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Cellulite

Cellulite is fat that collects in pockets just below the surface of the skin. It forms around the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Cellulite deposits cause the skin to look dimpled.

Information

Cellulite may be more visible than fat deeper in the body. Everyone has layers of fat under the skin, so even thin people can have cellulite. Collagen fibers that connect fat to the skin may stretch, break down, or pull tight. This allows fat cells to bulge out.

Your genes may play a part in whether or not you have cellulite. Other factors may include:

  • Your diet
  • How your body burns energy
  • Hormone changes
  • Dehydration

Cellulite is not harmful to your health. Most health care providers consider cellulite a normal condition for many women and some men.

Many people seek treatment for cellulite because they are bothered by how it looks. Talk to your provider about treatment options. These include:

  • Laser treatment, which uses laser energy to break up the tough bands that pull on the skin resulting in the dimpled skin of cellulite.
  • Subcision, which uses a tiny blade to also break up the tough bands.
  • Other treatments, such as carbon dioxide, radiofrequency, ultrasound, creams and lotions, and deep massage devices.

Be sure you understand the risks and benefits of any treatment for cellulite.

Tips for avoiding cellulite include:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Exercising regularly to keep muscles toned and bones strong
  • Maintaining a healthy weight (no yo-yo dieting)
  • Not smoking

References

American Academy of Dermatology website. Cellulite treatments: what really works? www.aad.org/public/diseases/cosmetic-treatments/cellulite-treatments. Accessed December 17, 2018.

Coleman KM, Coleman WP, Flynn TC. Body contouring: liposuction and non-invasive modalities. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 156.

Katz BE, Hexsel DM, Hexsel CL. Cellulite. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson IH, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 39.

    • Fat layer in skin

      Fat layer in skin - illustration

      The fat layer of skin is located in the subcutaneous layer of tissue called the hypodermis. The thickness of the fat layer, which varies greatly from one person to another, depends on the size and number of fat cells.

      Fat layer in skin

      illustration

    • Muscle cells vs. fat cells

      Muscle cells vs. fat cells - illustration

      To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you eat. Exercise is the best way to do this. When you exercise regularly, you build stronger muscles, even if you do not work out with weights. Muscles use more calories than fat throughout the day, even while you are resting. This contributes to what is commonly called a faster metabolism.

      Muscle cells vs. fat cells

      illustration

    • Cellulite

      Cellulite - illustration

      Cellulite is a term that is used to describe fat deposits under the skin that outwardly give the skin a dimpled, or orange-peel like appearance. Cellulite is most often seen in woman because the fat is arranged in large chambers separated by columns of collagen fibers. In overweight people excess fat is stuffed in these compartments causing them to bulge out. On the surface of the skin the bulging provides the dimply appearance of cellulite, especially in areas such as the hips, buttocks or thighs. Cellulite is predetermined by genetics so even thin women can develop the appearance. Factors such as hormones, pregnancy, and aging may all attribute to the weakening of the collagen fibers to give the cellulite appearance.

      Cellulite

      illustration

      • Fat layer in skin

        Fat layer in skin - illustration

        The fat layer of skin is located in the subcutaneous layer of tissue called the hypodermis. The thickness of the fat layer, which varies greatly from one person to another, depends on the size and number of fat cells.

        Fat layer in skin

        illustration

      • Muscle cells vs. fat cells

        Muscle cells vs. fat cells - illustration

        To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you eat. Exercise is the best way to do this. When you exercise regularly, you build stronger muscles, even if you do not work out with weights. Muscles use more calories than fat throughout the day, even while you are resting. This contributes to what is commonly called a faster metabolism.

        Muscle cells vs. fat cells

        illustration

      • Cellulite

        Cellulite - illustration

        Cellulite is a term that is used to describe fat deposits under the skin that outwardly give the skin a dimpled, or orange-peel like appearance. Cellulite is most often seen in woman because the fat is arranged in large chambers separated by columns of collagen fibers. In overweight people excess fat is stuffed in these compartments causing them to bulge out. On the surface of the skin the bulging provides the dimply appearance of cellulite, especially in areas such as the hips, buttocks or thighs. Cellulite is predetermined by genetics so even thin women can develop the appearance. Factors such as hormones, pregnancy, and aging may all attribute to the weakening of the collagen fibers to give the cellulite appearance.

        Cellulite

        illustration

      Review Date: 10/8/2018

      Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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