What Is Cellulite?
Introduction to Cellulite
Cellulite is a non-medical term used to describe the occurrence of ‘bumpy’ fat deposits beneath the skin. Scientifically speaking, the symptoms of cellulite are “adiposis edematosa” (excessive accumulation of fat deposits) , “dermopanniculosis deformans” (deformation of the dermis layer) and “status protrusus cutis” (the pinching of lower layers in the skin). It is usually found on the thighs and back of the legs, upper arms, bottom and stomach, but can in fact form anywhere where excess fatty tissue accumulates.
Many liken the external appearance of these deposits to orange peel or cottage cheese, leading to the terms ‘orange peel skin’ and ‘cottage cheese skin’ that are commonly found in the media.
Cellulite is extremely common, with an estimated 90% of all postpubertal women in the UK affected. The formation of cellulite is not linked to race, weight or body shape and whilst girls of prepubertal age are not affected, any woman over this age is likely to be; with the formation and appearance worsening as they grow older. Cellulite is also not related to diet and vegetarian or vegan women are as likely to suffer from it. Whilst cellulite is particularly common in the overweight, such that it is often seen as having an unflattering connection to obesity, it is not necessary to be overweight for cellulite to occur.
Cellulite can also be found in men, although its occurrence is rather rare. Generally it is found in men that have had some severe hormonal change.
Why Does Cellulite Occur?
The precise reason for cellulite formation is not completely understood, and there are several competing theories that provide some explanation.
The most commonly accepted explanation put forward is the ‘anatomic’ hypothesis. In a survey of over 100 website articles, Cellulite.co.uk found that this explanation was cited as the sole explanation over 80% of the time.
This theory is based upon the fact that the structure of the skin differs structurally between men and women; specifically in the structure of fat and connective tissue. The theory contends that the formation and appearance of cellulite, the so called ‘orange peel skin’, is created by pockets of fat, called ‘papillae adiposae’, that push up from their lower layer through to the surface. The bulging of which is caused by the stringy connective tissue in the skin being weakened, forming a ‘net’ over the fat that pushes through (see diagram below).
Other theories cite different reasons for the protrusion of fat, including genetic, hormonal and behavioural factors. What is however clear is that cellulite is not a simple condition, but one that is the result of complex processes that require a complex approach for treatment.
Is Cellulite Harmful?
Cellulite has no known connection to morbidity or mortality, and as such is not known to be harmful . Indeed, until recently most medical professionals did not regard cellulite as anything other than simple fat deposits.