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What cellulite really is, and what we can do about it

What cellulite really is, and what we can do about it

  • This inflammation of the tissues affects the majority of women and has numerous causes including diet, a lack of exercise and genetic factors

There are numerous myths about cellulite. Most people believe it is due to excess weight or fluid retention, but the problem is actually more complicated than that and can occur for different reasons, some of them difficult to control.

Medically-speaking, cellulite is an inflammation of the cellular tissue which lies beneath the skin. This swelling produces a wrinkled effect similar to orange peel and it occurs mainly on the thighs, buttocks and abdomen (although it can also occur elsewhere on the body.)

Although it is sometimes worse than others and can be more or less visibly obvious, it normally affects women: about 90 per cent of women suffer from cellulite, compared with 10 per cent of men.

This alteration is not directly related to weight, because it can affect thin and fat people, and different things may cause it, including genes, hormonal changes, circulation, lifestyle habits and diet.

Depending on the origin of the problem and the area affected, three different types of cellulite can be identified: soft, hard or solid, and edematous.

The first is related to a lack of muscle tone and it appears with age or when someone puts on weight. It is often accompanied by varicose or spider veins. With hard cellulite, the dermis is tense but it resembles orange peel in appearance. This tends to especially affect teenagers and it increases as time goes by. Finally, there is edematous cellulite, which is the least common and is due to a problem of bad blood circulation aggravated by fluid retention.

Diet and exercise are important

Although they do not completely eradicate cellulite, there are ways to prevent or reduce it. The first is to eat healthily and stay well hydrated. It has been shown that there is a relationship between the presence of a high incidence of toxins in the body and the appearance of cellulite. That is why experts recommend avoiding fast food, processed foods, alcohol, fats, coffee and soft drinks. It is also a good idea to drink two litres of water a day and ingest foods which are high in fibre, are diuretic and citric, because vitamin C strengthens the blood vessels and helps to control venous oedemas.

Sport is also necessary to keep cellulite at bay. Sit-ups and upward and sideward kicks are good exercise if the cellulite is located in the buttocks or legs. It is also necessary to tone the muscles upon which too much fat has accumulated, for example the hips, thighs, stomach and upper arms. Other exercises which help to reduce cellulite are fast walking, cycling, aerobic or weight-bearing exercise and walking up and down stairs. Doing this for at least 30 minutes a day will have an effect.

However, it is important to stress that all these exercises can help to reduce cellulite but will not eradicate it completely because, as we said above, it is caused by different factors and the effects may be different, depending on the genetic predisposition of the person.

Beauty treatments

In addition to a healthy diet and exercise, in the most serious cases it is advisable to consult professionals in health and aesthetic medicine. Massage is a commonly-used therapy, because massaging the area affected by cellulite improves circulation and helps to dissolve the fat nodules which have formed. These massages can be carried out manually or with machines which apply suction to the skin and work by gentle movements to activate cellular exchanges, get rid of residues and make the fat circulate again.

In the area of technological treatments there are numerous options. Ultrasound can dissolve the fat nodules and improve circulation in the area, while pressotherapy activates the venous and lymphatic system.

Other recently-introduced methods use electric or infrared currents. These are applied through electrodes placed on the areas you wish to treat or through devices placed on the dermis. As a result, there are three effects on the skin: the temperature of the tissues in question is raised, the cellular permeability of the adipocytes is improved and the connective tissues are defibrinated. All this improves the appearance and texture of the treated area.

Hydrotherapy can also help in the fight against cellulite. One of these therapies is lymphatic aqua drainage, a specific type of exercise which is practised in water to strengthen the postural muscles. Hydromassage baths and showers with jets at different strengths and temperatures stimulate the venous and lymphatic returns, resulting in draining.

Although there is no easy solution as many advertisements claim, it is true that creams are becoming more effective at reducing cellulite.

These cosmetics use draining agents which combat fluid retention and unblock the tissues, smoothing the skin. That is why they have a triple action: they limit the swelling, reduce the number and volume of adipocytes and improve the appearance of the skin.

Ideally, they should be applied by massage, alternating draining and rolling movements, always using a downward motion. As with other remedies, they have to be used constantly, and the results are often visible after several weeks or months.

For those who like natural remedies, apple vinegar is one of the best products for cellulite because its nutritional composition helps to reduce accumulated fat. You can take it diluted in water (in a small, controlled proportion) or as a topical cure, applying it through massage a couple of times a day.

A homemade exfoliant of coffee and sugar enhances the metabolism of the fats in the body and also helps to eliminate excess fluid from the skin tissue.

But what is most important when tackling this or any other alteration in our body is to understand that the treatments should focus on improving health, not just appearance for social reasons.

Cellulite is not exactly an illness (except in cases where it causes pain or serious circulation problems) and nobody should ever develop a complex about it. Above any aesthetic aspect, it is important to learn to love our body, look after it but also respect its individual shape and features. There is no such thing as the perfect female body, and no need to waste our lives trying to attain one.