Cellulite affects 90 percent of women and 10 percent of men.
So if you're concerned about the cottage cheese-like lumps on your butt, thighs, and/or calves, then keep reading, because today you're going to learn everything you to need to know about why you get cellulite and how to get rid of cellulite.
Why You Get Cellulite
To understand what causes cellulite, you first need to know about something called collagen. You've probably heard of collagen in reference to celebrities who get their faces injected with it to reverse the signs of aging.
Basically, collagen is a protein that helps to form the connective tissue in your tendons, ligaments and skin. If your collagen isn't formed properly or becomes damaged, then that connective tissue can become too thin or full of holes, and the fat underneath your skin can poke through in that unsightly, lumpy fashion that we affectionately refer to as cellulite.
You can think about it this way: Collagen is like a paper bag and the fat is like the groceries inside that paper bag. If the bag gets damaged, wet, or stretched too thin, all the groceries can bulge out.
And when that happens, you get cellulite.
To maintain its internal integrity, collagen needs oxygen and nutrients from blood. But with age and a concomitant decrease in estrogen levels, blood vessels in the lower body (especially in the upper calves, thighs, and butt) can begin to lose function, which decreases circulation, and in turn, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to collagen.
In addition to age…
…tight pantyhose, tight underwear, and tight clothing can also cut off blood circulation to collagen and increase your risk for cellulite. (You hear that, Kim Kardashian?)
But if collagen gets weaker with age, then why do young women get cellulite?
While it is true that a drop in estrogen can cause weak collagen in older women, just the opposite appears to be the case in younger women.
Among younger women, excessive estrogen (also known as estrogen dominance) can occur due to eating high amounts of processed foods, soy and packaged foods.
Estrogen dominance or hormonal imbalances can also result from physical inactivity, stress, excessive caloric intake, birth control pills, pregnancy and fat deposits. So cellulite in younger women is usually not because the grocery bag is too weak, but rather because there are simply too many groceries in it.
Finally, there is also a genetic element that can influence your susceptibility to cellulite. Characteristics of specific genes have been shown to increase your chances of getting cellulite.
However, you can still control these factors to a certain extent with exercise, diet, and lifestyle modifications.
Why do Women Get Cellulite More Than Men?
First, the subcutaneous (beneath the skin) fat in women is structured differently than in men, and is more uneven and irregular. Second, men and women both have alpha and beta receptors. Basically, beta receptors are responsible for assisting with breaking down fat, and alpha receptors are responsible for producing more fat. Compared to men, women have a much higher ratio of alpha receptors to beta receptors (about 10 times higher)!
Estrogen receptor-alpha and beta are differentially distributed, expressed and activated in the fetal genital tubercle
In addition, estrogen levels can increase propensity to build fat in younger women – plus women simply have more estrogen than men.
If you're a woman reading this article, you may be getting depressed about what seems to be an unavoidable guarantee of getting cellulite. But lots of women don't get cellulite, or are able to get rid of the stuff they've already got.
So we turn now to the most important question is: How do we get rid of cellulite or avoid getting it in the first place?
How To Get Rid of Cellulite
From cellulite-reducing lotions to laser-light machines, nearly every method that exists out there for eliminating or reducing cellulite is based on one of two principles:
1) strengthen connective tissue
2) decrease fat
Let's look at both.
In “How to Tighten Loose Skin After Weight Loss,” I wrote that different layers of your skin have different types of cells, with the cells on the outer part of your skin (the epidermis) being constantly lost and replaced with new cells, while cells on the inner part of the skin are more permanent.
These inner layers of the skin are comprised of elastic connective tissues, fibers, and blood vessels. If these supporting layers are weak or compromised, fat can poke through and you get the result of cellulite.
So what can strengthen the connective tissue of your inner skin so that fat is less likely to come through?
Here are four tips for strengthening connective tissue to reduce cellulite formation:
- Exercise. Exercise improves blood flow to connective tissue and strengthens the muscles that help tighten and support skin. To focus on getting rid of cellulite in one area, do a workout such as the one described in “How to Lose Fat In One Body Part.”
- Creams. Aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, yeast extract, soy protein, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin A can help to hydrate skin and increase collagen and elastin formation — and are the primary ingredients of popular herbal formula skin tightening creams. Just be careful with these creams, as many can irritate your skin and cause hives or rashes, and may also contain caffeine for circulation, which can also give you jitters and insomnia.
