What is cellulite?

Cellulite is the name for collections of fat that push against the connective tissue beneath your skin. It is commonly found on your thighs, stomach and buttocks. Cellulite makes the surface of the skin look lumpy and puckered, or appear dimpled.

How common is cellulite?

Most women, and some men, have cellulite. Your genes, sex, age, amount of fat on your body and the thickness of your skin determine how much cellulite you have and how visible it is. As you age, the skin loses elasticity and can make the appearance of cellulite more evident.

Although overweight people have pronounced cellulite, it is not uncommon for very lean women to also notice the appearance of cellulite.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the causes of cellulite?

Cellulite forms when fibrous bands connecting the skin to the underlying muscle tighten irregularly. This tightening pulls down on the skin and the normal layer of fat beneath the skin pushes upward. The result is a puckering appearance to the skin.

Management and Treatment

How is cellulite treated?

No treatments, medicines or creams can make cellulite go away. Cosmetic surgeons use a variety of treatments to temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite. These treatments include:

  • Deep massaging to puff up the skin
  • Acoustic wave therapy to break up cellulite with sound waves
  • Laser treatment to help thicken the skin
  • Liposuction to remove fat. However, it is deep fat, not necessarily cellulite.
  • Mesotherapy, in which drugs are injected into the cellulite
  • Subcision, in which a needle inserted under the skin breaks up tough bands causing cellulite
  • Creams and lotions containing caffeine or 0.3% retinol
  • Spa treatments, which can temporarily make cellulite less noticeable
  • Vacuum-assisted precise tissue release to cut tissue and fill out dimpled skin
  • Radiofrequency, ultrasound, infrared light, or radial pulses to heat skin

How is cellulite managed?

Cellulite may be managed by the following:

  • Reducing excess body fat through a well-balanced diet and exercise
  • Self-tanning products to help hide cellulite, since it is less noticeable on darker skin
  • Taking supplements that contain caffeine, grape seed extract or gingko biloba

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/17/2018.


  • American Academy of Dermatology. Cellulite treatments: What really works? (https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/cosmetic-treatments/cellulite-treatments) Accessed 1/15/2018.
  • American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Cellulite Treatments. (https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/procedure-learning-center/non-surgical-procedures/cellulite-treatments/) Accessed 1/15/2018.
  • American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery. Cellulite (permanent reduction). (http://www.aslms.org/for-the-public/treatments-using-lasers-and-energy-based-devices/cellulite) Accessed 1/15/2018.

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