Cellulite 101: What Is It, Why Do We Get It And How Do We Get Rid Of It?

June 15, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

Hello, summer! Are you stoked for bikinis, short-shorts, mico minis and bare legs for days?! Unfortunately, the glorious warm weather also highlights a fact of life that many women wish would take a long walk off a short pier: cellulite. The lumps and bumps we associate with cellulite plague 90 percent of women (and 10 percent of men) and affect both extremely thin and overweight women.

Most women know what cellulite looks like, but ask us what it is and why we have it (or, most importantly, how to get rid of it) and you’ll likely be met with blank stares. Here, Dr. David E. Bank, a certified dermatologist at The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, NY breaks it down for us.

 What Is Cellulite?

Cellulite is a condition where skin appears dimpled because underlying fat deposits push against the connective tissue underneath the skin, causing it to pucker. In women, connective bands run in vertical columns rather than a crisscross netted pattern like in men, making women predisposed to cellulite. Although not well understood, theories for an explanation of cellulite include hormonal factors, genetics, diet, lifestyle factors and clothing.

Is Cellulite Preventable?

To a certain extent, cellulite can be minimized with regular diet, exercise, and massage therapy to stimulate blood flow. But when estrogen levels increase and collagen levels decrease, certain areas of the body are more susceptible to forming cellulite.

Since we should all be treating our bodies like the temples they are, a regular workout routine is crucial for health reasons–and could have the added benefit of reducing cellulite. “I highly recommend power plate training, jumping rope, Urban rebounding and walking or running outdoors. Any high-impact exercise that makes you bounce. Bouncing actually shakes up the lymphatic system along with the endocrine system for great exercise detox and may help reduce the appearance of cellulite,” says fitness expert Nikki Benfatto.

Although Benfatto cautions that you can’t spot target cellulite, there are moves that will tone up notoriously problematic areas. “Keeping your muscles toned is key,” she says. “Pilates covers all of the bases from fat metabolism to toning muscles, straight to flexibility and spine re-alignment. Women need to remember that the more lean muscle we have the more fat burning machinery we have, so don’t be afraid to get in the gym and lift.”

Can Cellulite Be Treated?

In recent years, certain treatments have been proven to help reduce the appearance of cellulite. When diet and exercise don’t work, in office procedures, such as Thermage, can improve targeted areas of cellulite. Patients who have done Thermage have cited improvements in appearance of cellulite as well as overall tightness and firmness of skin. Thermage is a safe and effective way to tighten and contour skin non-surgically which can sometimes camouflage cellulite. It works by targeting all three layers of skin to renew skin’s collagen and uses radiofrequency, which works to tighten skin and improve tone and texture in a one time treatment that lasts 18-24 months. Also, there is no downtime so you can resume normal activity immediately following.

Retinol creams help boost collagen levels to make skin firmer and tighter, but there isn’t a cream that completely removes cellulite. Effective ingredients found in cellulite creams are hyaluronic acid, caffeine and squalane. Hyaluronic acid boosts collagen production and elasticity, caffeine increases circulation that can improve lymphatic drainage, and squalane is oil that hydrates skin to keep skin looking smooth and youthful. One to try? Dr. Brandt Cellusculpt, which contains caffeine, features a roller-ball massage applicator and is free of drying alcohol.

Lastly, there is a cellulite treatment called mesotheraphy thats consists of a series of vitamin and plant extract injections to flush out fat cells. While it’s been around for many years, there is no conclusive research to prove mesotheraphy is an effective method for eliminating cellulite.

Does Diet Really Matter?

Eating healthily and avoiding fats, carbohydrates and sugars are all ways to help beat cellulite. Salmon is a good choice because it is packed full of antioxidants that break down fat cells. Fruits like blackberries and blueberries also boost collagen production giving you healthier looking skin. Herbal tea, such as green or ginger teas include the active ingredient Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which aids in speeding up your metabolism. The caffeine also works to clear out toxins and minimize fat cells — all leading to reduced cellulite dimpling.

Benfatto adds, “Diet is absolutely everything. Eating clean , gluten free, GMO-free, and chemical free is an absolute must. Hydration of clear water and keeping the digestive system in check is key. You want to have a healthy gut that can break down macro nutrients without having any bowel issues. We want food in, assimilated, and out–ASAP.”

Remember: most women have cellulite. You’re not alone and life is too short to obsess over a few fat cells. Stay healthy, strong, and proud of your beach body.

For more beauty tips, check out why women are now shaving their faces and the 5 best sunscreens for women with sensitive skin.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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