Cellulite: Facts, Causes, and Treatment

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
Cellulite is a condition that affects up to 90% of women of all shapes and sizes worldwide. Read on to learn more about the facts, causes, and treatments for cellulite.

Cellulite is a normal skin condition that occurs in 80 to 90% of women of all shapes and sizes. It can start to appear past the age of puberty on the thighs, stomach and buttocks. Someone with cellulite will find that their skin appears dimpled. This happens when the fat cells right under the skin push the connective tissue on top of it, which in turn causes changes in the skin's appearance.

cellulite diagram (Photo credit)

Cellulite is more common in women than in men. This is largely because the connective tissue structure between men and women are different. Basically, connective tissue anchors muscle to the skin. In between the layer of muscle and skin is a layer of fat. In men, connective tissue is arranged in a criss-cross pattern that keeps fat in place. Women, on the other hand, have vertical bands of connective tissue. This makes it easier for fat cells to push through the tissue and create a bulged appearance on the skin's surface. Women's skin are also thinner than men's, which offers less resistance to the press of fat cells.

connective tissue men vs women (Photo credit)

What Causes Cellulite?

Although the exact causes of cellulite remain unclear, scientists believe that the female hormone estrogen has a lot to do with its appearance. This is supported by the fact that cellulite starts to appear at puberty when estrogen levels start to rise in a girl. Some studies even point out that estrogen can possibly cause connective tissue breakdown in specifc areas of the body, making it easier for fat cells to push through skin and grow larger. Enlarged fat cells then trigger the body to make more fat cells, which in turn influences the ovaries to make more estrogen. In rare cases, males who have very little testosterone or who receive estrogen therapy also develop cellulite.

Genetics also plays a role in the appearance of cellulite - some 10-20% of women do not develop cellulite because of their genes. Two genes, in particular, have been recently identified to be responsible for the development of cellulite: the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) and hypoxia-inducible factor 1A (HIF1a) genes.

Other factors that affect the development of cellulite include diet and stress. Rapid weight loss where more muscle than fat is lost may actually make cellulite worse, while weight loss accompanied by a reduction in total fat is often met with more favorable results. Constant exposure to elevated levels of stress hormones has also been found to make one more prone to developing cellulite.

cellulite (Photo credit)

How Do You Get Rid of Cellulite?

The sad fact is that there is no treatment that can totally eliminate cellulite. To do this, you will need to reconstruct the way your body makes and lays out connective tissue. There are, however, several ways in which you can improve the appearance of cellulite. One is through the use of cellulite creams. These creams contain ingredients like caffeine, aminophylline, theophylline and coleus forscholli that help break down fat under the skin. Not all compounds, however, can easily penetrate skin. Other creams also contain ingredients that only make the skin swell temporarily to lose its dimpled appearance.

Another way to temporarily get rid of cellulite is through special anti-cellulite massage treatments. These puff, pull, and gather the skin to redistribute the fat underneath. These does not, however, change how fat is laid out. Other scientists have also pointed out that this can further weaken the skin's support structure, thus making cellulite worse.

Another popular treatment is the use of anti-cellulite wraps. These, however, only decrease water retention and not fat on the skin. Liposuction is another method to consider, although it only siphons off deeper layers of fat and not the the ones underneath skin. Others turn to mesotherapy to get rid of cellulite. Although promising with an effect lasting up to 2 years, it is very expensive and requires up to 25 sessions for a marked improvement to appear.

A more long-term solution to keeping cellulite at bay is through proper diet and exercise. This ensures that fat cells are kept in check while the body remains firm and toned for improved skin appearance. Another key thing to understand when grappling with cellulite is that is is a perfectly normal, natural thing - learning to accept it may perhaps provide the greatest release for millions of women worldwide.


Emanuele E, Bertona M, Geroldi D. "A multilocus candidate approach identifies ACE and HIF1A as susceptibility genes for cellulite". Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 24.8(2010): 930–5.

Pugliese, P. The pathogenesis of cellulite: a new concept. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 6.2(2007):140-2

Rossi AB, Vergnanini AL (July 2000). "Cellulite: a review". Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 14.4(2000): 251–62.

Smalls LK, Hicks M, Passeretti D, et al. "Effect of weight loss on cellulite: gynoid lypodystrophy". Plastic Reconstrive Surgery. 118.2 (2006): 510–6.

Strickland, Jonathan. "Does using a body brush daily help with cellulite?" health.howstuffworks.com. Discovery Health, n.d.. Web. 28 January 2011.

Wanner M, Avram M. "An evidence-based assessment of treatments for cellulite". Journal of Drugs in Dermatology 7.4 (2008): 341–5.


Roberta Baxter
Posted on Apr 17, 2011
Posted on Feb 10, 2011
B W1
Posted on Feb 9, 2011
Andi Allegre
Posted on Jan 28, 2011
dakshina banumathy
Posted on Jan 28, 2011
Ron Siojo
Posted on Jan 28, 2011
Donata L.
Posted on Jan 27, 2011