Cellulite - A Woman's Dirty Little Secret



Who’s got it

Cellulite is a subject many of us don’t want to talk about. Most of us have it (if you’re a woman), but we’d rather pretend it didn’t exist. In fact, it is estimated that 80-90% of post-pubescent women have it to some degree. In contrast, very few men are reported as having cellulite except in rare diseases where there is a serious lack of male hormones or they are being treated with the female hormones. Does this mean that the Y-Chromosome is a cellulite inhibitor? Regardless, this and other research strongly suggest that hormones are a significant factor in the formation of cellulite.

What it’s not

According to much of the medical community, cellulite is neither a physical object nor a medical condition but rather only a visual description for the appearance of normal subcutaneous fat (underneath the epidermal and the dermal layers of the skin) in women. So, this unattractive stuff that covers our buttocks and the backs of our thighs is not real. Or it’sreally not a problem; it’s just normal fat for us women.

It’s causes (or rather, not causes)

Furthermore genetics are found to be a significant factor in whether or not your fat is displayed as cellulite (you can thank your mother when you finish reading this article). Predisposition to lymphatic and circulatory insufficiency is a contributing factor. Your race and the distribution of subcutaneous fat in your body affect how much cellulite you will have. And interestingly enough, how stressed out you are has been found to be a significant contributing factor. For the catecholamine stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline increase your likelihood of developing cellulite.

Yet nothing significant is said about diet, lifestyle, or environmental factors and cellulite. Here are some common examples of what the medical community does say:

Cellulite is a complex condition, and treatments such as weight loss have variable effects on the improvement or worsening of this condition. Additional studies are required to understand how the factors that influence and modulate cellulite severity, particularly those at the level of the subcutaneous tissue septa, can be manipulated to improve this condition.

Smalls LK, Hicks M, Passeretti D, et al. (August 2006). “Effect of weight loss on cellulite: gynoid lypodystrophy”. Plast. Reconstr. Surg.118 (2): 510–6. doi:10.1097/01.prs.0000227629.94768.bePMID16874227.


J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Mar;62(3):361-70; quiz 371-2.

Treatment of cellulite: Part I. Pathophysiology.

Khan MH, Victor F, Rao B, Sadick NS.

Department of Dermatology at Robert-Wood Johnson University Hospital, University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, Somerset, New Jersey, USA. khanmisbah6@gmail.com


Cellulite is a topographic skin change that is nearly ubiquitous in postpubertal women. Treatment remains elusive. The various treatments currently available are only partially or temporarily effective. Newer therapeutic modalities continue to evolve without much understanding of the complex nature of cellulite. The successful treatment of cellulite will ultimately depend upon our understanding of the pathophysiology of cellulite adipose tissue.

Granted, these unsatisfying conclusions come to us from plastic surgeons and dermatologsts whose largest concerns will undoubtedly be to discover a patented cellulite reduction treatment that will only be available in a doctor’s office or a medi-spa. Not surprisingly, most of the medical information out there about cellulite reduction concern treatments consisting in vacuum (liposuction), radiofrequency (ultrasound)  and infrared heat, or  LED (red and near-infrared) light. Occasionally, you can find articles about non-invasive treatments such as massage and the topical application of caffeine (improving microcirculation). However, these treatments are not found to be terribly effective long term. A telling little fact is that the treatment of cellulite is referred to as “esthetic medicine”.

So, although many diverse contributing factors to the development of cellulite have been found, there is apparently no “cause” for it and therefore no cure.

An alternative theory?

With all of this (or should we say not so much) disappointing news from the medical community, I would like to propose an alternative theory about cellulite. This is not a new theory, nor is it one I have any intention of proving in the scientific arena. It is mostly a hunch based on some very practical knowledge in combination with the tangible results of experimentation. But it is a theory that is widely backed by nutritionists, naturopaths, and wellness practitioners everywhere.

Cellulite is caused by toxins. End of story.

Cellulite is caused by toxins. How toxins cause cellulite isn’t a very interesting story, but the fact that they do deserves a moment of silent praise. Our bodies are very smart biological systems. The complexity and regularity with which they work blow my mind. The most recent biological fact that’s been blowing my mind is that we encounter, ingest and absorb many toxins that our bodies have no way of safely excreting from the body, so these toxins are safely shunted into fat cells. Very simply, our world has grown toxic at a rate far surpassing our bodily evolution and has had to do something to render these toxins that find their way into our bodies inert. As a result, the toxic molecules are stuck onto fat cells and just stay there, out of harms way, or should we say unable to wreak havoc. We do not want toxins floating around in our bloodstream. Nor do we want toxins stuck in our organs where they are likely to produce disease. So, our bodies safely store them in our fat–forever molecularly-bound with no way out.

Oh, goodie! Thanks bodies for taking care of us in this clever way (said with a modicum of cynicism)! Except that now we are stuck with ugly-but-safe toxins on our buttocks and thighs for all the world to see (us in the mirror, our lovers disappointed glances, our children who make fun of it). Cellulite is a health blessing at the same time it is an aesthetic nightmare.

How do we know it is the molecularly-bound toxins that cause the dimpled fat of cellulite? Because when you take away the toxins the cellulite disappears. Nothing else works in the long term. True dat. I witnessed it myself in a systematic and determined effort to detoxify as completely as possible a few years back. Others will corroborate this story. It’s not easy. In fact there are very few ways to detoxify the toxin-ridden subcutaneous fat we identify as cellulite. But you can. The thing is, once you’ve gotten rid of it it’s a whole other story to keep it off. You have to indulge in some serious clean living not to gather toxins into your body in the first place. Even then the toxins will still get through. Then the cellulite starts again. Another round of detoxification is in order. The cycle continues.

The simple but difficult conclusion

So what is to be said about diet, lifestyle, or environmental factors and cellulite? Stay away from toxins as much as possible and detoxify regularly. It’s as simple as that.

And as to why cellulite is woman’s dirty little secret? It’s not that it’s ugly and we want to hide it from the eyes of the world. That is true enough. It’s our dirty little secret because it’s malicious cause is hidden from us. We see it as a harmless inconvenience and not the potential disease-maker it really is.

Jen MurphyComment