Cellulite is a term for lumpy, dimpled flesh on the thighs, hips, buttocks and abdomen. It’s most common in adolescent and adult women. Although not a serious medical condition, your cellulite might embarrass you.
Many cellulite treatments, including massages or cellulite creams, advertise remarkable results. Most of these treatments don’t live up to their claims. Researchers are studying possible medical treatments. In the meantime, you can take steps to slightly improve the appearance of cellulite.
Cellulite looks like dimpled or bumpy skin. It’s sometimes described as having a cottage cheese or orange peel texture.
You can see mild cellulite only if you pinch your skin in an area where you have cellulite, such as your thighs. More-severe cellulite makes the skin appear rumpled and bumpy with areas of peaks and valleys.
Cellulite is most common around the thighs and buttocks, but it can be found on the breasts, lower abdomen and upper arms as well.
When to see a doctor
Cellulite isn’t a serious medical condition, and treatment isn’t necessary. In fact, many doctors consider cellulite a normal occurrence. If you’re concerned about the appearance of your skin, see your doctor, dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
Little is known about what causes cellulite. It involves fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords pull down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling.
Cellulite is much more common in women than in men. In fact, most women develop some cellulite after puberty. This is because women’s fat is typically distributed in the thighs, hips and buttocks — common areas for cellulite. Cellulite is also more common with aging, when the skin loses elasticity.
Weight gain can make cellulite more noticeable, but some lean people have cellulite, as well. It tends to run in families, so genetics might play the biggest role in whether you develop cellulite. An inactive lifestyle also can increase your chances of having cellulite, as can pregnancy.