Cellulite is completely normal - but why do we get it?
Everything you need to know about cellulite.
A harmless, very common skin condition that affects women more than men, cellulite can cause the flesh to become bumpy and dimpled on the stomach, upper thighs, and buttocks. Sometimes cellulite can also appear on the breasts and upper arms.
Cellulite is completely normal, very common, and likely to be present on almost all women's bodies at some point in their lives - regardless of their shape or size.
These days, more and more real bodies can be seen across social media and beyond. Thankfully, that includes legs with cellulite, bellies with stretch marks, and back with rolls. This normalisation of real bodies is important not just for our confidence and self esteem, but also to recognise what's normal, especially when it appears on our own bodies.
So, just what is cellulite and what causes it?
Contrary to popular belief, cellulite is not caused by weight gain. Nor is it a marker or indication that you have gained weight, though it may be more noticeable in certain parts of the body that contain more excess fat.
According to Health.com, the dimpled appearance of cellulite occurs when fatty tissue inside the body pushes through the fibrous bands connecting skin to muscle. These bands then pull the skin, making it appear more bumpy as the skin becomes thinner.
While it is thought that 90% of women will experience cellulite at some point over the course of their young lives, the appearance of bumpy skin can also become more apparent in later life as the skin ages and becomes thinner.
Changes in hormone levels, vascular makeup, and inflammatory changes can also affect the appearance of the skin over time, which is why many women will notice cellulite on their bodies as they get older. Genetics can also cause cellulite to be more prevalent in some people.
Why do women get cellulite more than men?
Women are almost four times more likely to experience cellulite over their male counterparts - but why?
According to experts, women actually store fat in their bodies differently to how most men do. Dr Anne Chapas of Union Square Laser Dermatology says:
"We have fat in our thighs that’s stored in little columns, like an old mattress. As our body ages, the fat kind of puckers out a little bit, and the skin thins, so you see more of this cottage-cheese rippling effect.”
The Mayo Clinic also says that women distribute this fat in the spots where cellulite is most likely to appear - the thighs, buttocks, and stomach. But that's not to say that slim women can't get cellulite too.
Can all body shapes and sizes get cellulite?
Yes! Although cellulite can be more obvious on the parts of the skin where fat is distributed, cellulite often has little to do with how big or small your body is.
Every single person has fibrous bands in their body, and they can stretch or push forward irrespective of how much that person weighs. Women are also more likely to have excess fat in their bodies than men, and this fat often resides in the areas whee cellulite occurs most.
Collagen is a key player in cellulite, which makes it more complex than just being related to body fat. In fact, a lot of people who go on to lose a lot of weight can still find that their cellulite remains.
What's more is that not every person who is of slim build is healthy. Some women who have low circulation or a poor diet may notice cellulite appearing on parts of their bodies. Those with cellulite in their genes are also far more likely to notice the bumpiness on their skin.
Can you treat cellulite?
You can of course, but that doesn't mean that you have to - or that you'll see any major results from treatment either.
Products like Bio Oil and different creams have traditionally been used to lessen the appearance of cellulite over time, and although many people report seeing defined results from long-term use, many dermatologists have informed patients that there's no need to treat the condition if it's not bothering you.
Although ointments and creams can be used in the long term to reduce the appearance of bumpy skin, there is no treatment - other than surgery - that will banish cellulite over night.
Creams can of course help if your cellulite is leading to other issues like self esteem problems or anxiety about how your skin looks, but the chances of them getting rid of the condition forever are low.
Other treatments include laser therapy or less invasive producers like acoustic wave therapy. However, it's important to note that if you are considering any treatment for cellulite, you should always consult a doctor or dermatologist.
While some people may see results that they are happy with, it's important to get any changes in your skin checked out by a medical professional before going ahead with any potential treatments, and to recognise that it's okay if your skin isn't perfect - no one's is.
If you are worried about changes to your body or skin, always consult a doctor.