Cellulite causes & treatment


Cellulite refers to the dimpled appearance of the skin seen in areas of the hips, thighs, and buttocks most commonly found in women. This is not a disease nor is it unhealthy, and in fact is found in over 85% of healthy women of all sizes. There are a plethora of creams, herbs, massage machines, and now injection treatments and lasers that promise remarkable improvement. A review of scientific literature, however, reveals that none of these treatments have been shown to be a “cure” for cellulite, or offer any long term, sustained improvement without ongoing treatment.


Under the skin, there are three layers of fat. The layer just below the skin is called the subcutaneous fat layer, below which are two reserve fat layers.

It is the fat in the subcutaneous fat layer that is responsible for the appearance of cellulite. The fat in this layer is divided into compartments by connective tissue strands that run from the skin to the bottom of the layer. In women, the compartments run vertically and can hold large amounts of fat. In men, the fat compartments are small diagonal units that are not capable of storing much fat, which is why cellulite is not usually seen in men.

The two reserve fat layers under the subcutaneous fat layer are in a loose network and do not contribute to cellulite. The amount of fat in these layers is determined by genetics and is influenced by diet and exercise.

The storage of fat in the subcutaneous fat layer is not dependant on diet or exercise, but is hormonally regulated. Cellulite is seen at times of hormonal surge, like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. While it may help to have less body fat in general so there is less fat in the subcutaneous layer, many thin women also have cellulite.

There has been much research into the physiologic changes that cause the appearance of cellulite and several facts are agreed on. There is a build-up of fat within the compartments which causes the appearance of bulging between the connective tissue strands. These strands stiffen, pulling down on their anchor points in the skin. The blood vessels servicing the fat cells are leaky, causing excessive fluid to build up within the compartments, and this is not removed adequately by the lymphatic system. These facts form the basis of some of the treatments that are offered for cellulite.


As was mentioned earlier, there are no scientifically proven, permanent treatments for cellulite. It is most important that the treatments cause no harm. There are definitely people who have seen results from different forms of cellulite treatments out there but one must balance the expense in time, money, and possible adverse effects with the result.


Following a healthy diet and regular exercise is beneficial for almost every aspect of healthy living. It can also help decrease the amount of cellulite in some people by reducing total body fat.


There are a great number of creams available to treat cellulite, ranging in price from just under $10.00 to hundreds of dollars. Results from creams for the treatment of cellulite are modest at best and not permanent. A cheaper cream is going to be as effective as a more expensive cream.

The best creams to use are those with caffeine or theophylline as there are studies that show it might have an effect on cellulite, although there are other studies that disagree. These are the most studied ingredients, however.


This was the first FDA approved device for the treatment of cellulite. It is a motorized device that suctions the skin with a vacuum and kneads it with a set of rollers. This form of deep massage is said to improve blood circulation, lymphatic drainage and stretch the connective tissue strands.

Some studies show a positive response to endermologie. There are no dangerous side effects to this treatment, but the average woman needs initially 15 – 18 treatments done biweekly, followed by monthly maintenance treatments. Each treatment session takes roughly an hour and costs $100 or more.


This is a treatment originating in France that involves the injection of a cocktail of homeopathic medications and supplements in a solution that supposedly breaks down fat and flushes it away. There is no FDA approval for this treatment, and no standardized solutions. At this time, there is insufficient evidence towards the safety and efficacy of this treatment for fat and cellulite.

There are, however, those that swear that this treatment works. Once again, one must balance the down side of this treatment including swelling, bruising, pain from multiple injections, as yet unknown long term effects of the treatment, and treatment cost (which can be considerable), with the expected positive outcome of the treatment.


There is no herb or vitamin that has shown to be effective on cellulite. Before trying these supplements, one should always check with their family doctor for drug interactions.


Liposuction is done on the fat in the deeper reserve layers of the skin and not in the subcutaneous layer, thus, while it can contour the body, one should not expect liposuction to vastly improve the appearance of cellulite.


There are several new FDA approved devices like the Tri-Active laser and the VelaSmooth for treatment of cellulite. These technologies combine deep tissue massage with other features, such as light and radiofrequency therapy. They generally require12 or more biweekly treatments followed by maintenance treatments thereafter, as results are not permanent. Again, cost is often an issue with these treatments as a series of treatments will usually cost more than $2000.00.


While there is nothing out there right now offering long lasting relief from those nasty bumps and dimples, research continues. For now, following a common-sense diet and exercise regime is the safest and likely most economical thing to do. If you must try a treatment for cellulite, chose a method that is safe and within your price bracket; keep your expectations low. Know that you are not alone, as even the most wealthy and famous women in the world also have cellulite.

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