Cellulite – cottage cheese skin – plagues about 80% of all women. As the condition is "merely cosmetic", for the most part it's not recognised as a disease.
Cellulite primarily affects women due to the special nature of their skin and its reaction to feminine hormones.
The dermal layer of a woman's skin is much less tough than that of a man, and it's also more elastic. In the layers below the skin, the number of fat cells is greater. For women, collagen fibres which act to maintain the shape of the skin are arranged in parallel while in men they are organised in a more net-like manner. As the fat cells under a woman's skin grow, they can force their way between the collage fibres and be seen on the surface. This is the reason for the orange peel appearance of the skin in areas affected by cellulite.
The raised appearance of cellulite is actually nothing more than large fat cells which penetrate through the connective tissue – they are not held under the deeper layers of the skin.
Oestrogen is the reason that women tend to deposit fat on their legs and buttocks, though it's also responsible for the more elastic texture of a woman's collagen fibres as noted above. Lipocytes, the cells which store fat, are also notably larger in women than in men.
Once cellulite has formed, metabolic problems become more prevalent and worsen the situation: swollen fat cells inhibit the natural flow of lymph and blood, so pressure builds in the fluid of the surrounding connective tissue. The result: the skin swells even more in the affected area.
Women shouldn't feel mistreated or neglected by Mother Nature.
It's these same factors which also ensure that women have softer skin, and that their body shape is so changeable...before and after pregnancy, for example. The fat cells which lie under a woman's skin are easier to fill than those under male skin. The other side of this adaptability is the tendency to develop cellulite.
Predisposition plays a very large role in the development and appearance of cellulite.
The weaker structure of the connective tissue is genetically determined and a primary cause for cellulite. Additional genetic factors predispose women more or less strongly to this condition:
- Being overweight is in first place. The more fat which is stored in a fat cell, the more likely cellulite is to appear. Poor nutrition which includes excessive carbohydrates and fat is a common cause for this problem.
- Too little movement is next, as the muscle mass decreases and is replaced by fatty tissue. This also worsens the circulation.
- Smoking causes a twofold increase in the appearance of cellulite: nicotine is proven to cause a narrowing of the blood vessels in the skin which in turn hinders proper metabolism and results in damage to the connective tissue.
- Varicose veins - although they result from week connective tissue, they too hinder the circulation and so too the metabolism. This back up of blood in the veins leads to a build up of fluid in the tissue and swelling in the skin.
- The effect of supplemental hormones on cellulite, for example birth control pills, is still under discussion. This has yet to be thoroughly researched.
The development normally includes three steps or phases. In the first phase on can see the cellulite when squeezing the skin between both hands. The typical orange peel appearance then becomes visible. In the second stage, the bumpy appearance of the skin is apparent when the underlying muscle is flex (in movement, for example). In third stage, the cellulite is always visible.
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