Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Cellulite looks like dimpled or bumpy skin. It's sometimes described as having a cottage cheese or orange peel texture.

You can see mild cellulite only if you pinch your skin in an area where you have cellulite, such as your thighs. More-severe cellulite makes the skin appear rumpled and bumpy with areas of peaks and valleys.

Cellulite is most common around the thighs and buttocks, but it can be found on the breasts, lower abdomen and upper arms as well.

When to see a doctor

Cellulite isn't a serious medical condition, and treatment isn't necessary. In fact, many doctors consider cellulite a normal occurrence. If you're concerned about the appearance of your skin, see your doctor, dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

Causes

Little is known about what causes cellulite. It involves fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords pull down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling.

Risk factors

Cellulite is much more common in women than in men. In fact, most women develop some cellulite after puberty. This is because women's fat is typically distributed in the thighs, hips and buttocks — common areas for cellulite. Cellulite is also more common with aging, when the skin loses elasticity.

Weight gain can make cellulite more noticeable, but some lean people have cellulite, as well. It tends to run in families, so genetics might play the biggest role in whether you develop cellulite. An inactive lifestyle also can increase your chances of having cellulite, as can pregnancy.

Nov. 08, 2016
References
  1. Khan MH, et al. Treatment of cellulite: Part I. Pathophysiology. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2010;62:361.
  2. Khan MH, et al. Treatment of cellulite: Part II. Advances and controversies. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2010;62:373.
  3. New and improved laser and light treatments take aim at cellulite, fat, tattoos, wrinkles and sagging skin. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/new-and-improved-laser-and-light-treatments-take-aim-at-cellulite-fat-tattoos-wrinkles-and-sagging-skin. Accessed Aug. 17, 2016.
  4. DiBernardo BE, et al. Subsurface laser and radiofrequency for face and body rejuvenation. Clinics in Plastic Surgery. 2016;43:527.