While its name may make it sound like a medical condition, cellulite is simply normal fat deposits beneath the skin creating a lumpy, dimpled surface. While it’s most common on the thighs and bottom, cellulite can also occur on the abdomen, upper arms and breasts, too. Although purely a cosmetic problem and not harmful, many are willing to go to great lengths to minimise its appearance.

What is the cause?

Cellulite is caused by fat deposits that sit side-by-side with tough collagen fibres anchored to the muscle beneath. When the fibres pull tight, or the fatty areas grow larger, the fat deposits may bulge out which causes the skin to pucker.

Who is affected?

Women are more likely to develop cellulite than men, but instances among males are not unheard of. Contrary to popular belief, cellulite isn’t a sign of being overweight and it can occur whatever your shape and size. Experts believe genes play an important role – for example, if other women in your family have cellulite then there’s a good chance you will too – as well as hormonal factors and ageing.

Cellulite is something that most women will experience, however, certain factors may influence the amount and how visible it is:

  • Poor diet
  • Slow metabolism
  • Lack of exercise
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dehydration
  • The thickness and colour of skin
  • Total body fat

Common treatments

There are many product and treatment options available that promise to help with the appearance of cellulite, however there is little evidence that any of them work well or permanently. Here’s what you need to know about some of the options:

Cellulite creams. Proclaiming to dissolve fat and smooth skin, there’s an endless choice of cellulite creams – however there is little scientific evidence that they are effective.

Mesotherapy. A therapy originally developed to relieve pain of inflammatory skin conditions, mesotherapy involves injecting substances such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes into the tissue just beneath the skin. Although this process may break down fat and bring a slight improvement in the appearance of cellulite, it is an extreme procedure that carries the risk of adverse effects including swelling, infection and irregular contours.

Massage and spa treatments. Massage and other spa treatments such as wraps may have a temporary effect on the dimpling appearance of skin due to the removal of excess fluid. However, cellulite usually returns after the treatments stop.

The future. Although current therapies do little to reduce cellulite, new procedures are frequently being studied. Using red and infrared light emitting diodes (LEDs) to emit wavelengths, known to disrupt fat tissue, in combination with rollers and suctions is a method currently being tested.

Wellbeing tips

Keep moving!

Experts are in agreement that exercise is the most effective course of action – it may not get rid of cellulite but it can help improve skin and muscle tone. Combine aerobic exercise and strength training with a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fibre.

Drink up

Wisdom we’re happy to repeat over and over again is the importance of water. It hydrates skin cells, flushes out impurities, and improves circulation and blood flow, so make sure you’re drinking plenty.