The Science of Cellulite

Cellulite (gynoid lipodystrophy) has been around for ages, but until recently not much time has been devoted to the study of it. Because of this, it had been hard to pinpoint exactly what the cause of this frustrating condition was. Cellulite was first introduced to American culture by Vogue magazine in the 1960’s and it has been a large concern for many people, male and female alike, ever since. Although cellulite has had research done on it since its introduction, that research was limited in large part thanks to rudimentary technology. However, as technology advances, so too does our understanding of the cause of cellulite and what you can do to help prevent it from affecting you.

In the early years of our awareness with cellulite, people made hypotheses about the cause of the ailment. However, many of these claims were unfounded because they did not have the resources available that we now have. As we get increasingly advanced technologically, more and more information is coming to light about the cause, as well as why some people are effected and not others. This is especially important as the more we find out about what causes our body to be susceptible to cellulite, the more we can do to combat it.

science of cellulite

Who said science can’t be sexy?

We should begin with a brief history of what researched concluded was the source of cellulite. In 1978, the first reference of cellulite in regards to the science behind it, researchers Scherwitz and Braun-Falco examined cadavers to try to place what the cause was. They made some claims that were both unfounded and some that had validity. Incorrectly, they believed that the cause of cellulite was the pulling down of skin over fat tissues by strands of tissue called septae. However, it has been found that this is quite the opposite, as cellulite is actually caused by the pushing of fat outwards to the skin, not the other way around. However, they did find that men weren’t able to see any results based pinching their skin unless they were androgen deficient.

This information contributed greatly, although they were unaware at the time, to finding out the fact that cellulite is caused in part by hormones. This explains one of the major aspects of cellulite; women are much more likely to be afflicted than men.  In 1986, a different pair of researchers, Markman and Barton, discovered that the hypotheses that skin being pulled inward was the cause of cellulite was false, but instead that it was fat growing outward, causing dimples in the skin. This new information was furthered in 1991 by Lockwood, a researcher who determined that there were two types of cellulite, primary and secondary.

The Anatomy of Cellulite…

Anatomy of Cellulite
Primary cellulite is caused by the growth of fat cells upward that push on the outermost layer of skin, causing the dimples that are representative of cellulite. Secondary cellulite is that which is caused by either sun damage or extreme weight loss, leaving loose skin. He also believed that if the outermost layer of skin was broken down,  it allowed fat to push up. Until recent research, Lockwood’s research was the most complete explanation for cellulite.

Before we continue into the research that has been done in modern day, it is imperative to point out that we know that the formation of cellulite is much more common in women. In fact, of all cellulite occurrence, approximately 98% is in women. Until recently, there had been misconceptions over why this was the case, but we now know that it is very much so a product of the fundamental ways in which a women’s body differs from a man’s. We know that cellulite is the product of adipose tissue (fat) pushing outwards against the layers of skin. As fat pushes outward, it causes the malformation of the skin cells on top of it, resulting in dimpled, celluloid skin.

Obviously it is apparent that there are both men and women with excess fat in the world, so why does cellulite effect women so much greater than it does men? Part of this has to do with the formation of the adipose tissue underneath the skin. Men have fat tissues that are intertwined, which allows for growth in a single mass, as well as growth outwards. However, women have fat tissues that are placed, in columns, side by side. As the fat content is increased, these tissues and their cells have no where to grow but upwards. As they grow upwards, they press against the skin and cause those distasteful dimples that signify cellulite. This is further enhanced by the fact that men have thicker, more resistant skin, while women have skin that is thinner and therefore less able to hold their form when they have adipose tissue pushing upwards against it.

However, the differences in men and women run much deeper than that. We have found, based on information from Scherwitz and Braun-Falco, that cellulite is also heavily dependent on hormones. This not only explains why men are less likely to get cellulite, but also why the appearance of cellulite differs so greatly between different women. We know that cellulite is generally found on the midsection of women, generally the abdomen, hips and thighs and hormones help to explain this.

Cellulite… Another thing we can thank hormones for

estrogen causes celluliteRecent research has been done by Peter Pugliese and GE Pierard that has provided validity to this point as they have found that cellulite is caused by sex hormones that interact with both fat and skin. This is proven by observing where cellulite is most commonly formed, which is on women in the midsection. Adipose tissue on the body is regulated by one of two systems: metabolism and hormones. If we look at where the majority of cellulite appears, it begins to be more apparent why cellulite occurs in those problem areas for women, beccause fat in the midsection of women is regulated by hormones rather than metabolism. As we know, women produce high levels of estrogen that fuel their reproductive system. The female reproductive system lies in the midsection of females and regulates the ability to bear child as well as the process of lactation.

As estrogen levels in females increase, so does the chances of cellulite. As we know, cellulite is much more likely to be found in females postpubescently and this is a result of the increase estrogen output. However, estrogen levels also differ greatly between females, which is why there are females that seems to not be effected by cellulite. As males do not have much estrogen running through their bodies, this highly decreases the likelihood of cellulite.

As time moves on, we will continue to have researchers delve into the mystery of cellulite and possibly find a solution to those problem areas. However, what we have now is a very solid basis and will contribute to not only stopping cellulite from happening, but also to negate the cases of cellulite already in progress.