Cellulite: Definition, Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

It is nothing more than a deposition or accumulation of fat in the subcutaneous areas of the body, giving a dimpled appearance to the skin.

This appearance of dimpled, uneven skin known as “cellulite” can be frustrating for patients who work hard to achieve a slim body and smooth skin.

Cellulite is medically known as Edematous Fibrosclerotic Panniculopathy. Cellulite is commonly seen on the thighs, hips, and buttocks.

Women more often have cellulite than men.

This is due to the different distribution of fat, connective tissue and muscle in the skin of women and men.

The bulging appearance of cellulite is caused by fat deposits that push and distort the underlying connective tissues, resulting in the characteristic dimpled appearance of the skin.

Cellulite can be mistaken for a medical condition known by the same name, which is in no way related to it.

Cellulitis is a life-threatening bacterial infection of the skin or connective tissue, while the cellulite we refer to is the accumulation of fat under the skin.

Thanks to recent technological advances, cosmetic surgeons can now offer long-term cellulite reduction through minimally invasive treatments.

Causes and risk factors of cellulite

Cellulite forms when the fibrous bands called ‘septa’, which connect the skin to the underlying muscle fascia , tighten unevenly, contract, or begin to break down, allowing the normal layer of fat under the skin to push through upwards.

This results in a puckered appearance like orange peel or “cottage cheese”.

It is estimated that 85 to 90% of adult women have cellulite, usually on the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.

Cellulite develops from:

  • Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and liver problems are often attributed to the development of cellulite in the stomach.
  • Constant stress causing tension in the neck muscle, problems with the vertebrae, and inflamed tissue is believed to cause cellulite on the back of the neck.
  • The stress prolonged and associated surge of adrenaline can even lead to increased fat storage in the stomach, hips, buttocks and thighs.
  • Cellulite on the upper arms and legs is common in older women and is believed to be caused in part by impaired vein systems in the arms and legs.
  • Surprisingly, it is believed that over-exercising the legs can cause cellulite to appear on the front of the thighs.
  • A genetic predisposition will make people more vulnerable, especially when they have the type of lifestyle that aggravates the condition.
  • The structure of the partitions under a woman’s skin is very fibrous and mesh-like, making it prone to trapping fat cells.
  • The female hormones: estrogen and progesterone. The former encourages fat cells to develop and grow around the breasts, thighs, and buttocks, while the latter can lead to fluid retention, weak veins, and weight gain.
  • Pregnancy is a time of drastic changes in a woman’s body, including fluid retention and an increase in hormones. The growing uterus can also affect circulation and lymphatic drainage. Any cellulite problem will generally get worse with each successive pregnancy. The good news is that breastfeeding is very beneficial for treating cellulite.
  • A sedentary lifestyle is very bad for the blood circulation and the venous and lymphatic systems. Without muscle contractions and movements, these systems exert pressure and stretch the veins and lymphatic vessels. Once they become overexcited, they are more prone to fluid retention, leakage, and poor circulation. A sedentary lifestyle also often means weight gain, which is another cause of cellulite.
  • Cigarette smoke is particularly damaging to veins and capillary walls, causing inflammation and leakage. Nicotine itself can affect your circulation.
  • Although a gentle massage with a healing product on the affected area is beneficial, if a massage is done improperly, it can damage the fragile network of lymphatic vessels in the leg, causing a chain of events that can cause cellulite.
  • Overweight and obese women are more likely to get cellulite. Any accumulation of fat will also push the existing cellulite out to make it more noticeable.
  • Strict diets are particularly harmful, leading to a greater tendency for the body to store fat.
  • The high consumption of fats and sugars in the daily diet often leads to an increase in body fat and the appearance of cellulite. Foods that are highly processed and contain preservatives, artificial sweeteners and other additives cause the accumulation of toxins in the body and, therefore, the appearance of cellulite.
  • Food allergies can also play a role because they lead to food cravings, weight gain, bloating, and water retention, all of which can lead to cellulite.
  • Unfortunately, aging plays a large role in the development of cellulite as our bodies become less efficient at getting rid of waste products, our circulation is not as good, and we even tend to gain weight. Prolonged sun exposure accelerates the aging process in the skin.

Cellulite gives a dimpled appearance to the body and skin that is actually considered a normal variation seen in perfectly normal humans.

The extent of cellulite that is seen or occurs depends on the person’s heredity, sex, age, skin thickness, amount and distribution of body fat.

Cellulite is believed to be caused by the shortening or contraction of the cords of fibrous tissues that bind or secure the skin.

Women are more commonly affected by cellulite; however, it is also seen in men.

Cellulite can affect people of all races and ethnicities.

There may be a role for female hormones that contribute to the fat distribution pattern; however, cellulite cannot be treated with hormone therapy.

Symptoms and diagnosis of cellulite

Cellulite is more common in women and usually occurs on a localized area of ​​the body, such as the stomach, thighs, hips, and buttocks.

It can also occur in other areas, including the breasts, upper arms, back, and neck.

In mild cases, dimples are only noticeable when the skin is pinched or compressed.

Other symptoms include thickened skin, a feeling of coolness to the skin, and broken blood vessels.

In severe cases, cellulite can cause the skin in the affected area to become more sensitive and bruise more easily than normal.

