Cellulite Explained and What To Do About It

Cellulite Explained and What You Can Do About It

Let’s start with the basic premise that there is nothing wrong with having cellulite. It is normal, natural and very common. Your body is just as beautiful with or without cellulite, and it’s time to remove the shame around it. One of the ways we can do this is to bust beauty industry myths that tell us cellulite is disgusting. To change the thinking around it, we need to understand what cellulite really is, how it appears on our bodies, and what we can do about it.

Blame the anti-cellulite beauty industry

I will say it again. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you if you have cellulite. But the beauty industry would have you believe otherwise. Women, in particular, have been targeted by beauty brands that tell us our bodies are flawed if we have cellulite. It makes us unattractive, undesirable and hideous. They have the solution though! We can get rid of it if we buy an anti-cellulite cream, spend a fortune salon treatments, or even go as far as plastic surgery. There is a lot of money to be made in shaming women into believing that having cellulite makes them less attractive.

Cellulite is not a condition

90% of women worldwide have cellulite. I’m sorry, but you can’t call something that the overwhelming majority of women have a “condition.” It’s a normal part of life. It’s part of our biology. Get used to it. Calling it a condition makes it sound like a disease that needs to be cured, which just feeds into women’s insecurities and makes them vulnerable to false advertising claims. Let’s start by not calling cellulite a “condition” or any variation of the word “condition” that makes it sounds like an affliction that needs to be treated.

It’s got nothing to do with weight gain or loss

Women of every shape and size have cellulite. It’s a myth that you only get cellulite when you’re overweight. It’s also a myth that cellulite will disappear if you lose weight. You can ignore diets, workout plans and supplements that claim to reduce cellulite. They won’t, and the lack of results will be frustrating. Curvy women, slim women, even fit women with highly toned muscles all get cellulite. Babies have cellulite too. You’re born with it! It’s time to let go of the idea that it’s something we can control. 

Women of all shapes and sizes get cellulite

Cellulite Explained

Let’s start by understanding what Cellulite actually is. Your skin is made up of lots of layers and tissue structures. You have the epidermis layer on top that you can see, also known as your skin. Then you have the dermis layer beneath that. Within the dermis is the Aerolar layer that is formed by fat cells. Connective tissue called Fascia Superficialis that separates the dermis layer from the lamellar layer below. More facia (connective tissue) runs vertically through the dermis layer connecting the top epidermis layer to the horizontal facia layer that separates the dermis from the lamellar layer, basically forming a structure that holds things together.

Cellulite appears when new fat cells grow and get bigger in the Aerolar and Lamellar layers. These new or larger fat cells push the skin upwards, except at the points where the fascia (connective tissue) connects the epidermis to the layer of fascia above the Fascia Superficialis. The facia act as anchor points that pull the skin downwards at those specific points, creating the dimpled effect on the surface of the skin that we call cellulite.

Skin layer diagram showing how cellulite forms under the skin

Cellulite is formed by the way fat cells behave and grow in the body, but again, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with weight gain. You can’t stop cellulite by losing weight or trying to prevent weight gain.

Hormones are part of the equation

Estrogen

Estrogen is a hormone that women have in much higher levels than men and it plays a big role in cellulite formation. You need your hormones to function properly for a healthy body, so again, this is not something you can control. Estrogen stimulates fat cell growth and retention. It also prevents fat cell breakdown. Estrogen also stimulates the lipoprotein lipase enzyme that speeds up the rate of fat cell production. These body processes are completely natural and vital to our health. The ability to grow and retain fat cells is also likely a very important part of our survival as women. We can thank them for being here today, so don’t hate the hormones!

Prolactin

If you are or have been pregnant, a hormone called Prolactin that allows you to breastfeed can increase cellulite because it causes your body to retain water in the fatty tissue layers. Again, this is not something you can control. Your body is responding to a natural biological need to feed your baby. It’s a good thing!

Insulin

The hormone insulin also plays a role in cellulite formation, and this is something we can actually control to some degree with healthier choices.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates our blood glucose levels. If you eat a lot of carbs or sugar, your body releases insulin to control the glucose (sugar) that enters your bloodstream from the carbs or sugar you’ve consumed.

Alcohol messes with your blood sugar levels too and causes insulin to be released every time you have a drink.

Consuming alcohol increases insulin levels which can lead to cellulite

Some research suggests that coffee may also have an effect on blood sugar levels, which could stimulate insulin production.

If you eat too much sugar or carbs, drink too much alcohol, or you are not very active, insulin will send the glucose to your fat cells to be stored as fat. Enter our skin diagram from earlier. The fat reserves in the Lamellar layer increase in size because of the increased glucose levels, which crowds and pushes up the fat cells in the Areolar layer. The connective tissue continues to hold the epidermis to the Fascia Superficialis, causing the cellulite dimpled effect. 

Skin layer diagram showing how fat cells and skin fascia create the dimpled cellulite appearance

Can I Do Anything About the Cellulite I Already Have?

Honestly, no. Creams will claim to have powerful anti-cellulite technology, but a cream can’t change the structure and behaviour of your fat cells. They also can’t change the totally natural and healthy fat cell production that happens in your body, nor should you want them to. 

Full disclosure, I went through a phase of hating the cellulite on my legs. I tried something called body brushing to get rid of it. This is where you take a body brush and brush your skin in upwards or downwards strokes towards your heart. It’s supposed to increase circulation and move cellulite around. I did this for over a year. I’m sure body brushing is great for your skin and circulation, but it did nothing at all to reduce my cellulite. It’s still there, exactly the same as it ever was.

Can I Prevent Cellulite?

Yes and no. There are a lot of factors in your body that create cellulite that you absolutely cannot control. Your genetics, your hormones, normal fat cell production, the way the tissue structures in your body behave.

The thing you can control is the healthy choices you make. You can minimise insulin’s effect on cellulite formation by making healthy food choices, eating the right amount of carbs for your body and activity level, and keeping sugar to a minimum.

Drink alcohol and coffee in moderation. It’s likely that these also spike your insulin levels and increase the chances of forming cellulite. Coffee and alcohol moderation is just a good idea in general too. They’re not great for you, so keeping your consumption reasonable is doing your body a huge favour, whether it prevents cellulite or not.

Being active also lowers insulin production in your body. Aim for thirty minutes of moving your body every day, whether that is walking to and from work, taking a class at the gym, doing yoga at home, or picking up a sport like running or mountain biking.

An active lifestyle lowers insulin levels which may help prevent cellulite

Embrace Your Body

The best thing you can do is accept your cellulite and embrace your body and all of its natural beauty. Don’t let someone trying to sell you an anti-cellulite product have you believe otherwise. It’s simply not true.

Here is your simple recipe for cellulite acceptance:

  • Love your body, including your cellulite.
  • Eat well, drink alcohol and coffee in moderation (or not at all).
  • Be active every day
  • Take care of your emotional health.
Leave a Reply