Ladies Let's Talk Cellulite

The cornerstone of the modern beauty industry is fixing what’s not broken – and curing cellulite is a perfect example. But did you know that not that long ago cellulite simply didn’t exist? Of course, skin lumps and bumps were still present on most women’s bums and thighs, only they were not considered a flaw and didn’t have any stigma attached. They just peacefully existed.

Going even further back in time, you’d find something even more curious – higher body fat percentage, and subsequently, lumpier skin represented wealth and prosperity! This is clearly reflected in works of art, such as paintings from the Victorian Era. High-class women were pictured nude, lots of rolls, folds and not-yet-existent cellulite attached as proof of their richness and beauty. While poorer people performed hours of manual labour daily and consumed limited diets, the rich feasted on high-calorie foods and didn’t have to perform any hard work. Therefore, being heavier pretty much equalled having more in your pocket and was highly sought after.

Fast forward to today, we are now constantly bombarded with cellulite treatment and prevention information, and reasons why we should be battling this supposedly devastating condition. Considering close to 90% of women have visible cellulite, it seems like we’re truly plagued – or are we? Let’s have a closer look at the cosmetic defect of the century!

But first…

What is cellulite?

Also known as ‘orange-peel’ skin, cellulite refers to the appearance of lumps and dimples under the skin. But why do they appear? Turns out it has to do with an interaction between the connective tissue below the surface of the skin and the layer of fat tissue directly below it.

For instance, men are less likely to have what we know as cellulite, as their connective tissue tends to have a criss-cross structure. As a result, the fat cells have nowhere to visibly protrude – hence, no bumpy appearance.

In contrast, in women, the fat layer and the connective tissue are arranged vertically, which increases the chances of the fat layer protruding, which creates lumps and bumps. Certain factors make this arrangement more likely, such as:

  • Genetics
    • Hormonal profile (e.g. during menopause, estrogen levels decrease, which in turn affects the blood flow to connective tissue, making skin texture more prominent)
    • Lifestyle factors – e.g. overweight individuals are likely to experience a more prominent appearance of cellulite as the overall body fat percentage is higher

    Nevertheless, cellulite as such is harmless and isn’t some ‘disease’ or ‘horrible condition’. It’s pretty much a natural feature for most women, no matter the level of fitness, body composition or diet quality!

    In addition, it’s very hard – if not impossible – to get rid of. Sure, to a certain extent, lowering body fat percentage can reduce its appearance – and so can some cosmetic procedures. However, for most people getting rid of cellulite completely is about as likely as encountering a unicorn, providing an amazing opportunity for the beauty industry.

    And of course, the opportunity has not been missed!

    When cellulite became a problem

    February 1933 marks the first occasion when the term ‘cellulite’ was printed in a periodical, Vogue Beaute, and referred to as a flaw that must be defeated in order to look desirable and pretty.

    It’s also worth noting that the original medical definition of cellulite had nothing to do with dimples and bumps of fat – rather, it was used to describe cells or tissues in a state of inflammation or infection (very much like the modern diagnosis of cellulitis).

    Clearly, Vogue Beaute had different views… In the 1933 article, cellulite was described as a combination of “water, residues, toxins, fat, which form a mixture against which one is badly armed.” It was deemed a problem – and a feminine one. It’s not entirely clear why this particular attribute of female physique was targeted. What is clear, however, that is has become the biggest ‘invented disease’ in history.

    The idea has quickly spread to the Western cultures – and the panic over cellulite has become very apparent. The headline of 1968 Vogue declared: “Cellulite: The Fat You Could Not Lose Before”, and this is where American women got introduced to the concept. In the following years, mythical causes and cures of cellulite became plentiful. The proposed solutions ranged from using rolling pins on the body to extremely expensive salon ‘treatments’, many of those were subsequently banned by the FDA for false advertising.

    These days, treatments and products targeting cellulite come with much more careful promises. After all, cellulite is near impossible to cure, primarily because there is no real problem to fix.

    Bottom line

    Most people have some degree of cellulite – including around 90% of women. It’s a completely normal anatomical feature that has to do with the way connective tissue and the layer of fat underneath.

    Certain factors, such as lower body fat percentage and improving skin elasticity, can reduce the appearance of cellulite – however, don’t expect miracles, and most of all, don’t stress about it. Remember – it’s a made up ‘disease’, and therefore doesn’t need to be cured. Instead of focusing on ‘fixing’ such ‘flaws’, put effort into creating a healthy, sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle!