Everything to know about cellulite: The causes, methods of prevention, and treatment options to consider in Singapore

Everything to know about cellulite: The causes, methods of prevention, and treatment options to consider in Singapore

Lumps and bumps

Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @ashleygraham
Image: Instagram | @aerie

As much as the Internet — and by extension, Buro. Singapore — are responsible for debunking a profusion of beauty myths, there remains several that persist even in recent times. We're talking pore-shrinking (if it's possible), acne scars (if they fade), and pimple-popping (if there's ever a right time for it). The most enduring of the lot has to do with a specific type of skin lumps and bumps: the cellulite. Once thought to afflict only those above the age of 40, it is misunderstood by most. Are cellulite creams solutions or scams? Is there a way to prevent it from forming in the first place? And what is it actually made of? We seek the expert opinion of aesthetic doctors to get to the bottom of it — literally.

What is cellulite?

"Basically, cellulite is fat found just beneath the surface of the skin that's bulging out through a web of connective tissue," explains Manon Allano, founder of aesthetic clinic, Estheclinic. "When you're young, that connective tissue is made up largely of a protein called collagen. This helps hold the fat in. But as you age, the fat begins to stick out through the tissue. It will then cause a dimpled, lumpy appearance on the skin."

Where is cellulite commonly found?

Dr Shirley Kwee, resident aesthetic doctor at Privé Clinic, states that cellulite is regularly situated around the thighs and buttocks, though it can be found on the breasts, lower abdomen, and upper arms as well.

What causes cellulite?

There is no exact science or reason behind the development of cellulite. "What we do know is that it involves fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle with the fat lying between," explains Allano. "As fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords pull down. This hence creates an uneven surface." Dr Kwee agrees, though she points out that there are factors which may contribute to its creation, which includes:

  • Imbalanced hormones
  • Old age
  • Poor diet
  • Genetic factors
  • Slow metabolism
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy lifestyle
  • Pregnancy

Does cellulite affect men and women differently?

While it affects both men and women, it is more common amongst women. "It has to do with the way the body distributes fat," Dr Kwee says. "In women, fat cells and connective tissue in a layer are arranged vertically. If the fat cells protrude into the layer of skin, this gives the appearance of cellulite. Men's fibrous tissues are stronger and have a criss-cross structure, which may explain why they are less likely to have cellulite. Additionally, men have more testosterone, which helps limit body fat, whereas women have oestrogen, which helps store fat, hence causing women to be more prone to cellulite growth."

Can we get rid of cellulite?

"Radiofrequency is widely accepted as being the most effective cellulite reduction and skin tightening technology available today," Allano attests. "It is far superior to lasers, which do not penetrate quite as deep as radiofrequency does. By applying intensive heat on collagen and fat cells, radiofrequency helps increase skin tightness, reduce fat, and boost circulation, thereby improving the contour and texture of body for applications such as cellulite removal and skin tightening."

Topical treatments such as cellulite creams, on the other hand, work more to reduce the visibility of cellulite — but not actually eradicate it. "You'll need to apply the product daily to maintain results," Allano points out. "Creams may tighten the skin, which makes it appear smoother and firmer. They also add moisture, which can help in reducing the appearance of cellulite temporarily. Unfortunately, the fat cells still exist under the skin, and will reappear once you stop using the product."

Can we prevent cellulite?

There are no concrete methods that help prevent its formation, though Dr Kwee believes that regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet may help to reduce the overall appearance of cellulite. "It is essential to reduce processed and high-sugar foods that can lead to the accumulation of toxins and fat in the body," she instructs. "High fibre intake is also important in improving the appearance of cellulite. Strength training workouts also help firm and tone the muscles, which help in tightening the skin, hence making cellulite less noticeable."

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