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We’ve all dreaded it, but knew that some day our time would come — we’d have those dimpled thighs we saw on dear Aunt Mildred. What exactly causes those dreaded lumps and bumps? Is there any way to avoid or treat it?
What Exactly is Cellulite?
Cellulite is so common that doctors consider it to be a normal consequence of puberty in women. Doctors still aren’t entirely certain why cellulite develops (sigh), but they do know that areas with cellulite have a different composition.
On the skin surface, cellulite shows up as dimpling and bumpiness of the skin, chiefly in the thighs, bottom and abdomen. Underneath the skin, fat that should be lying flat is protruding up into the dermis. Connective tissue bands that help support the skin are thickened, irregular and often shortened. The bands also run in different directions in individuals affected by cellulite. The result is an uneven connective tissue base with protrusions of fat into the dermis.
Who Gets Cellulite?
Cellulite is nearly universal in women, regardless of ethnicity or weight. However, it is more common in Caucasians than other ethnic groups. Cellulite is more pronounced in the overweight, as the protrusions of fat into the dermis are larger and more likely to result in bumps on the skin surface. (A sedentary lifestyle and pregnancy are also more likely to contribute to cellulite.) Cellulite does seem to have a genetic component, so chances are that if your mother has cellulite, you will too — thanks, Mom.
What Can be Done to Treat Cellulite?
Since few randomized clinical studies of cellulite have been published in peer reviewed medical journals, there isn’t a lot of information about successful treatments. Most treatments have shown mild improvements that aren’t maintainable.
The ideal treatment would be a cream that worked immediately and had long-term results with minimal side effects. While there are many products on the market, many women with cellulite feel they aren’t worth their time. Topical anti-cellulite creams contain caffeine or related chemicals. They act as a diuretic, helping to decrease excess fluid and tightening the skin — though only temporarily.
Could a Cream Help You Over the Long Term?
“No topical treatment works, yet” says Dr. Tony Nakhla, a dermatologist in Southern California and author of The Skin Commandments: 10 Rules to Healthy, Beautiful Skin.
If you’re interested in a more invasive treatment, there are a few choices.
“The best treatment for women who have tried diet and exercise is a procedure called subcision where small incisions are made to cut those scar tissue fibers under the skin. This treatment works great for limited areas of cellulite. Larger areas require liposuction, which is also a great option,” says Dr. Nakhla.