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.
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:
- Sex and race/ethnicity
- How your body burns energy
- Hormone changes
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.
- Fillers that stimulate collagen to soften appearance of dimpled areas.
- 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
American Academy of Dermatology Association website. Cellulite treatments: what really works? www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/fat-removal/cellulite-treatments-what-really-works. Accessed January 16, 2023.
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.
Hexsel DM, Katz BE, Hexsel CL. Cellulite. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Coulson IH, Murrell DF, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Limited; 2022:chap 38.
Review Date 11/30/2022
Updated by: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.