At least eighty percent of women "suffer" from cellulite, which is technically called gynoid lipodystrophy—a terribly dramatic name for a physically harmless condition!

In fact, some experts think that cellulite should not be considered a "condition" at all but is merely a secondary sex characteristic as inevitable as breast!

More colloquial and even less flattering ways to refer to so-called cellulite include "orange peel" skin, "cottage cheese" skin, or "hail damage."

Cellulite is only weakly associated with any actual health issues such as chronic inflammation. Interestingly, the word cellulite did originally refer to an inflammation of the skin tissue, and was used much as the word "cellulitis" is used today.

Then, cellulite as we know it was born when Parisian spas and beauty centers began selling treatments aimed to reduce these mysterious dimpled patches! Similarly, the first American reference to cellulite appeared in Vogue magazine in 1968.

Some posit that this sudden appearance of cellulite on the historical record had something to do with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, while others point out that the 20th century was simply a time when women started publicly baring flesh that had once been covered up. This theory is supported by the fact that cellulite is present even in renaissance paintings.

The advent of cellulite is also suspiciously correlated with the rise of cultural fatphobia in general and women's greater cultural visibility. Some feminists thus theorize that keeping us focused on our bodies and our "cellulite" was just a creative new way for the patriarchy to keep women down.

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Cellulite is thought to occur when fat cells protrude into the layer of collagen just beneath the skin while the surrounding skin is pulled downward toward deeper tissues, creating a dimpled appearance.

Cellulite appears most often on the buttocks and thighs, but can appear on any area of the body that contains fatty tissue. However, it only seldom appears in men, who have stronger collagen that is arranged in a horizontal criss-cross pattern as opposed to the more easily permeable vertical layers found in women.

Though cellulite can present even in teenagers, it is also more common in older women. This is thought to be because women's estrogen levels begin to decrease at about age 25, and lower estrogen levels are associated with poorer circulation and deterioration of collagen.

Since predispositions to cellulite can run in families, a good deal of how much you'll have is probably up to your genetics. Other "risk factors" for cellulite are thought to include smoking, tight clothing, and a sedentary lifestyle, all of which can contribute to reduced circulation. You may also be at a greater risk of cellulite if you experience a lot of stress, which can increase your levels of hormones like catecholamines and insulin that promote fat accumulation.

Cellulite can increase or become more noticeable with weight gain; obviously, the less fat you have, the less that can protrude through your collagen. However, cellulite can also affect even the very lean, and though weight loss helps some women with cellulite, other find that losing weight actually makes the condition worse.

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Now that you know the origin and the causes of the "illness" known as cellulite, you may be wondering what you can do about it. Unfortunately, the answer is "not much," or at least not much that will be permanent or is backed by much substantial evidence.

This, of course, hasn't stopped a multi-million dollar industry from claiming that they can eliminate our cellulite with everything from lasers to needles to acoustic waves.  

There are also many dubious cellulite blasting devices on the market, some of which have been associated with side effects like severe bruising, digestive issues, and even weight gain!

While we'd avoid these sorts of extreme measures, some more moderate approaches to undermining the appearance of cellulite may be worth a try: for example, certain collagen supplements, massage, or self-tanning.

You may be one of those lucky few who sees a substantial difference in cellulite from weight loss alone, or you could try building more muscle in the offending area, which could make the skin appear firmer and smoother.

Another relatively safe option you can look into is a cellulite-reducing cream. The active ingredient in many of these creams is actually caffeine, which may create the temporary appearance of firmer skin by dilating blood vessels and increasing circulation to the area.

Other cellulite-reducing creams might include retinol, which can reduce the appearance of cellulite over time by thickening skin but will typically take six months or longer to achieve these results. Research also shows that these creams were most effective when combined with an improved diet.

Staying adequately hydrated may also make cellulite less noticeable, as could avoiding ingredients that can promote excess fluid retention like salt and simple carbohydrates.

In the end, the best cellulite-related advice we can give is not to let a wild goose chase for smoother skin distract you from the kinds of healthy diet and lifestyle changes that will be far more meaningful for you and for your health.

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