Kim Kardashian has copped to having it. So have Jessica Alba and Jillian Michaels. And you’ve probably obsessed about having cellulite too—and been searching for a way to get rid of it. The good news is, you can do something about it.
Cellulite is the result of subcutaneous fat—the kind beneath the skin—protruding into the dermis, the layer of skin just below the epidermis (the outermost layer). Within the dermis is a network of connective tissue that looks like honeycomb, and as fat cells increase in size, the connective tissue within this layer become weakened and fat bulges through, giving the skin a dimpled or mattress-like appearance, says Len Kravitz, Ph.D., an exercise science researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Your amount of body fat, distribution of fat (which is influenced by genetics), skin thickness, and the strength of your connective fibers all factor into if you get cellulite. And thank hormones for sparing guys but giving most women this condition. According to a study in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, nearly 85 percent of women over the age of 20 have cellulite while, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, only about 10 percent of men have it. Guys have thicker layers of skin, so it’s harder for fat to push through to the dermis for that unsightly dimpled look.
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Starting around age 25, women who do not regularly exercise lose an average of five pounds of muscle per decade and gain 15 pounds of fat, says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., author of the book No More Cellulite: A Proven 8-Week Program for a Firmer, Fitter Body. Throw in the fact that collagen stores decrease by about 1 percent per year and that females naturally have a higher body fat percentage than men, and it’s no surprise that as women get older, cellulite becomes more prominent.
Defeat the Dimples!
There is limited evidence to back up claims that topical creams, medications, or liposuction eliminate cellulite for good. As for the FDA-approved, one-time laser-assisted procedure Cellulaze—which purports to level out bumps and dimples while stimulating collagen production to increase skin elasticity and thickness by more than 25 percent—the long-term effects are yet to be fully known (and the short procedure costs anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the size of the area treated).
What is proven to help doesn’t cost a thing: Making simple changes to your diet and workout routine can go a long way. [Tweet this fact!] Losing a few pounds can help move fat cells away from the dermis slightly, leading to more even-looking skin, according to a British study.
And in an eight-week study conducted by researchers at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA, pairing a healthy diet (heart-healthy grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, lowfat and nonfat dairy, and healthy fats) with 40-minute exercise sessions (half cardio and half strength) three times a week helped women shed an average 9.1 pounds of fat and 1.8 inches from their hips while adding 1.2 pounds of lean muscle. All 79 of the women in this study self-reported some level of improvement in cellulite—even those who only followed the workout routine—with more than 70 percent of them noting less observed cellulite in addition to a more well-defined and improved overall physique.
Lastly, if you light up, maybe this will convince you to kick the butts: Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology shows that cigarette smoke can weaken the formation of collagen, the main structural component of connective tissue, making cellulite more visible.
The Future of Cellulite Treatment
Clinical trials are underway for a remedy developed by Stony Brook University researchers Marie A. Badalamente, Ph.D., and Alexander B. Dagum, M.D. Their work has led to the development of a collagenase injection, a non-surgical method aimed at smoothing skin by breaking down the collagen that secures fat tissue beneath the skin. The 10 women treated had an average 76 percent reduction in the appearance of cellulite and reported being extremely happy with the results six months after. While a larger phase 2 study is still taking place, researchers are optimistic that this could potentially be the first medically based effective and FDA-approved treatment for cellulite. [Tweet this news!]