A friend recently mentioned in passing that she has cellulite. She thought it was caused by eating sugar. As we discussed her concern, I told her I would do some research to find out if there’s anything to reduce or eliminate cellulite.
She said she used to sell anti-cellulite cream containing caffeine when she worked as a skin care sales consultant. I expressed doubt that a cream could get rid of cellulite, but she insisted that it worked. (Did she forget to use it on herself?) She said she had many satisfied customers. She happened to be holding a cup of coffee, so I jokingly suggested that she should pour it on her thighs.
To clear up the misconceptions and dispel the myths regarding cellulite, I went on a fact-finding mission.
What is cellulite? We have subcutaneous fat between the muscles and the skin on top. Cellulite is not a type of fat; rather, it is the condition when fat protrudes through layers of subdermal connective tissue, giving the skin an unsightly, dimpled appearance. The term cellulite first came into use 200 years ago and, for a long time, it was thought of as a disease.
Where does cellulite appear? Cellulite can appear on different parts of the body such as the buttocks, thighs, hips, abdomen and upper arms.
Who gets cellulite? Everyone has body fat, but not everyone has cellulite. We tend to think of overweight, older women as having cellulite, but thin women and teenage girls can also have cellulite. Ninety per cent of women and 10 per cent of men in developed countries will experience cellulite at some point in their lives (http://tinyurl.com/h9cnwpn). Fewer men have cellulite because of differently oriented, more supportive connective tissue, less estrogen and less fat around their hips and thighs than women. Typically, men who have cellulite are low in male hormones.
What causes cellulite? Connective tissue can weaken from hormonal changes, lack of muscle tone, excess fat or poor circulation. There is also a genetic component to cellulite, which is why slim women can have cellulite. As women age, our bodies produce less estrogen, which can lead to a decrease in circulation and collagen production. Skin loses elasticity, making cellulite more visible.
What can we do about cellulite? Since we can’t change our genetics, let’s look at what we can do.
Reduce excess body fat. According to the Mayo clinic, the most beneficial cellulite treatments are healthy eating and regular exercise, in particular, strength training. While exercise cannot rid you of cellulite, strength-bearing exercises will strengthen your muscles and make cellulite less visible. Strength training may also prevent more cellulite from appearing.
Do over-the-counter creams work? According to
the Mayo clinic, “no studies show that these creams used by themselves offer any improvement” (http://tinyurl.com/jl268un). It doesn’t make a difference whether the product contains caffeine, green tea, vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts or antioxidants. However, the Mayo Clinic states that a twice daily application of 0.3 per cent retinol cream has been shown to improve the appearance of cellulite after six months.
Does eating sugar cause cellulite? Sugar consumption has not been directly linked to cellulite. What is known is that eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated can reduce inflammation, help balance your hormones, keep your weight down and connective tissue strong.
What else can we do about cellulite? Quit smoking. Smoking reduces blood vessel flow and can disrupt the formation of collagen such that connective tissue gets weakened and fat shows through. There are surgical as well as less- and non-invasive treatments that can reduce the appearance of cellulite, but they can be expensive, some are painful and the results can be short-lived, requiring maintenance procedures. There may also be short-term side-effects such as rashes, infection or uneven skin contours. Long-term risks are not fully understood. Contrary to popular belief, liposuction does not reduce cellulite and may make it worse.
I don’t care if I have cellulite. We needn’t be hyper focused on and self-conscious about minor imperfections. Cellulite is normal. It’s our beauty standard that’s distorted.
I encourage everyone to focus on taking care of your health and fitness to the best of your abilities. Manage your weight, eat right most of the time and keep your muscles strong. If you decide to pursue treatments, remember that the cellulite-reducing industry spends millions of dollars to convince us cellulite is pathologic so that we’ll spend millions of dollars on elusive and often phoney cures.