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What is cellulite?

Do you have uneven, lumpy skin on your hips, thighs, or buttocks? This may be a sign of cellulite. Cellulite occurs when the skin overlying certain areas of fat is pulled downward to the deeper tissues by connective tissue bands. This creates an uneven surface.

Cellulite is commonly found on:
  • hips
  • thighs
  • abdomen
  • buttocks
  • breasts

Cellulite affects women more than men due to the different fat, muscle, and connective tissue distribution. It’s thought to affect 80 to 90 percentTrusted Source of women in varying degrees. Cellulite is not harmful.

What causes cellulite?

Cellulite is caused by a buildup of fat underneath the skin. Some women are more predisposed to it than others. The amount of cellulite you have and how noticeable it is can be based on your genes, body fat percentage, and age. The thickness of your skin also affects the appearance of cellulite. People of all body types and weights can get cellulite.

The distribution of fat in women is more visible than in men. The collagen fibers between the skin and muscle separate the underlying fat into multiple pockets. Cellulite can become more visible as you age and your skin becomes thinner and loses elasticity. This exposes the rippled connective tissues underneath.

Treatment:

A variety of treatment approaches are available to improve the appearance of cellulite, at least temporarily. Each has its own set of potential results and side effects. Some studies indicate that a combination of treatments may yield the most satisfying results.

  • Laser and radiofrequency treatments. Various wounding (ablative) laser treatments are available to treat cellulite. In one method, a thin fiber is slipped under the skin to deliver laser heat that destroys the fibrous bands binding fat. This approach has shown to reduce the appearance of cellulite for six months to a year. Further study is needed.

    There’s also a device that uses heat (radiofrequency) for nonablative treatment that improves how the skin looks. You’ll likely need several sessions before you notice an improvement in the appearance of your skin. Nonablative treatments typically need to be repeated more often than do ablative treatments.

  • Cryolipolysis. With cryolipolysis (CoolSculpting), fat below the skin is reduced with a device that uses vacuum suction to raise tissue into contact with cooling plates. You’ll need multiple treatments. Results appear gradually over two to three months.
  • Acoustic wave therapy. With this technique, a technician applies gel to the affected skin and runs a small, hand-held device (transducer) over the area. The transducer sends sound waves into your body, breaking up cellulite. You’ll likely need several sessions before you notice an improvement in the appearance of your skin.
  • Surgery. Your doctor may offer one of various procedures that use needles, blades or other special tools to separate the fibrous bands under the skin (subcision) in an effort to smooth the skin. One method also uses fat grafting to improve skin appearance. Results from these techniques may last two to three years.

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