Cellulite, the pockets of fat that resemble orange peel and reside just under the skin on the hips, buttocks and thighs, affects about 90 percent of women and some men, reports ABC News. Being thin and in good shape doesn't mean you won't get cellulite, either -- women of any size can get it. Although numerous beauty products, spa treatments, exercises and old-wives'-tale remedies promise to banish the dimpled fat, it's unlikely you'll ever be completely rid of it. Some treatments and lifestyle habits might diminish its appearance, however.
What Is Cellulite?
Cellulite occurs in the uppermost layer of subcutaneous fat, which is made up of small fat-cell chambers partitioned by connective tissue. When these collagen fibers that connect the fat to the skin break down, you get small bumps of fat that protrude to create a lumpy appearance.
Women are more likely to acquire cellulite than men of any size. Men have thicker skin layers in the thighs and buttocks and thinner first layers of subcutaneous fat, so it's less common for the skin to look puckered due to ruptures of the fat's connective tissue.
Genetics play a big role in whether or not you develop cellulite, but your diet, your metabolic rate, activity level, hormones and level of hydration also make an impact. Smoking can also increase the rate at which collagen breaks down, accelerating the development and appearance of cellulite. After ages 35 to 40, skin elasticity begins to diminish, meaning that it's harder for your skin to spring back, so you may develop more cellulite.
Weight Loss and Cellulite
Fat loss helps improve the appearance of cellulite but won't make it disappear entirely. If you have a high level of body fat, your cellulite may be more apparent. A paper published in a 2006 issue of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science noted that dimpling is still visible after weight loss despite clinical evidence that fat cells retract out of the skin when you drop pounds.
Losing weight too quickly -- at a rate faster than 1 to 2 pounds per week -- may actually magnify the appearance of cellulite. Your collagen doesn't have an opportunity to catch up with your rate of loss, and that lack of skin elasticity may make cellulite more visible.
Switching to a healthier diet full of fibrous vegetables, fruits and other high-fiber foods will help improve your skin's tone, however. The antioxidants in fresh produce help fight inflammation, which in turn betters circulation and connective tissue health. You'll also get additional hydration from vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, peppers and tomatoes to help promote circulation and the removal of waste products
Exercise and Cellulite
Fit people are just as prone to developing cellulite as sedentary folk, but if some of your cellulite comes from carrying a few extra pounds, losing weight might help. You can't exercise away the actual cellulite, but you can use moderate cardiovascular exercise to keep from developing additional fat that will contribute to its appearance.
Resistance training also helps cellulite look less obvious. Strengthening the muscles tightens and tones your entire physique, which may make your skin look smoother. Spot-training cellulite away is impossible, so a comprehensive weight-training program that builds a balanced physique is best. Specific exercises for the lower body, where cellulite is common, does help develop more shape in the muscles there. Try squats, lunges and curls for the thighs and step-ups and donkey kicks for the glutes.
Spa Treatments and Cellulite
No one product or treatment has been proved to remove cellulite permanently, but many can reduce the appearance of the fat. Topical creams, such as those with retinoids, may create a thicker skin so the cellulite is less apparent. Creams with stimulants, such as caffeine, can improve circulation to the area -- but none actually makes the cellulite go away.
Some more invasive spa treatments, such as injections and laser therapy, can also make the skin appear smoother, but the results are temporary. Liposuction will not improve your cellulite but could cause more irregularities in the texture of the fat right under the skin.
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Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.