Cellulite is a condition in which the skin appears to have areas with underlying fat deposits, giving it a dimpled, lumpy appearance. It is most noticeable on the buttocks and thighs, and usually occurs after puberty.
Cellulite is also known as adiposis edematosa, dermopanniculosis deformans, status protrusus cutis, and gynoid lipodystrophy in the medical field and as orange peel syndrome, cottage cheese skin, hail damage, and the mattress phenomenon in colloquial language.
Dermatologists say that cellulite may affect up to 90% of women at some point in their lives.
Cellulite is often classified using three grades:
- Grade 1 cellulite sees no clinical symptoms, but a microscopic examination of cells from the area detects underlying anatomical changes.
- Grade 2 cellulite requires the skin to show pallor (pastiness), be lower temperature, and have decreased elasticity, in addition to anatomical changes noted by microscopic examinations.
- Grade 3 cellulite has visible roughness of the skin (like an orange peel) along with all grade 2 signs.
Although cellulite can affect both sexes, it is much more common in females, mainly because they are more likely to have particular types of fat and connective tissue.
Causes of cellulite
The causes of cellulite are not well understood, but there are several theories that have been put forth as explanations. Among these are:
- Hormonal factors - hormones likely play an important role in cellulite development. Many believe estrogen, insulin, noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and prolactin are part of the cellulite production process.
- Genetics - certain genes are required for cellulite development. Genes may predispose an individual to particular characteristics associated with cellulite, such as gender, race, slow metabolism, distribution of fat just underneath the skin, and circulatory insufficiency.
- Diet - people who eat too much fat, carbohydrates, or salt and too little fiber are likely to have greater amounts of cellulite.
- Lifestyle factors - cellulite may be more prevalent in smokers, those who do not exercise, and those who sit or stand in one position for long periods of time.
- Clothing - underwear with tight elastic across the buttocks (limiting blood flow) may contribute to the formation of cellulite.
Cellulite treatments and removal
There are several therapies that have been suggested to remove cellulite, but none have been supported in the scientific or medical literature.
Therapeutic methods for cellulite that are physical or mechanical include:
- pneumatic massages
- massages that stimulate lymphatic flow
- heat therapy
- radio frequency therapy
- magnetic therapy
- radial waves therapy
- electrical stimulation
Unfortunately, none of these methods have been scientifically proven to work.
A second class of cellulite removal strategies consists of drugs that are supposed to act on fatty tissues. There is a wide range of pharmacological agents which are used for getting rid of cellulite, including:
- methylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine)
- beta-agonists and adrenaline
- amino acids
- ginkgo biloba
- Indian chestnut
Cellulite may affect up to 90% of women at some point in their lives.
People with cellulite have tried to apply these agents topically, orally, or by injection, but none have been proved effective.
Some people with cellulite wear special clothing called compression garments to reduce the appearance of cellulite. These garments try to compress arteries and increase blood and lymph flow to reduce visual cellulite.
Cellulite reduction techniques such as liposuction and dieting actually do not remove cellulite. However, eating a healthful, balanced diet and exercising may be the best way to reduce the fat content in cells and reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Do anti-cellulite creams work?
There is currently no medical research to support the effectiveness of anti-cellulite creams in getting rid of cellulite.
Dr. Lisa M. Donofrio, an assistant professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine, and Tulane University School of Medicine, said in 2003 that there is no scientific proof that anti-cellulite creams work, and there is no concrete way to measure cellulite, either. She tells her patients that cellulite is normal, and is likely the product of genetics and hormones.Dr. Garry S. Brody, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California agrees with this statement: "Women who believe that they can eliminate cellulite through creams, or even weight loss, are likely to be disappointed."
He continued: "So-called cellulite is the natural anatomic contour characteristic of many women's thighs and buttocks. It is unrelated to weight gain or loss. There is absolutely no surgical or medical solution to women's dislike of this appearance except for the psychological self-deception of wanting to believe the ads."
Eating healthy, low fat foods such as fruits, vegetables, and fiber can help one to avoid cellulite. Similarly exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress are recommended to prevent cellulite.
In addition wearing thongs, boyshorts, or looser fitting undergarments can prevent cellulite that might form due to tight elastic.