Let's Talk About Cellulite

Cellulite is more common than you would imagine, affecting between 80% and 90% of women. 

This means that you are highly likely to develop cellulite at some point in your life, but how much do you actually know about this condition? 

What is Cellulite?

You likely already know that cellulite refers to the dimple-like appearance, often likened to cottage cheese, that the skin takes on, especially around the buttocks, hips and thighs. 

But do you know what causes these dimples to appear? 

Well, beneath your skin lies fat cells, and these are held in place by bands of tissue. However, due to a number of different factors, these fat cells can often accumulate into larger pockets, and end up pushing their way through the gaps in the tissue bands, resulting in them bulging out in the form of cellulite. 

Illustration of cellulite formation

This is why women tend to experience cellulite on the parts of their body that contain more fat. 

Men have a different structure when it comes to their connective tissue, with their bands crossing over much more tightly. This prevents the fat pockets from bulging through, which is why men rarely experience cellulite. 

What Causes Cellulite?

While experts may disagree on the exact cause of cellulite, there are a number of different factors that can cause the condition to develop. 

These include: 

  • Aging – cellulite development often peaks around menopause 
  • Hormonal changes – affects circulation and decreases collagen production, while causing fat cells to grow larger 
  • A sedentary lifestyle – interferes with circulatory patterns, increasing chances of developing cellulite 
  • Smoking – damages the skin in many ways, contributing to cellulite
  • Genetics – some people are just naturally predisposed to developing more cellulite than others 

How Severe Can Cellulite Be?

In 2009, a cellulite severity scale was established, in order to help diagnose how severe the condition is in different people. 

The scale used to measure cellulite is as follows: 

  • Mild Cellulite/ Grade 1: a slight orange peel appearance, with between one and four superficial depressions. Skin only shows a small amount of sagging 
  • Moderate Cellulite/ Grade 2: skin takes on a cottage cheese appearance, with moderate sagging and around five to nine depressions that are medium in depth 
  • Severe Cellulite/ Grade 3: skin is severely affected, with more than 10 deep depressions 

Why is it important to know how severe your cellulite is? 

Because this will help to guide you when it comes to treating your cellulite. 

Treating Cellulite

For many women, the first question that they have when they begin to see signs of cellulite developing is…

Is there a cure for cellulite? 

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Since cellulite is caused by structural changes in your skin, this is something that is difficult to fully eradicate. 

However, don’t despair just yet…

While there may not be a way for you to completely cure yourself of cellulite, there are still many steps that you can take to reduce its appearance and make it so much less visible. 

Regular Exercise

One of the most effective ways to minimize the appearance of your cellulite is by making sure that you are getting regular exercise. 

In particular, strength training should be a main focus…

What is strength training? 

It refers to using a type of force or resistance to stimulate muscular contractions, which then helps to increase muscle strength and size.

How does this make a difference to cellulite? 

Because it helps to strengthen the connective tissue underneath your skin, which prevents quite as much fat from bulging through. Firmer and larger muscles also give your skin more of a surface area to stretch over, which helps to make the skin look smoother and tighter.

Plus, burning away any excess fat is also a bonus when it comes to cellulite. 

Ideally, you want to go for strength training exercises that target the hips, buttocks, hamstrings and quads, which includes the following: 

  • Step-ups
  • Squats
  • Lunges
Massage Techniques

You may think of a massage as something that relaxes and de-stresses you, but certain types of massages are actually fantastic for targeting cellulite too. 

How? 

Due to the way in which a deep tissue massage triggers drainage in your lymph nodes, enabling them to clear away anything that may have caused them to bloat up and expand. 

Certain massages, such as a myofascial release, also help to elongate the connective tissue bands that lie beneath the skin. This then blocks some of the fat pockets beneath your skin from bulging up through the bands.

Think that a massage that treats cellulite sounds too good to be true? 

In a way, it is. It will only really work for mild to moderate cellulite, and don’t expect dramatic changes instead. While there are likely to be visible improvements, these will be relatively subtle, and the effects will only be temporary, requiring regular massages if you want to use this method to treat your cellulite over a long period of time. 

Dietary Changes

Many people believe that weight loss will quickly reduce the appearance of cellulite, but this isn’t necessarily true. 

While research has found that the appearance of cellulite can be diminished after a large reduction in both weight and fat, those who lose a small amount of weight, without losing any fat, can actually experience an exacerbation in their cellulite. 

Rather than making weight loss your primary focus, you would be much better off making a few key dietary changes instead. These will still aid with your weight loss, but will make sure that you are doing this in a way that helps your cellulite too. 

What dietary changes should you be making? 

Ideally, you want to be consuming a diet that is low in carbohydrates but high in healthy fats. 

