What is cellulite?
When it comes to cellulite, the sheer quantity of misinformation out there can be overwhelming. In one survey, in fact, sixty percent of women with cellulite believed it was their own fault. But nothing could be further from the truth: cellulite is so common among women that many scientists describe it as a “secondary sex characteristic”—similar to having breasts or wider hips!
In that spirit, rather than describing what cellulite is, let’s talk about what it isn’t.
What isn’t cellulite?
Cellulite isn’t just fat. It’s related to bands of tissue that run through the fat layer. Criss-cross bands, which are more common in men, hold the fat in place more effectively than parallel bands, which are more common in women. Different factors (genetics, age, hormones, etc.) can cause those bands to get thicker and stiffer, pulling the skin down and causing fat to bulge toward the skin—a bit like a mattress. Those collagen bands are the reason that diet and exercise rarely affects cellulite, or at least not to the degree cellulite sufferers would hope.
Similarly, cellulite isn’t just an obesity issue: people of all shapes and sizes develop it. Some research suggests that obesity may affect hormones and metabolism in ways that cause cellulite, and extra weight can also make existing cellulite more visible, but the fact that magazine models never seem to have cellulite is probably more about photo retouching than body composition.
While we’re debunking myths: cellulite isn’t just toxins, and it isn’t just retained water. Also, it isn’t just a question of vanity—though harmless, it can dramatically affect a person’s confidence and well-being.
Can cellulite be prevented?
Unfortunately, scientists aren’t entirely sure. Cellulite seems to involve a number of environmental, hormonal and genetic factors… some more easily influenced than others:
- Sex. Though men do develop cellulite, it’s far less common than in women (under 10% vs. over 90%). Female hormones may affect its development in other ways as well, for example by affecting blood flow or causing fatty tissue to build up in certain ways.
- Age. Cellulite tends to be more prominent in older people—decreased blood flow, larger fat cells, and slackening skin can all play a role.
- Diet. Eating a diet high in salt and preservatives can sometimes lead to various metabolic disorders (problems with how your body converts food to energy) that may affect cellulite.
- Blood flow. Reduced circulation means less oxygen and nutrients reach the tissue, causing it to lose firmness and allowing fat to push through.
- Clothing. Tight underwear, in particular, can cut off circulation, potentially increasing the chance of cellulite.
- Water. Though it doesn’t cause cellulite directly, dehydration can leave the skin less supple and make cellulite more noticeable.
Treating cellulite with ultrasound
The market is awash with cellulite-related creams, ointments, supplements and gadgets. Some focus on plumping the skin to reduce the appearance of cellulite; others aim to help with circulation or metabolism. Medical spas also offer numerous options ranging from cryotherapy (freezing the tissue) to carboxytherapy (infusing carbon dioxide under the skin) to subcision (disconnecting the bands of collagen).
One exciting option is ultrasound cavitation, for example with the Viridex®US generator. Ceramic heads are placed on the treatment area, and ultrasound waves are directed into the skin, vibrating the fat cells and causing them to release their fat into the system. From there, it is either flushed out as waste (through the urine) or burned for energy (e.g., with exercise or electrotherapy). Ultrasound therapy also boosts circulation and stimulates production of collagen and elastin, proteins that help make the skin firmer and more supple.
Advantages of ultrasound cavitation
- Minimally invasive—no downtime, no anaesthesia
- Can be combined with other treatments to amplify the effects
- Safer and gentler than invasive procedures (e.g., liposuction)
- Benefits skin in multiple ways