What is Cellulite?
Cellulite occurs when fat deposits push through the connective tissues under the skin, giving the skin a lumpy appearance. It’s more common in women than in men. Having cellulite doesn’t mean you have a serious underlying health condition; in fact, most women have some form of cellulite.
Characteristics of Cellulite
Cellulite is easy to identify, and ranges from mild to severe. Those with mild cellulite only have a few dimples, and they’re generally only visible when the skin is pinched.
People with moderate cellulite have deeper, more notable dimples—between five and nine in each affected area—giving the skin the appearance of an orange peel or cottage cheese. People with severe cellulite have 10 or more pronounced dimples in one area, resembling a landscape with peaks and valleys (x).
Causes of Cellulite
Scientists and health care professionals aren’t sure what causes cellulite, even though it’s very common. Some suspect links between hormones, fat-to-muscle ratios, unhealthy lifestyles and diets, genetics, rapid weight gains, inactivity, pregnancy and even genetics. Some women are more susceptible to severe cases of cellulite than others, and in these women, factors like age, genetics and body fat may play a role in the development of cellulite.
Age, in particular, may be a determining factor in causing cellulite. As estrogen levels in premenopausal and menopausal women decrease, blood flow to connective tissues also decreases. This blood-circulation decrease prevents adequate oxygen from accessing connective tissues, lowering collagen production in affected areas, which in turn, can cause cellulite (x).
Lower estrogen levels are also linked to enlarged fat cells. The combination of poor circulation and larger fat cells makes fat deposits more visible and dimpled as they protrude through weakened connective tissues. The later in life a woman enters menopause, the more likely her skin is to sag and lose elasticity, resulting in cellulite (x).
Remedies and Supplements for Cellulite
Finding the right remedy to treat cellulite can be tough because its causes are often difficult to determine. Many “miracle” remedies out there have shown minimal results. Dietary changes and vitamin intake have a suspected link to changes in the appearance of cellulite, but the most commonly used and most widely accepted way to treat it is with dry brushing.
Dry brushing—massaging the skin with a soft-bristled brush—to fight cellulite is not only popular but also safe and inexpensive, and you can do it at home. Its rise in popularity comes from the support of dermatologists, who suggest that it may improve circulation, eliminate dead skin and stimulate lymph nodes. It’s generally agreed that the combination of all three effects reduces the appearance of cellulite, though there’s limited research to support these claims (x).
Supplements for Cellulite
The following supplements could help reduce your risk of developing cellulite, or reduce existing cellulite (x).
- Omega-3s could improve circulation and reduce inflammation–two factors linked to cellulite.
- Maca root extract and red clover extract may both help balance estrogen levels. Low estrogen levels have been linked to cellulite.
- Multivitamins containing vitamin B6, vitamin E and vitamin C detoxify the skin and help the body get rid of excess fluid, potentially reducing the appearance of cellulite.
- Dandelion root extract is a natural diuretic that helps the body release toxins under the skin, giving it a smooth appearance. It’s also high in antioxidants, which help improve circulation.
The direct removal of cellulite with liposuction and laser treatment is generally ineffective, and little research supports it. In some cases, cellulite removal has even worsened the appearance of cellulite (x).
The Bottom Line
Although some cellulite treatments like diet and lifestyle changes could help reduce its appearance, other treatments and so-called miracle cures are ineffective. The good news is, while it can be bothersome, cellulite is very common, completely normal, and totally harmless.