Everyone loves to talk about cellulite. Even if you don't have it, you probably love to talk about when magazines Photoshop it off the photos of their cover stars. But chances are, you don't know all that much about the pesky skin dimples that can prey on your butt, thighs, stomach, arms, and hips. So get your facts straight:
Myth 1: Cellulite is just excess fat. Nope. It actually has more to do with the structure of your skin, says Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center (opens in new tab) in New York City. Regardless of your weight, there's a protective layer of fat between the surface of your skin and your muscle. Typically, tissues connect the muscle and skin to keep the fat under wraps for smooth look on the outside. When factors such as age, weight change, or stress weaken those connective tissues, irregular fat cells protrude though the skin, which makes the skin pucker and look dimply.
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Myth 2: Thin women don't get cellulite. What do athletic, skinny, and obese women all have on common? Oh, that's right: They're all susceptible to cellulite. Aging, sun damage, and weight fluctuation can worsen dimples and depressions in the skin, no matter how much you weigh, Dr. Frank says.
Myth 3: Weight loss can cure cellulite. Not necessarily. Because cellulite has more to do with damaged connective tissue rather than fat, losing fat won't always erase your dimples. However, strength training areas of the body affected by cellulite — like doing squats, lunges, and hydrants if your thighs are your problem area — can build muscle tone to help reduce the appearance of cellulite, according to Dr. Frank.
Myth 4: Got cellulite? Blame your mom. While genetics do play a role in whether or not you have cellulite, other factors like hormones, stress, poor eating habits, inactivity, your weight, and crap luck can also contribute.
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Myth 5: There's a miracle cream that can make it all go away. Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, the true cause of cellulite is below the skin's surface, so it's pretty damn difficult to treat topically with an over-the-counter treatment, Dr. Frank says. The ones that claim to be "proven" to work are pricy and take months to show any signs of improvement. Usually, these creams contain caffeine or an alternative ingredient that temporarily tightens the skin to reduce the appearance of cellulite when you apply it.
Myth 6: At-home cellulite remedies are just optical illusions. Actually (and you're going to like this!) there is a solution that can minimize the appearance of cellulite for a few weeks to a few months. A 30- to 60-minute deep tissue massage can knead the skin just enough to break up fibrous connective tissue that contributes to skin puckering. If you don't have a masseuse on auto-dial (or the cash to support such a habit), Dr. Frank says you can mimic the technique at home by regularly using a rolling pin or firm foam roller to massage the affected area with firm pressure to improve your circulation and plump the skin, which should result in a smoother look for somewhere between weeks and months.
Myth 7: There is a cellulite solution that's 100 percent effective forever! You just can't afford it. In the past few years, science has uncovered some remedies (read: liposuction) that improve the appearance of cellulite. And it's true that many of the most effective, long-lasting remedies can cost thousands of dollars. But unfortunately, no cellulite treatment is a 100-percent permanent fix, Dr. Frank says. The most invasive surgical treatments might last up to two years, and more if you're lucky.
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Myth 8: Only Olds get cellulite. You can get it at any age. It just gets worse as you get older because skin elasticity depletes as you age.
Myth 9: Guys don't get cellulite. False. Men can get cellulite (Suckers!), but it's relatively rare, Dr. Frank says. A few reasons: Women's connective tissues are flimsier than guys' connective tissues, so it's more difficult for female skin to hold fat in. It doesn't help that the female hormone estrogen makes fat, while testosterone, the male hormone, burns it. Estrogen also plays a role in blood circulation, which brings nutrients to these connective tissues and helps promote collagen production. As you age, estrogen levels naturally decrease, which makes your body even more susceptible to cellulite.
Myth 10: Cellulite is inevitable. Actually, there are ways to stave it off: Maintain a consistent weight, exercise regularly, and stick to a healthy diet.
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Photo via Getty Images
Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more. Follow her at @ejnarins.
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