What Is the Main Cause of Cellulite?

Below your skin—regardless of weight, body fat percentage, and fitness level—you have fat cells that store energy. Women have more than men. Over time, they grow as a result of several factors, including hormones, diet, and lifestyle. The fat cells are inside compartments made up by strong, fibrous cords that connect your skin to your muscles. These cords are called septae. When fat cells are small, earlier in life, they generally fit well inside these compartments.

However, as the cells grow, the compartments get crowded. The septae pull down on the skin as the expanding fat cells push upward. That’s what creates the uneven surface of cellulite. Cellulite is not a medical problem, and having it doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy. It can cause emotional distress over how it looks, however, because of society’s unrealistic standard of beauty.

Even so, many people turn to their healthcare providers for ways to get rid of or minimize their cellulite, and many medical products and procedures have been created as a result. Cellulite is deposits of fat surrounded by fibrous connective tissue that give the surface of the skin a puckered, dimpled appearance. It’s most common in the thighs, hips, and buttocks.

What Causes Cellulite?

While the appearance of cellulite tends to worsen as you gain weight, it can affect even the thinnest people. The reason for this is that while fat deposits do exacerbate the condition, fat itself is not the primary cause.

The main cause of cellulite is the relationship between your skin, connective tissues, and the normal fat cells everyone has, plus the effects of hormones, age, genetics, and lifestyle on those structures.

You may be able to control some exacerbating factors, but the basic causes of cellulite are things you can’t control, including:

. Skin structure

. Hormones

. Genetics

. Age

Skin Structure

As mentioned above, compartments formed by those tough, fibrous septae are the actual cause of cellulite. However, the way that connective tissue is arranged varies, mainly by sex. In most males, the septae are arranged beneath the skin in a cross-hatched or diagonal manner, in a smooth and continuous pattern.

In females, they tend to run vertically and perpendicular to the skin. Because of this, they tether the skin to the underlying tissue at certain points, creating the chambers in which fat cells push up on the skin while the bands pull it downward. It’s a lot like tufted upholstery. Males also generally have a thicker skin layer than females, which reduces the appearance of cellulite in the rare instance that men do have it.


Hormones are another cause of cellulite that varies by sex.

Estrogen, the primary female hormone, plays a role in regulating fat. It causes fat to naturally build up in the breasts, thighs, and buttocks (right where cellulite is most common), especially during the reproductive years. This fat is intended as an energy source for childbearing. You’re more likely to develop cellulite when you’re in a high-estrogen state, such as:

. Pregnancy

. Nursing

. Using birth-control pills long-term

Estrogen doesn’t just influence fat stores, though. It also helps you maintain consistent levels of fat. When estrogen declines in menopause, it becomes easier for women to gain weight, which then exacerbates cellulite.6

In addition, lower estrogen concentrations lead to impaired circulation and decreased activity in the walls of some blood vessels. It also causes skin to lose elasticity. All of these factors are believed to contribute to cellulite.7

Testosterone, the primary male hormone, has the opposite effect—it burns fat.8 Many of the 10% of men who have cellulite have abnormally low levels of testosterone or high levels of estrogen due to medical conditions, including:

. Castration (removal of testicles)

. Hypogonadism (inadequate hormone secretion by the testicles)

. Klinefelter’s syndrome (two or more X chromosomes in males)

. Estrogen therapy for prostate cancer

. Genetics

Cellulite is believed to have a genetic component and it does run in families. In fact, one of the major risk factors for cellulite is having family members who have it. A few studies have identified genes that appear to play roles in your susceptibility to cellulite. At least some of them deal with substances that influence inflammation, blood-flow regulation,9 estrogen receptors, and the biology of fat cells,10 which all are known to play roles in cellulite development. The increased risk of cellulite posed by one of the genes appears to be heightened in smokers.


When you’re young, your connective tissue is supple and elastic, stretching and giving way with the skin so everything remains smooth. Then puberty hits, and hormones wreak havoc on the connective tissue. It becomes stiffer and less elastic, which makes the fibrous cords pull down on your skin even more. At the same time, your fat cells tend to expand in certain areas (especially if you’re female), pushing out against the skin.

Throughout adulthood, your outer layer of skin weakens, thins, and loses elasticity. Gravity takes its toll, and the skin begins to sag. The septae continue to get tighter and stiffer. Blood vessels in your skin become more fragile. All of this makes cellulite more and more apparent.

Exacerbating Factors

Several factors can increase your risk of and exacerbate cellulite, and unlike the causes, you may be able to control some or all of them.

Things that can increase the appearance of cellulite include:

. Weight changes

. Poor nutrition

. Lack of muscle tone

. Smoking

. Poor skin health

About Iranian Surgery

Iranian surgery is an online medical tourism platform where you can find the best dermatologists in Iran. The price of cellulite treatment in Iran can vary according to each individual’s case and will be determined by an in-person assessment with the doctor.

For more information about the cost of cellulite treatment in Iran and to schedule an appointment in advance, you can contact Iranian Surgery consultants via WhatsApp number 0098 901 929 0946. This service is completely free.



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