The idea of cellulite makes some people hide in shame. Unfortunately, it affects most women and some men in the U.S. at some point during their lifetime – even without being overweight. Because it is perceived as highly unattractive, there have been many “quick” remedies advertised, which like most “miracle cures,” don’t work. Diet may be a contributing factor but there are a number of reasons why cellulite happens and no treatment is guaranteed to work.
What is cellulite?
Known by many unflattering names like “orange peel” and “cottage cheese” skin, most people know what cellulite looks like – those bumpy-appearing areas of fat deposits. It is most common on the back of the thighs and buttocks but it can show up elsewhere. It occurs when fat cells become larger and push against and through connective tissue to show beneath the skin as a dimpled area. It occurs in most women and some men and because it is a natural condition, it is hard to treat.
What causes cellulite?
There are a lot of theories, but the underlying causes of cellulite aren’t well understood. It occurs more commonly in women, possibly for a number of reasons. It may be related to lifestyle factors like diet and lack of activity. Even the elastic bands in underwear and other tight garments have been implicated, but development may be more affected by age, genetics and estrogen levels. Cellulite most commonly affects the buttocks, hips and thighs but can appear other places and though weight gain can make it look worse, it happens in thin people as well. It also tends to run in families and can get worse as people age.
Can cellulite be treated?
There is no “cure” for cellulite. Though it might look worse in people who are overweight, even lean people can have cellulite. It tends to get worse with age but can appear even in the very young. Though it happens when there are too many, large fat cells under the skin – dramatic weight loss and liposuction may make it look worse. Reducing the appearance of cellulite may involve a combination of non-surgical techniques, improving skin tone, and improvements in lifestyle, like exercise, and a healthy diet.
Will diet improve cellulite?
Certainly, improving the diet may help with the appearance of cellulite but other factors are also important. Increasing physical activity may help increase overall blood supply to the area which will improve the health of the skin. Discontinuing smoking can also have positive effects on overall appearance. Despite claims to the contrary, cellulite is not caused by certain foods – nor are there any magic diets to take it away.
What will improve cellulite?
The treatment of cellulite may be different from one person to the next. Topical prescription creams and lotions which contain methylxanthines have been said to help but long-term evidence says otherwise. These medications may temporarily increase blood supply to the skin and connective tissue, making them firmer and improving the appearance but the effects will likely wear off in a few days or weeks . Other treatments such as lymphatic massage, heat therapy, ultrasound and radiofrequency therapy, and magnetic therapies may also appear to help, but most of the effects are caused by temporary swelling in the area and will not be not long term solutions.
Recently the use of a device, known a Cellfina, was approved by the FDA for the treatment of cellulite. It works by reducing the constriction of the “bands” of connective tissue through subcision (subcutaneous incision) to decrease the bumpy appearance caused by fat cells pushing through underneath the skin. It is considered to be a minimally-invasive procedure and is conducted under local anesthesia, often as an in-office procedure. The full effect may take up to one-year to appear.
Cellulite remains a near-universal problem for most American woman, so there is continuing incentive to develop effective treatments. Though this therapy is promising, none have “hit the jackpot” yet. Women and men who are bothered by cellulite deposits on their bodies should talk to their board-certified plastic surgeon about the options for treatment and chances of success. In the meantime, improving the diet, increasing physical activity levels, and becoming less sedentary may help.