- Nutrition. By regularly eating protein-rich foods such as fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt, beef, or dairy, you can get a higher dietary supply of collagen and elastin forming components, which help strengthen connective tissue. Staying hydrated each day will also assist your skin's elasticity and help your connective tissue stay healthy and supple.
- Circulation. Avoid tight clothing and tight underwear, especially around areas where you tend to form cellulite or you don't want to get cellulite. A medical laser treatment might also improve circulation, but may not be much better than simply getting a regular massage to enhance circulation. Radio frequency, vibration, and ultrasound are other examples of fancy, expensive methods to improve circulation. Although doctors who profit from such treatments probably don't want to hear this, just as much circulation may be able to be achieved through regular exercise and massage.
Besides strengthening connective tissue, the other way of getting rid of cellulite is to decrease your overall fat stores. These four fat-fighting tips will probably be familiar. That's because they really work:
- Exercise. In The Best Workout For Fat Loss, I explain the ideal workout to combine connective tissue strengthening and fat loss, which can significantly reduce the appearance of cellulite.
- Nutrition. High sugar and high calorie foods, and foods with lots of the nasty Ps (packaging, processing, or preservatives) can increase your potential for fat formation. It's easiest to keep fat at bay when you focus on simply reducing your overall intake of any of these, in favor of dark leafy greens, moderate amounts of protein, and lots of healthy fats.
- Liposuction. One popular method for reducing fat is to simply get it sucked out. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that you won't put the fat back on. Liposuction can also cause unsightly dimples where the cellulite used to be.
- Injections. Injections of pharmacological drugs are designed to cause destruction of fat cell membranes. Some countries do not even approve this method, since it is not well researched and may be risky, and I personally wouldn't recommend injecting cell membrane destroying compounds into your body.
There are certainly other complex cellulite reduction methods, but most are simply combinations of the methods described above. For example, “SmoothShapes” is one popular machine that combines massaging rollers with laser light, and “VeloSmooth” combines infrared light, radiofrequency, and massage.
Similar to other methods described in this article, these fancy and expensive machines are simply designed to improve circulation – which you can achieve by leading an active, healthy lifestyle, and getting massages.
-You get cellulite from a combination of weak connective tissue and excessive fat stores.
-You get rid of cellulite by strengthening connective tissue, increasing circulation, burning fat, and making dietary and lifestyle modifications to keep fat from getting stored.
-Most expensive cellulite reduction machines or techniques aren't doing much you can't accomplish yourself by improving circulation and strengthening connective tissue.
- Cellulite affects 90% of women and 10% of men. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-cellulite-forever
- While it is true that a drop in estrogen can cause weak collagen in older women, just the opposite appears to be the case in younger women. Rossi AB, Vergnanini AL (July 2000). “Cellulite: a review”. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 14 (4): 251–62.
- Among younger women, excessive estrogen (also known as estrogen dominance) can occur due to eating high amounts of processed foods, soy and packaged foods. Phytoestrogens and health, G. Sarwar Gilani, John Joseph
- Estrogen dominance or hormonal imbalances can also result from physical inactivity (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17549594), stress (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11889205 ), excessive caloric intake (http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/91/6/529.long), birth control pills (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16409223), pregnancy (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11927496) and fat deposits (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019096220145314X).
- Characteristics of specific genes have been shown to increase your chances of getting cellulite. Rossi AB, Vergnanini AL (July 2000). “Cellulite: a review”. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 14 (4): 251–62.
- The collagen in women is structured differently than in men, and is slightly weaker. Dr. Len Kravitz (subcutaneous fat graphic): https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/cellulite2.html
- Compared to men, women have a much higher ratio of alpha receptors to beta receptors (about 10 times higher)! Estrogen receptor-alpha and beta are differentially distributed, expressed and activated in the fetal genital tubercle: http://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Abstract/2001/11000/Gender_differences_in_fat_metabolism.6.aspx
- In addition, estrogen levels can increase propensity to build fat in younger women, plus women simply have more estrogen than men. “Effects of the menopause transition on body fatness and body fat distribution”: http://ukpmc.ac.uk/abstract/MED/9618130
For more cellulite reducing tips, you should grab my book “Get-Fit Guy's Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body — A Workout Plan for Your Unique Shape“. It will be published by St. Martin's Press on May 8, 2012.
Questions, comments, or feedback about why you get cellulite or how to get rid cellulite? Leave your thoughts below!
Also published on Medium.