Cellulite

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Learn about ways to get rid of cellulite.

How do I get rid of the cellulite on my thighs?

Cellulite is caused by irregular patterns of connective tissue beneath the skin, and as the adipose (fatty) tissue, which forms in compartments of little honeycombs, pushes into the skin, it causes the dimpling of cellulite. It has been shown that people who have cellulite have different patterns of connective tissue than people who don't, and men tend to have this pattern much less than women. Cellulite is not directly a function of excess weight, but a genetic difference in the way adipose tissue and connective tissue form. In fact, cellulite affects people whether they are overweight or not. Biochemically, cellulite does not behave any differently than other fat, and there is no health risk from cellulite (some evidence even suggests that lower extremity fat is protective against chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease).

Quick GuideCellulite Facts and Treatment Options

Cellulite Facts and Treatment Options

What is cellulite?

The term cellulite refers to the dimpled appearance of the skin that some people have on their hips, thighs, and buttocks. Cellulite is much more common in women than in men because of differences in the way fat, muscle, and connective tissue are distributed in men's and women's skin. The lumpiness of cellulite is caused by fat deposits that push and distort the connective tissues beneath skin, leading to the characteristic changes in appearance of the skin. Cellulite has been medically referred to as edematous fibrosclerotic panniculopathy (EFP).

Cellulite is not related to the condition known as cellulitis, which is a spreading bacterial infection or inflammation of the skin and tissues beneath.

What causes cellulite?

The dimpled appearance of cellulite can be considered to be a normal variant -- one way that many perfectly normal human beings look. Heredity, skin thickness, gender, the amount and distribution of body fat, and age can all influence the extent to which cellulite is present or visible. Cellulite is thought to occur due to shrinkage or shortening of the fibrous tissue cords that anchor the skin. While cellulite is more common in women than men, men can also be affected. Cellulite occurs in people of all races living all around the globe. Although female hormones may play a role in contributing to this pattern of fat distribution, cellulite is not treatable by hormone therapy.

What are risk factors for cellulite?

Cellulite is more common in women than in men. Having a family history of cellulite is another risk factor. Pregnancy and an inactive lifestyle may increase the risk of developing cellulite.

What are cellulite symptoms and signs?

Cellulite causes dimpling of the skin and a lumpy appearance to the flesh. Cellulite can cause an "orange peel" appearance to the skin. It is most commonly located in the hips, buttocks, and abdomen. Sometimes it occurs in the breasts, upper arms, or belly. With mild cellulite, the dimpling is not apparent unless the skin is pinched.

How do doctors diagnose and assess cellulite?

Cellulite is typically considered to be a cosmetic problem. The characteristic appearance of cellulite is sufficient to confirm that the condition is present. There are no diagnostic tests for cellulite.

What specialists treat cellulite?

Since cellulite is considered to be a cosmetic problem, aesthetic physicians, including plastic surgeons and some dermatologists, may offer some treatments for cellulite.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/6/2016

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