The hard truth: Most women will develop cellulite, the dimpling of the skin that's usually found on the thighs and buttocks. But why does cellulite occur, and how can we diminish it? We tracked down New York City plastic surgeon Mauro Romita, M.D., for insight and solutions.
The basic facts
The skin is connected to underlying muscle by vertical bands of fibrous tissue. Cellulite appears when fat cells bulge up against the top layers of skin while the fibrous bands pull down, much like buttons on a mattress; this creates the "cottage cheese" look. Our bodies' lymph system also plays a role; normally it drains fluid from tissues to rid the body of waste, but the trapped fat cells and fibrous tissue can block drainage. This trapped fluid can make the fat swell, adding to the dimpling effect.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Why you may develop cellulite: Genetics If your mom has it, chances are you will too.
Aging Muscle mass weakens and the fibrous tissue loses strength as we get older.
Fat The amount you have between the skin and the muscle determines cellulite's severity.
Hormones Estrogen aids the storage of fat in the hips, thighs and buttocks in preparation for childbearing. It also makes fat cells sticky, so they bunch together, contributing to the dimpled effect.
To lessen the look of cellulite, Beauty Rx:
1. Eat a good diet. Staying at a healthy weight reduces the chances of cellulite forming.
2. Exercise. Reduce fat with cardio workouts and increase your strength with weight training to help firm up muscles, which will give skin a tighter and smoother appearance.
3. Slather on a cellulite cream. These contain ingredients like caffeine to temporarily tighten skin, giving it a smoother, more toned look. Massage in the creams; the rubbing can lessen the swelling and improve lymphatic drainage in the area. Try Clarins Body Lift Advanced Cellulite Control ($52.50: clarins.com) with caffeine.
4. Try Endermologie. This form of deep-tissue massage disperses the lumps of fat into a smoother layer.
The best thing you can do for your body is to eat right and exercise regularly. If you're already doing that and still have cellulite, then look to other options, says Mauro Romita, M.D., founder and executive director of Ajune, The Center for Beauty Synergy in Manhattan, which offers a mix of pampering treatments, nutrition counseling and cosmetic surgery. But know that liposuction will not treat cellulite, he says. Romita finds that Endermologie achieves the most noticeable results; in fact, it's the only method approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration for temporary reduction in the appearance of cellulite, but you'll need to have it done regularly to see some benefit. "Very similar to working out, you need to keep doing it," Romita says.