Increased sensitivity, excessive bruising, and other symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, may indicate a more serious condition and should be reported to a qualified physician.

Cellulite can develop in people who are thin or of normal weight, as well as in people who are overweight or obese.

There are diagnostic tests available such as ultrasound, which can detect the presence of cellulite and determine the extent of the condition; however, these tests are generally unnecessary.

Cellulite can be diagnosed by pinching or rolling the skin in the affected area. Although, the appearance of cellulite can be distressing and affect self-esteem, the condition does not cause medical problems.

In fact, some medical professionals consider cellulite to be a normal condition, especially in women.

More than 80 to 90 percent of women have some degree of cellulite.

The characteristic appearance of cellulite is sufficient to confirm the condition and there is no need for further diagnostic tests for cellulite.

Treatments to get rid of cellulite

As cellulite is not a medical problem and is considered a cosmetic problem, the treatment is carried out by dermatologists, plastic surgeons and other aesthetic specialists.

No person would like the appearance of cellulite, that is, a body with dimples and lumps, and each of us wants smooth and even skin.

Some of the treatments and therapies for cellulite include changes in diet, creams, massages, among which are mentioned below:

Dietary supplements for cellulite

These include ingredients such as sweet clover, ginkgo biloba, fucus extract, grapeseed bioflavonoids, fish oil, evening primrose, and soy lecithin.

These ingredients have a positive effect on the body, such as breaking down fats, improving circulation, speeding up metabolism, and preventing cell damage.

However, it is difficult to evaluate such claims, as things like “circulation”, “metabolism”, “cell damage” and others cannot be easily measured on an objective basis and therefore make it difficult to determine if there is any improvement. in reducing cellulite.

Aside from this, the use of dietary supplements to treat cellulite is still being investigated, as there are some dietary supplements that claim to treat cellulite, but they also carry health risks or may have a dangerous interaction with certain prescription drugs.


These are the group of chemicals, which include caffeine, aminophylline, and theophylline, and are found in many cellulite creams.

These products are recommended for the treatment of cellulite due to their ability to break down fatty stools.

However, these creams applied to the skin cannot release the required concentration of these chemicals and for the time necessary for significant fat breakdown.

According to studies, there is a slight reduction in cellulite with these creams, but there is no significant cellulite loss.

Massage therapy for cellulite

There are various equipments that are used to massage the areas where cellulite is present.

These machines include the use of rolling cylinders to go through the affected areas of the skin and massage them.

In these techniques, an electrical power device is also used that sucks and squeezes the regions affected with cellulite.

This is an expensive massage treatment and each session lasts around 35 to 45 minutes.

It takes about 10 to 12 treatments before desirable results are seen.

There is a temporary reduction in cellulite observed, however this technique apparently redistributes fat.

There is no permanent change in the fat configuration under the skin.

The person requires regular maintenance treatments to maintain the initial effect or the initial loss of cellulite to prevent it from coming back.

Light, laser and radio frequency therapy

Certain phototherapy devices have been approved to treat cellulite.

These devices use a combination of light therapy with suction and massage.

Other treatments use a combination of suction and cellulite manipulation along with a low-level laser treatment.

These treatments also require multiple sessions along with maintenance treatments to prevent further accumulation of cellulite.

Laser treatments and massages are very expensive.


Collagenase is an enzyme present in the body that breaks down collagen, which is a component of connective tissue.

Collagenase injections are believed to help improve the appearance of cellulite; however, the long-term effects of collagenase injections are not known.

Research is still underway to determine the duration and extent of improvements, if any, in cellulite reduction with this treatment.

This is an experimental treatment and is not routinely available yet.


This is a controversial cellulite treatment where drugs and other substances are injected directly into the affected tissue.

Vitamins and herbs are also used in these types of therapies.

Multiple injection sessions are required. However, this treatment has yet to be tested and is considered risky.

Anti-cellulite diets

There are special cellulite diets that claim to treat cellulite.

It is claimed that a certain combination of foods will help improve circulation and reduce inflammation in affected areas and lead to cellulite reduction.

However, there is no concrete evidence to back up these claims.

It is a well known fact that eating a healthy diet helps reduce fluid retention and also improves the overall health and appearance of the skin.

However, there is no evidence of specific diets that target and reduce cellulite.


There are many different types of wraps such as herbal body wraps to treat cellulite.

However, as in the case of cellulite diets, there is no evidence of the effect of wraps in reducing cellulite.

Wraps help improve the overall appearance of the skin and decrease fluid retention; however, these effects are only temporary.


Subcision is a technique in which the fibrous cords (septa) that extend downward into the lower part of the skin are incised.

The subdivision helps improve the appearance of cellulite on the thighs and buttocks; the effect of which can last up to two years.


Applying retinol cream twice a day helps reduce the appearance of dimples on the skin.

The time required for the effect of the retinol cream to be seen is approximately six months. However, these effects are only temporary and the patient needs continuous treatments to achieve benefit.

Cellulite prevention

Cellulite prevention is not always possible, however, certain steps can be taken to prevent cellulite, such as exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, which will help prevent and reduce the appearance of cellulite.

It is also important to drink plenty of fluids and maintain adequate hydration for healthy, clear skin and a healthy body.

In addition to quitting smoking, this will help reduce the appearance of cellulite.