Known colloquially as “orange peel” or “cottage cheese” skin, cellulite is an extremely common dimpling of the skin that appears on the thighs, hips, and buttocks.

It occurs almost exclusively in women. In fact, about 90 percent of women—those who are thin as well as those who are overweight—develop it at some point or another in their lives.

Cellulite is perfectly harmless. Still, in our culture like ours, where women’s clothing, particularly active sportswear, tends to reveal a lot of skin, such dimpling can be annoying and embarrassing. Surveys have repeatedly shown that most women would like to rid their bodies of cellulite.

What Cause Cellulite?

Because men rarely get cellulite, some scientists have hypothesized that hormones—particularly estrogen—are likely to be involved, but the evidence for this is slim. Men and women do have different skin architecture, however—a factor that helps explain gender differences in cellulite formation. In men, subcutaneous (just under the surface) fat is contained by bands of crisscrossing connective tissue. The bands that contain the fat in women’s skin, on the other hand, have a vertical structure. So when the fat begins to push out of those bands, it has no place to go but up and out. The result is “bumpy” skin.

Genetics is undoubtedly involved. Some women are just more prone to developing cellulite.

How Is Cellulite Treated?

First, many things won’t help with cellulite. These include exercise, diet, “cellulite” lotions and creams, massage, and supplements. Don’t waste your money on them.

New devices, on the other hand, have been shown to be effective in reducing the appearance of cellulite. One of the most effective is Velashape, which combines radio waves, infrared light, and mechanical and suction massage to break down fatty tissue while boosting new collagen growth. The minimally-invasive laser lipolysis treatment known as Cellulaze can also help smooth cellulite-ridden skin, but it is still awaiting FDA approval. Ask your dermatologist about these and other possible laser treatments.

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