The 7 Biggest Myths About Cellulite

Don't fall for phony remedies — here's what actually works to ditch the dimpling.



Myth: Cellulite is just excess fat

Cellulite involves fat, because bulging fat cells are part of the equation, but it’s really the connective fibers between your skin and muscle that create the lumpy, dimpling effect. “Collagen fiber strands that attach skin to muscle are creating the pockets of skin,” says Jennifer Lucas, M.D., dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. “What you’re seeing is normal fat that everyone has. Why you’re seeing it, is because there are areas that are being pulled down.”

Myth: Only an unlucky few get cellulite

Brace yourself—if you have cellulite, you are one of hundreds of millions of women in the U.S. who’s cursing her luck on that front. “The majority of women have some form of cellulite on their body,” says Dr. Lucas. “From what I’ve seen, it’s 80 to 98 percent of women.”
Although men experience cellulite much less frequently, at least 10 percent of them have it, too. “Men have fibrous bands that run more parallel with the skin surface,” says Lisa Donofrio, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and Associate Clinical Professor at the Yale University School of Medicine. “Women have bands that run perpendicular, thus causing the telltale dimpling.”

Myth: Cellulite only happens to older people

While cellulite does increase with age, even young people can shows signs of the dreaded dimpling. “There is no age exception,” says Dr. Lucas.Genetics, hormones, and body make-up—where you store excess fat—determine cellulite formation, she adds.
Older women have a few factors working against them in terms of smooth skin. “Loss of integrity and thickness of the skin, increased cumulative sun damage, skin laxity, and increased body fat all play a role,” says Dr. Donofrio. “Plus, there is evidence that the fibrous bands get thicker and stiffer with age.”

Myth: Losing weight will make cellulite disappear

If you’re not building muscle, eating a healthful diet low in processed carbohydrates and sugar, and staying hydrated, weight loss may exacerbate cellulite. “Most experts agree the best way to reduce and eliminate the [bulging] of subcutaneous fat within connective tissue isaerobic exercise and weight training,” says Shane Allen, a certified weight loss specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist “Strengthening the fibrous connective tissue under the skin helps regain elasticity, which makes the appearance of cellulite less prevalent.”
And especially don't turn to liposuction. Even if you had $10,000 at your disposal, this fat-sucking procedure can worsen the appearance of your cellulite. “The problem is, even if you get rid of deeper fat, you’re not addressing the top part of fat,” says Dr. Lucas. “It’s not addressing the puckering.”

Myth: Firming creams and lotions can reduce cellulite

Sorry to say, you cannot trust the hordes of beauty product companies trying to sell you cellulite-blasting lotions boasting “natural botanicals,” antioxidants, and caffeine. “No studies show that these creams used by themselves offer any improvement,” says the Mayo Clinic info page for cellulite. “In some cases, the ingredients in these products cause skin reactions or rashes.
”The only topical products shown to help in clinical studies are those containing prescription-strength retinol. “With retinol products there is some proof,” says Dr. Lucas. “It thickens skin over time, which may decrease the appearance of cellulite.” Dr. Donofrio estimates that it takes about 30 days on average to see results from retinol cream.

Myth: Getting a suntan makes cellulite disappear

Sunbathing in the actual sun will only make cellulite worse. UV rays damage your skin by breaking down the collagen and elastin network, making cellulite more visible, says Dr. Donofrio.
That said, sunless tanning products like sprays and creams do help lessen the appearance of cellulite. “You can camouflage it,” says Dr. Lucas. “If you put on self-tanner, you’ll decrease the color change, depending on how light your skin is—optically, you may not see it as much.”

Myth: You can remove cellulite by working out a certain area

Cellulite-targeting exercises are a fiction, but it is true that toning your muscles overall can reduce the cottage-cheese effect. Building muscle in your thighs, for example, can plump the muscle there and reduce cellulite somewhat, but “your body burns fat at the same exact rate all over your body,” says Allen. “This means cellulite or fat on your thighs will burn at the same rate as your belly. So, while you are helping the area you're working appear more toned, you're not burning fat there any quicker than you are on the rest of your body.” Dr. Lucas agrees: “The more physically fit you are, the less susceptible you’ll be to cellulite,” she says.
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