How Does Cellulite Form?

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The Mystery Behind Cellulite

  • Unfortunately, the exact causes of cellulite and even the specific ways in which it forms continue to elude the medical and scientific communities. But although many key specifics have not yet been identified, there are several strong theories explaining the potential causes and formation methods of cellulite. Many of the physicians and scientists who have studied cellulite extensively agree that the real causes of cellulite are likely to vary from one person to the next, and that all of the theories discussed in the sections below may be contributing factors to any given cellulite case.

Possible Sex and Hormone-Related Causes

  • Adult men and women are physiologically different in many ways. This is particularly important to consider with regards to cellulite because women are far more likely to develop cellulite than men. One of the leading theories behind cellulite development has to do with the differences in skin thickness and connective tissue between men and women.

    Men have rather flexible connective tissue and thicker outer skin than women. So when a man's fat cells expand, the connective tissue surrounding them will flex and stretch with the growing cells, and the thicker layer of skin will help obscure the outward appearance of the fat growth.

    Women, on the other hand, have rigid connective tissue and thinner skin. When an expanding fat cell puts pressure on connective tissue, it will bulge through the openings rather than force the connective tissue to stretch and flex. These small bulges are then made more visible from the outside because the woman's thinner skin cannot do as much to obscure it.

    It has also been suggested that the female hormone estrogen, which contributes to fat storage for the purposes of pregnancy, may play a role in the higher rates of cellulite in women. Solid scientific evidence has yet to back up this theory.

Possible Genetic Causes

  • Scientists have observed some hereditary trends among people who suffer from cellulite. Although this is an emerging area of study and no direct correlations have been established yet, the studies that have been conducted indicate that genetic factors of sex, race, circulatory health and fat distribution patterns may all be related to the appearance and severity of cellulite.

Possible Diet and Exercise-Related Causes

  • Many men and women of normal weight, as well as many underweight men and women, have been observed to have cellulite. Therefore, cellulite is not strictly a matter of diet, exercise and overall fitness. However, cellulite studies have indicated that poor diet and exercise habits can all contribute to the severity of cellulite, vastly increasing it in cases where it is already present.

    Factors that have shown to worsen cellulite in these studies include fatty and high-sodium diets, low levels of physical activity, smoking and high stress.

Possible External Pressure-Related Causes

  • Circulation is crucial to fat burning, and areas of the body that receive poor circulation will have a harder time burning fat, increasing the potential for cellulite development. Some scientific studies have suggested that restrictive garments such as girdles, corsets and underwear with strong elastic can diminish circulation in those areas of the body if they are worn frequently and for long periods of time. Therefore, it is conceivable that prolonged wear of tight garments could cause cellulite to develop or worsen.

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