What is cellulite? How is cellulite treated?

What is cellulite? How is cellulite treated?

Cellulite is a localized aesthetic skin problem that causes a dimpled – bumpy orange peel-like appearance on the skin surface and usually affects the hips, thighs and abdomen. Cellulite is very common, especially among women. In cellulite, excessive amounts of fat cells are stored under the upper layers of the skin, called the epidermis and dermis. Tiny bands of connective tissue run vertically between these fat cells and connect the upper layers of the skin to the deeper tissues of the body.

The bands create chambers or mini-pockets where normal sized fat cells have enough free space. However, when there is expansion in the fat cells, the bands compress the adipose tissue like a net, causing the formation of indented-protruding cellulite.

What is cellulite? 

Cellulite can be defined as a regional metabolic disorder that causes an indented tissue that is defined as an orange peel appearance by affecting the skin and subcutaneous fat tissue in the thighs, hips and abdomen. Orange peel tissue is formed by the combination of fat cells accumulating and expanding under the skin and fibrous bands called septa extending perpendicular to the skin surface.

While the enlarged fat cells create small bulges, the tight septa shrink the adipose tissue and cause dimples. Thus, a rough appearance emerges. It is referred to by different names in the medical literature such as edematous fibrosclerotic panniculopathy, gynoid lipodystrophy or adipose edema.

What causes cellulite? 

The exact cause of cellulite is unknown, but it is understood to be a result of the interaction between the subcutaneous connective tissue and the fat layer. Possible causes of cellulite include hormonal changes, genetic factors, weight gain or loss, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle or smoking. There is also evidence that tight clothing and too much sitting can cause cellulite.

But many healthy women can develop cellulite despite a healthy diet and exercise program. The distribution of fat in the body can also predispose to cellulite. Since many different factors can cause cellulite, almost all women may experience cellulite in any part of their body at some point in their lives.

Who is at risk for cellulite? 

According to estimates made in the light of research and experience to date, 80-90% of women will develop cellulite with a high probability at some point in their lives after puberty. The incidence increases with age. Because with age, the skin becomes thinner and looser, which increases the risk. It has been observed that cellulite develops more frequently in lighter-skinned women.

Cellulite can also be seen more rarely in men. Experts think that the different characteristics of the structures under the skin and less fat tissue in men reduce the risk. Weight gain can make cellulite more noticeable, but some thin people also have cellulite. An inactive sedentary lifestyle and pregnancy can increase the risk of developing cellulite.

What are the symptoms of cellulite? 

Cellulite is characterized by an indented skin appearance in body areas such as hips, thighs, and abdomen. This appearance on the skin is sometimes described as a cottage cheese or orange peel appearance.

In mild cellulite, the orange peel appearance on the skin can only be seen by compressing the affected area such as the thighs. In more severe cellulite, the rough structure of the skin is noticeable in any case. Cellulite is most commonly seen around the thighs and buttocks, but can also be found on the breasts, lower abdomen, and upper arms.

Cellulite is not a serious medical condition and treatment is not necessary. In fact, many doctors consider cellulite to be a normal occurrence. Individuals with concerns about cellulite and their skin appearance are advised to consult a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

What are the cellulite grades? 

Grade 1:  The orange peel appearance is not noticeable when lying down and standing, and the skin appears smooth.

Grade 2:  Skin appears smooth when lying down, but some dimpling is noticeable when standing.

Grade 3:  There is an orange peel appearance on the skin while standing and lying down.

How is cellulite treated? 

There is no specific treatment option that is completely effective for cellulite. The following treatments may improve the appearance of cellulite, at least temporarily:


Slow and controlled weight loss of overweight individuals with a healthy diet and regular exercise can slightly improve the unpleasant appearance of the skin. However, sudden and rapid weight loss causes sagging of the skin and worsens the appearance of cellulite.

Laser and radiofrequency systems

Perhaps the most promising treatment option is the use of laser and radiofrequency systems. There are three different systems used in cellulite treatment. All three systems provide improvement in the skin after a series of treatments. The results obtained can be permanent for up to six months. These systems may include:

  • The first uses a combination of tissue massage, radiofrequency technology and infrared light to treat cellulite.
  • In another system, a combination of diode laser energy and tissue massage is preferred.
  • The third system uses simultaneously deep and superficial levels of radiofrequency to treat cellulite.

Laser assisted liposuction 

Some people choose to have liposuction for cellulite treatment. During liposuction, fat cells are sucked with the help of a thin tube placed under the skin through a small incision on the skin. Although liposuction alone shapes the body, it does not remove cellulite and may worsen the orange peel appearance. Laser assisted liposuction gives more effective results in cellulite treatment. This treatment is a different method of liposuction that destroys fat cells while tightening the skin.


Cryolipolysis freezes lipid molecules in regional fat cells in areas of the body such as hips and abdomen. This FDA-approved method is promising in improving the appearance of cellulite.


This non-surgical method uses sound waves to reduce targeted fat cells in the abdomen and thighs. The results obtained are effective for 2 to 3 months.


Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that inhibits collagen formation and reduces free radicals. Twice daily application of 0.3% retinol cream has been shown to reduce the appearance of cellulite by smoothing the skin after six months.


It is a treatment method applied in the form of carbon dioxide gas injection under the skin. Some cellulite can be treated with this method. It may cause side effects such as bruising and discomfort after the procedure.

What are the ways to prevent cellulite?

It is not possible to prevent cellulite formation 100%. But this is because taking some precautions can reduce the formation of cellulite. An active lifestyle and healthy diet can help minimize the appearance of cellulite. In addition, maintaining a healthy body weight is effective in minimizing the degree of dimples on the thighs or abdomen. Muscle-strengthening exercises for the thighs and core can also help shape and lessen the areas where cellulite appears.

For those who are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the appearance of cellulite. But weight loss can also cause the condition to become more pronounced in some people. Loose skin, which usually occurs after rapid and significant weight loss, can result in the appearance of cellulite becoming more pronounced. For this reason, a weight loss program is recommended that will allow the skin to stretch gradually and according to weight loss.

Taking good care of your skin helps reduce the appearance of cellulite. It can be effective to quit smoking and use sunscreen products to help the skin stay softer, firmer and more elastic. Because tight skin can help reduce the appearance of cellulite.