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What is cellulite?

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Updated March 11, 2014

Question: What is cellulite?
Cellulite is body fat that is simply deposited and stored differently than other body fat. Thanks to its dimply, bumpy or waffled appearance, it is sometimes referred to as "orange-peel" or "cottage cheese" skin. It often appears on the hips, buttocks and thighs
Answer: Cellulite is made of pockets of extra fat that have worked their way through the bands of connective tissue that attach our skin to to our muscles. The strands of connective tissue separate, and the fat pockets poke through, leading to a rippled or lumpy appearance.

Who gets cellulite?

Most women (even slim and physically fit ones) and some men develop cellulite at some time following puberty. Women are more likely to have cellulite since the bands under our skin are vertical, perpendicular and tight, which leads to dimpling. While there are more of the bands under men's skin, they run diagonally and are thicker, making them less likely to pucker the skin above.

Why do we get cellulite around our hips and thighs?

We tend to have trouble with cellulite in our legs and buttocks because that's where most of us naturally store a larger amount of excess fat.

Can over-the-counter products eliminate cellulite?

There is no special cream that will truly eliminate cellulite. Some creams will dehydrate and tighten the skin, which makes the product appear to have reduced the cellulite itself, but it's only a temporary fix. Beware of false weight-loss product claims of this sort: An anti-cellulite cream that claims it can eliminate cellulite (fat) without exercise is purely for the sake of marketing ("instant cellulite eraser" in a jar? If only!).

Is there any other way for me to get rid of cellulite?

While there is no way to "cure" cellulite, there are a few things that may help to lessen its appearance. The first line of defense is to lose weight and exercise -- the more muscle you have underneath the cellulite, the smoother the affected area will look. Doing weight-lifting and toning exercise in addition to your regular workout will help more than aerobic exercise alone. Try adding at least 10 minutes of strength-training a few times a week to your regular cardio, and work up from there. You could see visible results in a matter of months.

Lastly, some medical treatments are available that may lessen cellulite's appearance: One example is a body lift, which removes excess skin and tightens remaining skin. Another possibility is endermologie, which uses motorized rollers and suction to temporarily smooth out areas of skin with cellulite, although research has found little evidence to support its efficacy. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of pursuing treatments.

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