Guide To The Risk Factors And Causes Of Cellulite

September 18, 2023

Cellulite develops when fat deposits located underneath the surface of the skin push against neighboring connective tissues. This causes the skin in the affected area to appear lumpy or dimpled. Cellulite can give the skin a texture similar to that of an orange peel. Mild cellulite is generally visible only when the affected area is pinched or compressed. However, severe cellulite creates peaks and valleys on the skin's surface. Patients with lighter skin tones often experience worse cellulite than those with darker skin tones. Many doctors consider cellulite normal.

Cellulite treatment is only necessary for cosmetic reasons. Topical treatments, such as retinol cream, can improve cellulite's appearance. Doctors may use liposuction for cellulite. Other options are cellulite laser treatments and cryolipolysis. However, patients benefit from understanding the risk factors for cellulite first. Cellulite prevention is quite effective for many of these factors.


While children rarely have cellulite, it is prevalent in adults. The changes to the skin's appearance associated with this issue typically begin in adolescence and continue as the patient goes through puberty. For many patients, the amount of cellulite they experience tends to increase with age. As individuals age, their skin produces less collagen, losing firmness, thickness, and elasticity. This loss can result in sagging skin, and it may worsen the dimples, peaks, and valleys on the skin's surface.

Aging can also increase a patient's body fat percentage and their risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Patients with these and other underlying medical conditions may find it harder to maintain a healthy weight and keep a regular exercise schedule. These factors could further increase the amount of cellulite an individual has. Patients who experience excessive skin sagging or a concerning degree of collagen loss may need laser or radiofrequency treatments to minimize cellulite appearance.


Gender is an influential risk factor for cellulite. Anecdotal reports from leading dermatologists suggest eighty to ninety-eight percent of American women have cellulite. However, only ten percent of men are estimated to have this skin complaint. Doctors believe the increased prevalence of cellulite in women may be due to gender differences in connective tissues; direction. While the tough, fibrous collagen bands that connect skin and muscle run parallel to the skin's surface in males, the bands naturally run perpendicular to the skin's surface in females. These vertical bands are believed to be a significant cause of the skin dimpling that appears with cellulite.

Gender differences in body fat levels and distribution have also been recognized as a contributing factor. Women typically have a higher percentage of body fat than men. A healthy body fat range for females is between twenty and twenty-five percent, and the beneficial content for males is between ten and fifteen percent. Women have more subcutaneous fat than men, and they tend to store most of their fat around the buttocks, thighs, and hips. All of these are among the most common locations for cellulite formation. In contrast, men have more visceral fat than women. This type of fat accumulates around the internal organs. Besides, men tend to store most of their fat in the abdomen and upper body, areas naturally less prone to cellulite.

Inactive Lifestyle

An inactive lifestyle can contribute to low muscle definition, decreased muscle mass, and weight gain. These factors may worsen cellulite's appearance. Regular exercise and strength training can help patients increase the elasticity of the connective tissues and the amount of muscle definition visible in places where cellulite typically appears, including the thighs, buttocks, and abdomen. Thus, these exercises could improve the skin's appearance.

Experts recommend aiming for at least thirty minutes of activity spread over five days of the week. Moderate to intense activities such as running, weight lifting, swimming, and tennis are often the most effective method for improving muscle definition and reducing cellulite. Ideally, patients should combine some aerobic exercises with strength training activities. Individuals can use dumbbells, elastic bands, or their bodyweight to build strength. Individuals who have been inactive for several years should consult their physician before beginning a new fitness regime to ensure they are healthy enough for exercise. Working with a personal trainer or taking part in an exercise class could motivate regular activity. Supervision helps build proper form and prevent injury.

Family History

Having a family history of cellulite is known to increase an individual's risk of developing this skin issue. For example, many women whose mothers have cellulite often find they experience it too. Genes influence an individual's metabolism, circulation, and fat distribution under the skin, and these factors may all contribute to whether or not a patient has cellulite. A 2010 Italian study conducted by Enzo Emanuele and team members M. Bertona and D. Geroldi looked at the role genetic factors might play in cellulite susceptibility.

Researchers examined four hundred female patients. Half of the patients were at a healthy weight and had cellulite. Used as a control group, the remaining two hundred patients were of the same age and body mass index as the others, but they lacked cellulite. Researchers studied twenty-five genetic variations (polymorphisms) in fifteen genes. After controlling for age, smoking status, body mass index, and contraceptive use, the authors discovered two specific variations strongly associated with cellulite. Experts located these variations on the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and hypoxia-inducible factor 1A (HIF1a) genes.

