Developing the dimpled skin of cellulite seems practically inevitable if you’re a woman — no matter what size you are. Cellulite doesn’t seem to discriminate based on body type.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
But what is cellulite? Is it the same as fat? Even though it’s common, you might not want to just surrender and live with it.
Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, answers questions about cellulite and what you can do about it.
What is cellulite?
“You may think cellulite relates to how much fat you have, but we see cellulite in people who are thin, normal weight and overweight,” says Dr. Khetarpal.
We all have fat cells in compartments beneath our skin that grow over time due to hormones, lifestyle and diet. As this occurs, tough, fibrous cords that connect your skin to your muscles pull downward on your skin as the fat pushes upward. This creates an uneven, dimpled surface.
This puckered and dimpled skin shows up most commonly on thighs, hips and buttocks.
Who’s more likely to have cellulite?
“We know that age, heredity and lifestyle choices can predispose someone to getting cellulite,” Dr. Khetarpal adds.
You are more likely to have it if:
- Someone in your family has it.
- You’re older (your skin loses elasticity as you age, making surface changes more visible).
- You’ve had a baby or gone through puberty (estrogen is thought to play a role).
- You have a sedentary lifestyle (you sit a lot).
- You eat an unhealthy diet high in fats and carbohydrates.
Less than 10% of men have cellulite. Men’s fibrous tissue is stronger and structured so it’s more likely to hold fat in rather than push it toward the surface. Men also have testosterone, which helps limit body fat; women have estrogen, which helps store fat.
Can you prevent cellulite with lifestyle changes?
Nothing you do can guarantee you won’t get cellulite. But there are things that might help you avoid or limit it:
- Get regular exercise.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Avoid foods that are high in fat and refined sugars.
Do creams and spa treatments that claim to get rid of cellulite actually work?
There’s no magic solution to eliminating cellulite. Once it’s there, it’s difficult to get rid of. It doesn’t always respond well even if you adjust your diet or get more exercise.
There isn’t any scientific proof that creams on the market work. In fact, some have ingredients that can cause adverse skin reactions — so use caution if you decide to try them.
Some spas offer vigorous massage in areas where you might have cellulite. This can increase blood flow and reduce excess fluid. While these massages may help, the improvements won’t last. Most at-home therapies and spa treatments only diminish the dimples for several hours after treatment.
Are there any permanent solutions to getting rid of cellulite?
“Unfortunately, no. But there are minimally invasive or surgical interventions that aim to eliminate the fibrous cords pulling down on the skin,” says Dr. Khetarpal.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a couple of procedures, including Cellfina® and Cellulaze™. The results of these procedures have been shown to last for more than three years. A new injectable called Qwo® was FDA approved in 2021 for cellulite dimples on the buttocks. It’s a series of in-office treatments that can improve the appearance of dimples on your buttocks.
It’s important to do your homework if you’re considering one of these longer-lasting solutions. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist and investigate your options, including those that are FDA-approved.