If you’re feeling self-conscious about cellulite, you
have lots of company. With 85 percent of women developing cellulite at some point,
almost all of us have this weird, bumpy fat somewhere on our bodies.
So what is cellulite and why do so many women have it? Does anything really reduce
cellulite? Perhaps, more important, is there anything you can do to change how you
feel about cellulite — and your body?
Let’s take a look underneath your skin to understand how cellulite forms in the
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is fat by another name. It develops when underlying fat deposits push
through the layers of collagen fibers, or connective tissue, under your skin. Cellulite
is lumpy and bumpy and typically appears in places where your body tends to store
fat — your thighs, buttocks, upper arms and belly.
Women of any shape, size and age can develop cellulite. But, despite what magazines
in the supermarket checkout line lead us to believe, cellulite is not some dire
disease that needs to be fixed by the latest miracle cure.
Cellulite and your hormones
The appearance of cellulite can be stressful for women who don’t like it and wish
it would disappear. Cellulite is often linked to hormonal transitions. After puberty,
estrogen circulating in your body triggers fluid build-up in fatty tissue. Beneath
the skin, this “plumped up” fatty tissue is more likely to strain against the collagen
fibers beneath your skin’s surface, creating cellulite’s distinctive “orange peel”
texture and appearance.
During pregnancy, the same hormonal changes that can cause stretch marks make you
more prone to developing cellulite. But estrogen also regulates your body’s production
of collagen. When estrogen levels eventually begin to fluctuate and drop during
perimenopause and menopause, collagen production also decreases.
Less available collagen means weaker connective tissues and thinner skin, creating
near-ideal conditions for cellulite to show up. This is why so many women first
notice cellulite’s telltale “cottage cheese” skin as they enter perimenopause.
Estrogen is also a key hormone involved in healthy vascular circulation in women.
When estrogen levels fluctuate, it reduces blood circulation to the connective tissues,
weakening them in the process. These hormonal changes also affect lymphatic circulation.
That leaves stagnant lymph trapped in weakened connective tissue and may increase
the appearance of cellulite.
Estrogen can also contribute to cellulite by adding fat. Excess fat accumulation
can be triggered by estrogen dominance, a common hormonal imbalance in which
too much estrogen circulates in the body. Estrogen dominance can happen at any time
in a woman's life — even during perimenopause and menopause.
Other factors that contribute to cellulite
Being overweight can make cellulite more noticeable. The more fat stored beneath
your skin, the more likely it is to stress your connective tissue and cause the
skin to dimple.
Poor muscle tone can make cellulite look even worse. Smoking cigarettes is another
known contributor to cellulite. Smoking reduces healthy circulation and disrupts
your body’s ability to form collagen. (Consider this yet another reason to quit!)
But it’s also true that many of us may simply be genetically predisposed to cellulite,
even if we’re very fit and slender.
8 ways to naturally reduce the appearance of cellulite
People spend about $62 million per year on products and procedures that promise
to banish cellulite and return skin to its former smoothness. But as studies show,
most of these wraps, creams and gizmos just can’t deliver on that promise.
Try these natural tips to improve your skin’s appearance:
Stay hydrated: Drink lots of water every day to keep
your connective tissue strong and supple. You can increase fluid intake by eating
more foods with higher water content, such as cucumbers, bell peppers and celery.
Drink bone broth: To get extra collagen into your
body, add soothing bone broth to your diet. The best kind of bone broth is homemade.
Take leftover bones from meat dishes, or get beef bones from the supermarket meat
department, and simmer in water for 8-24 hours. Add a little apple cider vinegar
to release as much collagen as possible.
Jump around: Different forms of exercise help reduce
the appearance of cellulite in different ways. Aerobic exercise is great for overall
circulation which is good for collagen. Squats, lunges, and other strength training
exercises firm and tone the muscles which will, in turn, tighten the skin, making
cellulite less noticeable.
Lose a few pounds: If you are overweight, dropping
some of your excess weight will reduce the appearance of cellulite. But do it slowly
because crash diets that promote rapid weight loss can leave your skin in worse
condition because they aren’t nutritious. Eat a
Mediterranean-style diet that promotes sustained, healthy weight loss.
Dry-brush your skin: To improve circulation, use
a dry bath brush or loofah to gently brush your skin in one direction, toward your
heart. Dry-brushing can help move stagnant lymph along its one-way circuit, and
can make the skin feel softer and smoother.
Try self-massage: Like dry brushing, massage helps
with circulation and fluid drainage and may temporarily improve the appearance of
your skin. Using strong but gentle pressure, stroke your skin with your hands in
the direction of your heart. You can get a good amount of pressure when you use
massage balls or rollers. Better yet, put yourself in good hands and book an appointment
with a good massage therapist.
Take a good multivitamin: Your skin and connective
tissue require constant nourishment. Key vitamins for healthy skin are vitamin C
(critical for collagen production) and beta carotene, which your body uses to replenish
and repair skin cells. Take a
quality multivitamin helps ensure that your skin and supportive tissue get
what they need to stay healthy and strong.
Make your own coffee skin scrub: Caffeine-containing
ingredients applied topically may improve circulation in the skin and help exfoliate
dead skin cells. Try this DIY brown sugar coffee scrub with moisturizing coconut
- 1/4 cup used coffee grounds
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
Combine ingredients to create a paste and store in a jar for up to two weeks. Use
in the shower as you would any skin scrub, and rinse.
Love the skin you’re in
Did you know that cellulite wasn’t even a word until 1922 when it was invented by
French doctors? Perhaps not coincidentally, that was the same time as women’s hemlines
started to rise. So is cellulite just another made-up problem manufactured to make
women feel self-conscious enough to blow a lot of money on gimmicky products that
just don’t work?
We certainly have our suspicions. But here we are in the midst of an airbrushed
world where even candid snap shots on social media are carefully cropped and filtered
to hide our “imperfections.” Perhaps it’s time to at least think about embracing
who we are so we can love the skin we’re in.
After all, every body is beautiful.
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Kravitz, Len and Achenbach, Nicole J. “Cellulite: A Review of its Anatomy, Physiology
and Treatment” - https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/cellulite2.html
Leszko, Marta. “Cellulite in Menopause.” Przegla̜d Menopauzalny = Menopause Review
13.5 (2014): 298–304. PMC. Web. 21 June 2017.
Louis, Catherine. “Plenty of Treatments, but No Cure for Cellulite” NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/fashion/25skinintro.html
Rawlings, A. V. (2006), Cellulite and its treatment. International Journal of Cosmetic
Science, 28: 175–190. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00318.x