Weight Gain Or Loss

Significant weight gain or loss could increase the severity of cellulite. For example, patients who have recently gained twenty to thirty pounds or more could notice any cellulite they may have appeared worse. While weight loss is typically recommended as a treatment for this skin complaint, it does not always make cellulite disappear completely. Patients who have undergone rapid weight loss could lose a significant amount of muscle mass and definition, causing fat cells and cellulite to appear more pronounced.

Rapid weight loss could also weaken the elasticity of the connective tissues, and the sagging skin that results may worsen any existing dimpling of the skin. To reduce these risks, doctors recommend that patients maintain a healthy weight, and gradual weight loss of one to two pounds per week is typically advised. Patients may need to work with a doctor or nutritionist to meet their weight goals.


Another widespread cause of cellulite is hormones. Research shows that females tend to be more affected by cellulite than men, and they may get it at any time during their life. This problem may be mostly because of the arrangement of connective tissue. However, hormone imbalances play a crucial role when it comes to developing cellulite. There is a direct connection between estrogen levels and the increase of cellulite. Low estrogen reduces the blood flow to the connective tissue, increases permeability and fluid retention under the skin, and makes the skin thinner.

Less estrogen in the body results in insufficient collagen and elastin fibers, which are needed to keep the skin toned and firm. During perimenopause, the time before menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate and can either be too low or too high. The latter, for instance, increases the amount of fat under the skin. In menopause, estrogen levels drop, and the skin becomes saggier. Thus, women are prone to noticing more cellulite during this period than in their younger years.

Unhealthy Diet

Most individuals focused on being healthy may know this by now, but eating unhealthy foods often causes cellulite. High blood insulin levels and fat formation (lipogenesis) may be a product of a diet that is excessively high in carbohydrates. As a consequence, total body fat increases. Total body fat increase is what enhances cellulite. Simple processed carbohydrates such as sweets, cakes, soft drinks, fries, and doughnuts are the main culprits of cellulite formation.

Instead, it is better to choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, and adequate amino acids, all of which stimulate collagen production and promote healthy connective tissue. Some examples of foods that prevent cellulite are oily fish, flaxseed, fish oils, nuts, multi-grain bread, oats, sweet potato, and legumes. Also, it is important to watch portion sizes and avoid drinking alcohol.

Slow Metabolism

The process of how the body converts food into energy is known as metabolism. It is known that having a slow metabolism increases the severity and amount of cellulite considerably. Some common signs of slow metabolism are bloating, waking up throughout the night, and passing much gas. Continually gaining weight, craving sugar, struggling to lose weight, and hypothyroidism are also warning signs. Likewise, having abnormal blood sugar levels, hormone imbalances, and quickly developing cellulite might indicate that the person's metabolism is slow. If an individual believes that their metabolism is slow, they should take a blood test. The test will allow their doctor to know if they have a hormone imbalance or too high blood sugar. On a positive note, some experts claim that having a slow metabolism may delay the aging process.


Research shows that between eighty-five and ninety-eight percent of women have cellulite. Pregnancy may not help with statistics since hormone changes and weight gain may make it more noticeable during these months. Applying moisturizing creams and gently massaging the affected areas may cause the skin to look firmer and better looking, at least temporarily. After giving birth, women can deal with this issue by eating healthily, drinking plenty of water, and taking up an exercise routine. It is not recommended to lose weight abruptly. It is more beneficial to do it steadily and gradually since fad dieting may worsen cellulite.

Fad Dieting

Restrictive diets, also known as fad diets, are another prevalent cause of cellulite. The reason for this is that some of them provide individuals with unhealthy fats and too much sodium. In addition, these diets do not supply the body with the appropriate nutrients to keep the skin and the body healthy. Losing too much weight at once and in an abrupt manner may not help either. It is advisable to lose weight steadily and gradually to prevent the appearance of cellulite.

Watching portion sizes and following a healthy and balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids may also help. Eating healthy will make a person feel better and happier with how they look, promote cell regeneration and collagen production, and increase energy levels. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol, soft drinks, and sugary juices with empty calories will benefit the skin's overall appearance as well as the function of the body.

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