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Cellulite

Cellulite is fat that collects in pockets just below the surface of the skin. It forms around the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Cellulite deposits cause the skin to look dimpled.

Information

Cellulite may be more visible than fat deeper in the body. Everyone has layers of fat under the skin, so even thin people can have cellulite. Collagen fibers that connect fat to the skin may stretch, break down, or pull tight. This allows fat cells to bulge out.

Your genes may play a part in whether or not you have cellulite. Other factors may include:

  • Your diet
  • How your body burns energy
  • Hormone changes
  • Dehydration

Cellulite is not harmful to your health. Most health care providers consider cellulite a normal condition for many women and some men.

Many people seek treatment for cellulite because they are bothered by how it looks. Talk to your provider about treatment options. These include:

  • Laser treatment, which uses laser energy to break up the tough bands that pull on the skin resulting in the dimpled skin of cellulite.
  • Subcision, which uses a tiny blade to also break up the tough bands.
  • Other treatments, such as carbon dioxide, radiofrequency, ultrasound, creams and lotions, and deep massage devices.

Be sure you understand the risks and benefits of any treatment for cellulite.

Tips for avoiding cellulite include:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Exercising regularly to keep muscles toned and bones strong
  • Maintaining a healthy weight (no yo-yo dieting)
  • Not smoking

References

American Academy of Dermatology website. Cellulite treatments: what really works? www.aad.org/cosmetic/fat-removal/cellulite-treatments-what-really-works. Accessed October 15, 2019.

Coleman KM, Coleman WP, Flynn TC. Body contouring: liposuction and non-invasive modalities. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 156.

Katz BE, Hexsel DM, Hexsel CL. Cellulite. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson IH, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 39.

Review Date 10/8/2018

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 10/15/2019.