How does this help? 

Because when you eat carbs, your body produces more insulin, and this has the effect of increasing the quantity of fat produced by your body. 

There are several other nutrients out there that can also help to stimulate your metabolism and increase the rate at which your body burns fat. These include: 

  • Vitamin C 
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Potassium 
  • Selenium 
  • Catechins from green tea 
Stop Smoking

As mentioned above, smoking can contribute to the development of cellulite, and while you may not be able to do much about your genetics or your gender, smoking is a contributing factor that you have full control over. 

Wondering how smoking actually leads to cellulite? 

It all comes down to the way in which smoking reduces your blood flow, while also damaging the collagen in your skin, and decreasing the quality of collagen that is subsequently produced. 

Collagen is one of the main structural proteins in your skin, and a loss of this makes your skin so much weaker, meaning that more fat cells will end up pushing their way through your connective tissue. 

Yes, smoking can be a tough habit to quit, but your skin will definitely thank you for making the effort to do so. 

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a skin care technique that has been used for centuries, and consists of exactly what it sounds like – using a brush on dry skin. 

Why would you want to do this? 

Because dry brushing increases blood circulation, which then helps to flush out any excess fat from beneath the skin. It also encourages the body to rid itself of other toxins, all of which would have contributed to cellulite.

Still not convinced? 

Dry brushing also does everything from improve the immune system to exfoliate the skin, making this a technique well worth trying. 

How do you dry brush? 

It’s simple, just follow these steps: 

  • Purchase a dry brush made from natural bristles 
  • Begin brushing at your feet, using upward circular motions aimed towards your heart. Do everything from the tips of your toes to the soles of your feet, starting with one foot before moving on to the next 
  • Work your way up your legs to your waist and chest, overlapping the areas that you are brushing to ensure that you don’t miss out on any spots 
  • Move on to your arms, neck and back, using the same circular motions but making sure that these are always aimed towards your heart
  • Once you are done, finish up with a shower to clear away all of the dead skin cells that you have just dislodged

Dry brushing is most commonly carried out on the body, but your face can benefit from this too. However, keep in mind that if you would like to dry brush your face, you will need to purchase a special brush for this, to ensure that the bristles are gentle enough to not cause any damage to the delicate skin on your face. 

Topical Creams and Lotions

There are so many skin care products out there that claim to be able to banish cellulite for good, but if you see this being advertised anywhere, take these claims with a huge pinch of salt. 

It is pretty much impossible for a topical product alone to clear away cellulite, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t help, especially if you combine them with some of the other treatment options mentioned here. 

The key when it comes to choosing anti-cellulite products is taking a look at the ingredients used within the cream…

Ideally, you want to be using ingredients that are able to strengthen the skin, as this will prevent the fat pockets from showing through quite as much. 

Which ingredients help to strengthen the skin? 

Here are a few of the most powerful: 

  • Retinol – helps to build collagen and elastin in the skin, with a 0.3% concentration used twice a day for six months able to make a visible improvement on cellulite 
  • Caffeine – increases circulation and tightens up the skin, while helping with fat burning 
  • Vitamin C – crucial when it comes to creating collagen in the skin 
  • L-Carnitine – an amino acid that strengthens skin cells and increases fat burning 
  • Peptidesthese make up the connective tissue in your skin, and are also key in the production of collagen and elastin
  • Citrus Oils – boost the activity of the lymph glands, preventing poor circulation and cellulite 
Light Therapy

Light therapy makes use of different wavelengths, also known as colors, of light to target different parts of the skin. 

One of these wavelengths is red light, which has been proven to have an effect when it comes to cellulite. 

How? 

Due to the way in which red light is able to break down the cells that store fat, enabling the body to then flush these out. It also helps skin cells to perform more efficiently, enabling them to release any waste at a much faster rate. 

If that wasn’t enough…

Red light is able to increase the production of collagen and elastin in your skin, resulting in stronger, thicker and smoother skin, with less of a dimpled appearance.

Interested in giving light therapy a try? 

You have a couple of options…

You can either speak to your dermatologist about having this treatment carried out professionally. Alternatively, you could purchase your own light therapy device to use at home at your own convenience. Light therapy can be used to tackle such a wide range of different skin issues, from cellulite to wrinkles to hyperpigmentation, making these at-home devices well worth the investment in many cases. 

Cellulite can be frustrating to deal with, and can often have quite a detrimental effect on the mental health of those experiencing a more severe form of cellulite. While the thought of being stuck with cellulite for life can be depressing, there are so many treatments out there that can help to reduce the appearance of your cellulite to a point where you won’t be able to notice it much, so take some time to explore your many options.