Cellulite is the name for collections of fat that push against the connective tissue beneath your skin. It often appears on your thighs, stomach and buttocks. Cellulite makes the surface of the skin look lumpy and puckered, or appear dimpled.
Cellulite is the name for collections of fat that push against the connective tissue beneath your skin. It often appears on your thighs, stomach and butt (buttocks). Cellulite makes the surface of your skin look lumpy and puckered, or appear dimpled.
Lipedema is a medical condition that causes excess fat to accumulate in the lower part of the body. Lipedema most often involves the buttocks, thighs and calves. The upper arms are sometimes affected. It doesn’t affect the hands or feet.
Lipedema causes your skin to become sensitive. If you have lipedema, your skin may hurt, swell, feel cold or bruise easily. Your skin’s texture often changes as well—it may look like cottage cheese, oatmeal or an orange peel. As lipedema gets worse, it can affect your ability to walk.
Cellulite is a cosmetic condition. It also most often involves the stomach, butt and thighs, and it also looks like cottage cheese, oatmeal or an orange peel. Cellulite may look embarrassing, but it isn’t painful.
Cellulite affects men and women. However, women get cellulite at a much higher rate than men.
Cellulite is very common. Between 80% and 90% of all women who’ve gone through puberty have cellulite. Less than 10% of men have cellulite.
Genetics, sex, age, the amount of fat on your body and your skin’s thickness determine how much cellulite you have and how visible it is. As you age, your skin loses elasticity and can make the appearance of cellulite more evident. Gaining weight can also make the appearance of cellulite more prominent.
Although people with obesity have pronounced cellulite, it’s not uncommon for very lean people to notice the appearance of cellulite.
Cellulite doesn’t affect your overall physical health, and it doesn’t hurt. However, you may not like how it looks and wish to hide it.
Cellulite looks like lumpy or dimpling skin. It may be visible at all times or only when you pinch your skin. Cellulite affects your stomach, thighs and butt.
Cellulite has four grades:
It’s not known what exactly causes cellulite. Cellulite forms when fibrous bands connecting your skin to the underlying muscle tighten irregularly. This tightening pulls down on your skin, and the normal layer of fat beneath the skin pushes upward. The result is a puckering appearance to the skin.
It’s also not known why cellulite is more common in women than men. One theory involves the bands connecting your skin, your hypodermis (subcutaneous tissue) and deep muscle layers. In men, the fibers that make up the connective bands crisscross together. In women, the fibers that make up the connective bands run the same direction and are an equal distance apart (parallel). Parallel bands may show puckering better than crisscross bands.
Another theory is that higher amounts of the hormone estrogen may cause cellulite. Cellulite often develops when women produce more estrogen, usually during adolescence or pregnancy.
Cellulite isn’t contagious. You can’t spread cellulite through skin-to-skin contact.
Cellulite is easy to recognize, so you don’t necessarily need a healthcare professional to diagnose it. However, a healthcare professional can diagnose cellulite during a physical examination.
People of all body shapes have cellulite. It’s natural, but it looks puckered or dimpled because of the way that fat pushes against your connective tissue. You can’t completely get rid of it, but there are ways to improve its appearance.
A combination of exercise, diet and treatments can reduce the appearance of cellulite. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved several treatments for cellulite, including Cellfina®, Cellulaze® and Qwo®. These can improve the appearance of dimples on your skin.
Cosmetic surgeons also use a variety of treatments to reduce the appearance of cellulite temporarily. These treatments include:
Exercise can help improve the appearance of cellulite. Regular exercise increases your muscle mass, which flattens cellulite. It also increases blood flow to certain areas of your body, which speeds up fat loss. The following activities can help improve the appearance of your cellulite:
You can eat what you like if you have cellulite, but bad eating habits increase your risk of developing cellulite. A high-calorie diet that features a lot of carbohydrates, fats, preservatives and salt may contribute to the development of more cellulite.
Ginkgo biloba is an herbal product frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine. Studies show that ginkgo biloba may cause an increase in blood flow to many parts of the body. An increase in blood flow in your stomach, legs and butt may reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Grape-seed extract comes from grinding up grape seeds. Traditional European medicine has used grape-seed extract for a long time. Like ginkgo biloba, grape-seed extract may increase blood flow to many parts of the body, which can reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Cupping is a form of traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern medicine. A healthcare provider places cups on parts of your body, and suction force pulls your skin upward. Small studies show that cupping may decrease the amount of cellulite in your body. However, there’s not yet enough research to draw definite conclusions.
Dry brushing involves using a dry, stiff-bristled brush to massage your skin. When you dry brush your skin, your skin temporarily puffs up due to increased blood circulation. There are claims that dry brushing can reduce cellulite. However, there isn’t any proof that dry brushing reduces the appearance of cellulite. Cellulite appears to go away, but it’s likely a temporary reduction because your skin has puffed up.
Many people use handheld massage devices, foam rollers or cellulite rollers to try to break up cellulite. There isn’t any evidence that suggests these tools improve the long-term appearance of cellulite.
It’s important to remember that your body is unique. Your results will depend on what treatments you and your healthcare provider decide are best. For example:
You can’t do anything that guarantees you won’t get cellulite. But there are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk, including:
You can’t get rid of cellulite. But, it’s not harmful to your overall health. You can reduce the appearance of cellulite through a combination of exercise, diet and treatments.
It isn’t necessary to see your healthcare provider about cellulite. However, if you’d like to explore treatment options, talk to your healthcare provider. Certain creams or treatments may cause bad skin reactions. Before you start any exercise program, talk to your healthcare provider.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Cellulite is a common skin condition that affects everyone. However, women who have gone through puberty are far more likely to develop cellulite. Despite how common it is, you may not like how cellulite looks on your body. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can reduce the appearance of cellulite. Together, you can decide what treatment is best for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/28/2021.
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