Cellulite is a puckering caused by the connective fibers under the skin (more on those later) pulling it down. As Dr. M. Christine Lee, dermatologist and director of The East Bay Laser & Skin Center in Walnut Creek, California, explains, think of your skin like a mattress. If you look at the top of a mattress, it has all those dimples from the springs that are holding down the mattress top, and then there's the stuffing that's caught in between them.
What Doesn't Cause Cellulite
The biggest myth around cellulite is that it's caused by fat. According to Dr. Neal Schultz, an NYC dermatologist and founder of DermTV, this is not the case. "The important thing to remember is that men don't get cellulite, but women do, which underscores that it's not just about fat, but rather about the structure of the skin. If fat were the only cause of cellulite, then why don't fat men get cellulite?" The answer: While women have vertical bands holding their skin and muscles together, Dr. Lee says men have crisscrossed bands, which is what makes their skin so tough.
Cellulite boils down to the structure of our skin and the distensibility of those bands. While Dr. Schultz notes that no one knows for sure what causes the cellulite to manifest after puberty in women, doctors' best guess is that as we age and our estrogen production increases, this causes our bodies to gain more fat. Because those bands don't stretch as the fat accumulates, it pushes up the skin and causes the bumps.
The Bad News
Are you sitting down? We don't want to be the one to break it to you, but there is no over-the-counter cream that is going to "cure" your cellulite. "I really don't understand how smart, responsible people can think a cream or topical product can make a difference," laments Dr. Schultz.
Can't They Help Even A Little Bit? Pretty Please?
As far as just making cellulite look temporarily better, Dr. Lee does say that creams can have an impact. "Most of these creams are just moisturizers," she says. "Cellulite looks worse when skin is dry, so any time you moisturize the skin, it will look better." Adds Dr. Schultz, "Moisturizing the skin creates a temporary plumping, which smooths the surface of the skin, and you get the optical effect of more reflection of light. Any time you make something more reflective, it will look more smooth."
So, How Do I Actually Get Rid Of It?
Now, if you're hardcore about abolishing cellulite completely and are willing to drop some serious cash, then lasers are going to be your dimpled-skin solution. But, while there are dozens of lasers on the market, Dr. Lee says they only provide temporary fixes. "You need to do a series of eight to 12 treatments every six to 12 months, and you will only see a 20% to 30% reduction in cellulite," she explains. "You do one series of multiple treatments, and then you have to keep doing that every six to 12 months."
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