First things first, let’s explore how and why we get cellulite. Cellulite affects women of all races, ages and shapes. In fact, 90 percent of women are impacted by cellulite, starting around the age of 25, while only ten percent of men suffer from this evil. So, what is it that women have an abundance of that men lack? No, it’s not intelligence. It’s estrogen.
Estrogen has an impact on blood vessels. As we age and approach menopause, our estrogen levels begin to decrease. When estrogen decreases, we lose receptors in blood vessels to our skin. This leads to decreased circulation, and as this occurs, less oxygen and nutrients reach the buttocks, thighs, knees, etc., causing a decrease in collagen production. Simultaneously, fat cells start becoming larger, build through the collagen, and become the bumpy fat known as cellulite.
So, if we just minimize the fat cells, we won’t have cellulite, right? Wrong! Here’s more bad news. The fat that causes cellulite is not the same fat that is the difference between a size four and a size eight. That kind of fat lies far below your skin, deep in the body, closer to your bones. That is the fat that your body burns as fuel, taking you from a size eight to a size four. Cellulite, on the other hand, is made up of fat cells that sit within the skin. They can’t be burned off, so dieting and exercise won’t help.
Another reason women get cellulite has to do with something called ‘septa’. Septa are fibrous bands of tissue that surround the fat cells in our skin and help keep them in place. Men must have septa too, because otherwise their fat would be all over the place, correct? Yes, they do, but there is a gender difference. In men, the septa run in a diagonal pattern, while in women, the septa pattern is vertical. This difference doesn’t matter when we are young, but as we age, we lose elasticity in the septa, resulting in hard and rigid fibrous tissue. When the fibrous tissue hardens and loses elasticity, it puts pressure on the buoyant fat cells, which begin pushing up through the spaces of the hardened septa pattern. When the septa run vertically, as in women, the result is a breakthrough effect, and the fat cells push up in between the tissues, resulting in those dimples we call cellulite.
Here is where heredity plays a role. The number of septa a woman has is genetic. The more septa you have, the more cellulite you will have as you age. In fact, we can measure and predict the amount of cellulite you will experience by the number of septa you have.
We evaluate cellulite on a scale from zero to three. Don’t ask me why the scale starts at zero, because I’ve never actually met anyone who has stage zero cellulite. It generally appears between the ages of 25 and 35 and worsens with time. Cellulite is much more easily treated in the early stages. Stage one cellulite that has progressed to an advanced stage usually requires a greater number of sessions. The stages of cellulite are:
Stage 0: no visible cellulite, even when the skin is pinched (I call these people freaks of nature).
Stage 1: no visible cellulite when standing or lying down; however, an orange peel texture can be seen when the skin is pinched (again I don’t know many of these people, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t fit in this stage, because I don’t).
Stage 2: visible cellulite when standing but not when lying down.
Stage 3: visible cellulite when standing and lying down (yes, this is most of us).
The truth is, having cellulite has both physical and emotional effects for most women. It may lower self-esteem. It may affect romantic relationships and libido. It may make people avoid certain activities, such as going to the beach or to the pool. Cellulite can cause stress from continual efforts to hide problem areas, even from the people we love most.