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The Fight Against Cellulite: Why You Get It and How to Get Rid of It

No woman wants it. But almost every woman gets it. Here's what you can do to reduce the dimples on your body.

Woman pointing fist at camera

Orange peel skin. Cottage cheese thighs. Hail damage. They’re all unflattering descriptions. And definitely not anything you want to associate with your appearance.

But cellulite, the dimpled, bumpy skin that shows up on your butt or thighs, looks an awful lot like these things. When you have it — and 80 to 90 percent of women get it — you just want it to go away and get your youthful legs and bum back.

What, exactly, is cellulite?

Cellulite is the normal fat underneath your skin. As your fat cells build up, they push up through the connective tissue that holds your skin and muscle together. The connective tissue is a network of fibrous cords. When fat pushes toward the skin, the cords pull down, trying to hold it back — like, if for some reason, you pushed bread dough into a mesh strainer. That’s what gives your skin the dimples and bumps.

Other than that, there’s not much known about cellulite. It’s normal and there’s no clear cause. It doesn’t pose any health risks. Only cosmetic concerns and, often, embarrassment.

Why does it only happen to women?

Believe it or not, men do get cellulite. It’s just less common. For men, fat tends to build up in their bellies. But their connective tissue beneath the skin is different. Testosterone promotes the production of protein, which makes a denser layer of connective tissue and thicker skin. So it’s harder for the fat to push through and make a visible difference.

Women produce far more estrogen than testosterone. And one of estrogen’s many functions is stimulating the storage of fat. With a thicker layer of fat beneath the skin and a weaker network of fibrous tissue to hold it down, cellulite makes its unwelcome appearance.

But that’s only part of the story. While you’re likely to develop cellulite at some point in life because of the makeup of the female body, there are many other things that can cause it.

Poor Diet

Whether you’re thick or thin, bad eating habits can cause cellulite. Diets high in fat create more fat cells. Too much sugar expands fat cells because it gets deposited there. Too much salt can make the appearance of cellulite worse because it causes you to retain fluids. Fad diets and quick weight loss can make your skin looser and actually make cellulite appear — even though you’ve lost body fat.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Physical activity fights fat. When you’re not active, you lose muscle tone. You can have a healthy weight, but if your muscles aren’t strong or dense enough, they can’t hold back the fat below them.

Slow Metabolism

Metabolism is directly related to body fat. When you’re body doesn’t burn energy as fast as it takes it in, that can lead to weight gain. You have a higher storage of body fat waiting to burst through the connective tissue to the skin.

Hormone Changes

Oh, that estrogen. You can’t live with it. You can’t live without it. When estrogen production drops after menopause, collagen production also decreases. Collagen actually helps keep cellulite in check by building strong, healthy skin and forming the connective tissue beneath the surface.

Skin Health

A thick layer of skin reduces the underlying appearance of cellulite. Swings in hormone levels affect your collagen production and skin health. So does aging. Your skin becomes less elastic over time — mostly due to the lower hormone levels — and causes cellulite to appear as you get older.

How do I get rid of cellulite?

Well, you can’t stop aging. And your hormones may cause cellulite no matter what you do.

You can live a healthy lifestyle: eat a good diet, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and practice good skin care. But even if you’re the picture of good health, your thighs may still turn into cottage cheese. If that’s the case, you still have options to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

truSculpt® 3D body sculpting is a procedure that burns fat. It's different from CoolSculpt®, another common body contouring procedure that freezes fat. truSculpt 3D uses radio frequency to deliver therapeutic heat to the fat below your skin, decreasing circumference and diminishing fat. Most people compare it to a hot stone massage.

Not only does truSculpt 3D contour your body, but it also tightens the skin. You can see results with little to no pain or downtime. But results vary, and it can take up to 12 weeks for the treated fat cells to die off.

You may think you’ve tried everything to lose the cottage cheese thighs and orange peel skin. But there’s help in the fight against cellulite. Talk to your doctor about your health and your lifestyle. They’ll help you discover healthy habits and treatments you may not have considered. When you feel like you’ve uncovered every option, visit the specialists at The Iowa Clinic Medical Spa to choose the right treatment to get rid of your cellulite.

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