin to tissues and/or bones. The subcutaneous tissue has within it fat cells, and this is where cellulite is formed. The subcutaneous tissue of the thighs, for example, has three layers of fat, which have between them two planes of connective tissue. Women and men have different structures in terms of the upper most layers of the subcutaneous tissue, and in the case of men, they have a network of criss-crossing connective tissue walls, whereas for women, they are attached to the overlying connective tissue of the skin. Also, in comparison, the connective tissue between the surface layer of skin and the subcutaneous tissue is actually stronger or thicker in men than in women. These are the main two reasons why cellulite is found mostly in women, and why it tends to have a more dramatic appearance when compared to men.

Unfortunately for women, as they age, the connective tissue structure between the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue, which is already thinner compared to men, becomes thinner and looser, and the fat cells are able to protrude, which is responsible for the dimpley appearance of cellulite.

What is also not very commonly known in terms of cellulite is that there are actually three different stages. The pre-stage is when there is not only no visible cellulite to be found on a person when standing or lying down, but also when that remains to be the case when they are pinched in areas that commonly are prone to cellulite. Stage one, is when there is no visible cellulite for a person standing or lying down, but when pinched, the skin dimples up. This is very common for most women, but rare in men due to the structural differences in skin mentioned earlier. Stage two is when a person does not have any visible cellulite when lying down and the skin appears smooth, but when they are in standing position, cellulite can be seen. The final stage, stage three, is when the dimpling of the skin can be seen when a person is both standing and lying down.

While the structural design of the subcutaneous tissue of skin makes it easier for women to have cellulite, and as the number and size of fat cells can be hereditary, there are still preventative measures women can take in order to prevent the development of cellulite, or to reduce its appearance. The main goal in this sense, and most commonly recommended, is to maintain a healthy weight. Cellulite is most often present in women who are overweight or obese. Maintaining a healthy weight will help keep the subcutaneous fat layer slim, and regular exercise can increase the strength and integrity of the connective tissue structures.

When aiming to reach a healthier weight, which will treat existing cellulite, always make sure to do it gradually as well as when it is done in a non-sustainable rapid manner, coupled with aging, it can actually have the reverse affect and make the cellulite appearance more dramatic. Weight loss should always be done in a gradual and nutritionally sound manner, not only in terms of cellulite appearance, but more importantly for overall health.

In terms of reducing the appearance of cellulite, there are two ways this can be done by massage. One is simply using your hands to administer a massage to the affected areas, always directed upwards towards the heart. The second, with the same direction upwards, would be using a brush and administering a dry brush massage to the affected areas. Not only will they help reduce the appearance of cellulite, they will also improve your circulation and aid in the removal of toxins from your body.

A herbal remedy often used in the reduction of the appearance of cellulite is gotu kola. Known also as centella, it has been found to strengthen connective tissue, and can be taken orally as a tea or in tincture-form.

So while there are many causes behind cellulite, including predisposition, tissue structure, and weight, understanding the more common factors in its development can help prevent it, or at least, reduce its appearance.

Photo courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar

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