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What is cellulite?

Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
Cellulite is a natural result of aging. It can hardly be called a disease, since over 90% of women have it. Cellulite of the thighs and buttocks is similar to the wrinkles of the face. Human skin is tethered to the underlying muscle by collagen connective-tissue strands. These connections prevent excessive motion of the skin. Animals such as dogs do not have these connections, and their skin can be pulled many centimeters. But because of our unique anatomy, when human skin is stretched, as with weight gain or in pregnancy, slight sagging will occur. The collagen connections hold up the skin, creating the typical appearance of cellulite.

I always thought cellulite was not a real substance -- that it was just the way the skin looks after being overstretched. In fact, cellulite is an anatomic entity. If you slice up the skin and look at it under the microscope, you will actually see cellulite. Scientists at the prestigious Rockefeller University in New York did so, and they found that cellulite was simply fat that extruded into the skin's dermal layer. They did not find any difference in structure or metabolism between cellulite and fat. Cellulite is not a pathologic condition, so no medicine can get rid of it.
Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

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Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery (Yale University Press Health & Wellness)

The public’s recent exuberance toward cosmetic surgery has spurred an unprecedented demand for appearance-changing procedures. But how can an average consumer discern the hype from solid truth? ...

About 90% of women have cellulite, which is characterized by lumpy deposits of fat that lie just beneath the surface of the skin. Cellulite appears most often on the hips, buttocks, thighs, and upper arms.

Although many find cellulite personally undesirable, it is harmless and not an indication of good or bad health habits. The tendency to have cellulite may be genetic; even people with normal or low body weight may get cellulite.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.