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Cellulite: What it is and why it’s so hard to get rid of

Cellulite plagues up to 90% of women around the world, whether or not they’re overweight. What causes the characteristic “orange peel” skin on your thighs, and why does it refuse to go away? What can you do about it? Read on to find out.
Cellulite: What it is and why it’s so hard to get rid of

When it comes to fighting the bulge, there’s plain old fat—the kind you get when you eat too much, and the one you can get rid of with exercise. And then there’s cellulite, the kind that shows up for no apparent reason and makes your skin look like a giant orange peel. It happens whether you’re overweight or not, and here’s the worst part: it’s close to impossible to get rid of.

But what is cellulite exactly? The truth is that not even doctors completely understand it, why it forms, and why it happens the way it does. But we do know enough to take steps towards preventing it. Here are a few facts that can help.

What it is

Just beneath your skin is a layer of fatty tissue that naturally protects it from cold. These tissues sit on top of another layer, made up of collagen tissues that connect it to the fat and muscle. As long as the cells forming the top layer are strong and healthy, your skin stays smooth and dimple-free.

Over time, your fat cells tend to weaken and sag, pulling the collagen layer down away from your skin. As the fat weakens further, it pulls down harder, and parts of the skin above it become sunken. This is what causes the bumpy, dimpled look of cellulite.

Why it happens

Doctors aren’t sure why fat cells weaken in the first place. Some believe it’s caused by the collagen layer overstretching from the fat, while others believe it’s age-related. What we know, however, is that it has nothing to do with weight. Average and even underweight women are just as likely to develop cellulite as overweight women.

The general theory is that it’s in the genes. That means some women are genetically programmed to get cellulite (but not necessarily become fat), while a lucky few can put on twenty pounds and still have smooth skin.

Why it’s hard to get rid of

While fat and cellulite are two different things, they are made from the same fatty tissues. So why does fat come off when you lose weight, and cellulite doesn’t? That’s because your body can only utilize fat that forms over muscle, or the parts that you actually move. Cellulite forms under your dermal layer, so unless you find a way to exercise your skin, no amount of diet and workout can burn it off.

What you can do

There is no way to completely eliminate cellulite, but there are things you can do to control it. Keeping a balanced diet, drinking lots of water, and exercising regularly can greatly reduce the dimpling. Skin firming creams may help, but since they only treat the top layer, their effects are often temporary.

Mesotherapy, a treatment that involves injecting medications into your skin’s middle layer, is a fairly new treatment that can help treat cellulite. Chemicals that rejuvenate your fat cells are injected into your collagen tissue, reversing the sag effect that causes cellulite. But although it’s now a popular cosmetic procedure, doctors are still unsure whether it offers a long-term cure.

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