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Understanding cellulite can help to combat it

Cellulite principally affects women and occurs mainly on thighs and buttocks.
Cellulite principally affects women and occurs mainly on thighs and buttocks. / 123rf
  • The problem affects 90 per cent of women and just ten per cent of men

There are a lot of myths about cellulite. Most people believe it is caused by excess weight or fluid retention, but it can actually be due to different factors and some of them are difficult to control.

In medical terms, cellulite is an inflammation of the cellular tissue below the skin. This swelling produces wrinkling which looks like orange peel and particularly affects the area around the muscles, buttocks and abdomen (although it can also occur elsewhere on the body). Although there can be different degrees of cellulite and it can be more or less visible, around 90 per cent of women have it, and about ten per cent of men.

This alteration isn't directly related to weight, because it can affect people who are slim or fat and there can be several causes including genetic factors, hormonal changes, circulation, lifestyle habits and diet.

Depending on the origin of the problem and the area it affects, three types of cellulite have been identified: soft, hard (or compact) and edematous.

The first is associated with a lack of muscle tone and appears with age or weight gain. It is often accompanied by varicose or thread veins. In hard cellulite the skin is smooth but looks like orange peel. This normally occurs in adolescence and increases over the years. Finally, edematous cellulite, which is the least common, occurs as a result of poor circulation caused by fluid retention.

Diet and exercise, essential

Although they don't remove the problem entirely, there are ways to prevent cellulite or reduce its effects. The first is to eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of liquids. It has been shown that there is a relationship between a high index of toxins in the body and the appearance of callulite, so experts recommend avoiding fast food, processed food, alcohol, fats, coffee and sugary drinks. It is also advisable to drink two litres of water a day and eat foods which are high in fibre, diuretic and citric, because vitamin C strengthens blood vessels and helps to control venous edemas.

Sport is equally necessary to keep cellulite at bay. Sit-ups and upward and side kicks are good exercise, whether the adiposity is in the buttocks or the legs.

It is also necessary to tone the muscles in which the fat has accumulated to an excessive extent, for example hips, thighs, abdomen and upper arms.

Other dynamics which favour the reduction of cellulite are fast walking, cycling, aerobic exercise or weights, and walking up and down stairs. This type of exercise should be done constantly for at least 30 minutes a day, because that is the only way they will be effective.

However, it is important to point out that all these exercises are aimed at reducing cellulite but not eliminating it completely because, as we said earlier, it is caused by different factors so different processes are needed and these may be more or less effective depending on the genetic predisposition of each individual.

Beauty treatments

In addition to diet and exercise, in the most serious cases of cellulite you can consult experts in health and cosmetic medicine. Massage is one of the most popular therapies, because massaging an area with cellulite can improve circulation and help to dissolve the nodules of hard fat which have formed, thereby reducing them.

These massages can be performed by hand or with suction machines which work on the section of skin with light movements, aiming to activate cellular exchanges, eliminate residues and make the fat circulate again.

There are numerous options in terms of technological treatments. Through ultrasound the fat nodules can be dissolved and circulation in the area improved, while pressotherapy activates venous and lymphatic circulation.

Other recent methods use electrical or infra-red currents. These are applied through electrodes placed on the areas which need to be treated, or via special equipment placed on the skin. These have three effects: the temperature of the tissues in question is raised, the cellular permeability of the adipocytes is increased and the connective tissues are broken up. All this helps to improve appearance and smooth out the area which is being treated.