The topic of cellulite is so distressing to most women that it is usually only discussed in hushed tones among best friends, bemoaned in badly lit dressing rooms during swimsuit-shopping season, or carefully examined over the shoulder in one's full length bedroom mirror. So what is it, other than one of the most reviled inevitabilities in a woman's (and some men's) life? It is a collection of fat deposited in the subcutaneous layer of the skin. The subcutaneous layer contains bands of connective tissue, and when fat and fluids collect under it, the layer thickens and hardens, giving the fat a dimpled appearance.
So how is it different from regular body fat? Body fat generally covers the body in a thin, even layer. It serves the purpose of insulation and protection from the outside elements. Cellulite is lumpy and differs from body fat in that is does not provide insulation and deposits itself in specific areas — usually in the thighs, buttocks, breasts and abdomen. One common misconception is that only overweight people have it, and skinny people are immune to it.
There are several factors that decide whether you will be afflicted with cellulite. Some people are genetically predisposed to it, whether they're a size 2 or a size 12. Gender is another factor, and women get the short end of the stick.
This leads to the next contributing factor — the postnatal body. Of course, body fat plays a role in how much cellulite you do or don't have. Diet and exercise also contribute to its formation, as well as age, smoking, medication, traumatic injury and water intake.
A huge industry has grown up out of our obsession with conquering the battle against cottage cheese, a common euphemism for cellulite. There are creams, medications, shoes and spa treatments available that claim to reduce its appearance. There are also medical treatments, such as liposuction and mesotherapy, the injection of drugs, but they are usually expensive and only temporarily reduce cellulite.