‘Orange peel skin’ – all those dimply, lumpy parts of our bodies – command a great deal of attention and angst in many women, not to mention expenditure. Cellulite, as the orange peel look is more properly known, affects as many as 90 per cent of women, yet it is still regarded as a major horror, which some women spend a great deal of money trying to get rid of. Remember the day when newspapers showed close-up, encircled part’s of Princess Diana’s legs ‘exposing’ that she had the dreaded cellulite, and – surprise, surprise – was not the supposedly flawless woman many portrayed her to be.

Yet, even though the rich and famous have cellulite, it is still something most of us would go to great lengths to smooth out – even though some doctors say it is simply the perfectly normal storage of fat. Unfortunately, there is no magic answer, and indeed, it is not entirely clear why and how it forms in the first place. What is known, however, is that it is not just found in overweight women and that it hardly effects men. Cellulite most commonly affects the thighs and buttocks, but can appear on the upper arms, the back of the neck and the abdomen. If it is extensive, it can actually make the affected areas feel heavy and tight. It must not be confused with cellulitis, which is an inflammation of the connective tissue of the skin.

So, what is cellulite?

Scientists have examined cellulite tissue in great detail to understand what it is and presumably, to work out how to get rid of it so they can develop the ‘cure’ in order to make their millions. The cells involved are in the subcutaneous tissue, the layer just under the surface of the skin, where there are fat cells. In women this layer of fat chambers is larger and more vertical and the connective tissue is thinner than in men. Having said that, the differences are body-wide, and not just in the areas in women most likely to be affected by cellulite.

As women age, their layer of elastic connective tissue in the dermis and the layers between the fat chambers get even thinner and less flexible. When this happens, the fat chambers are not so well supported and easily become enlarged and misshapen. The actual dimpling of the skin comes about because of the distortion of the shape of the fat cells and the weakened connective tissue which is normally more elastic, between each one. Examining cellulite areas of skin under a microscope, scientists found that the fat cells protruded up into the dermis in affected areas, but not in normal areas1. They also found that the connective tissue was not as smooth and regular in cellulite. The lymphatic system, which permeates all parts of our bodies also becomes weaker and less efficient.

The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system is an extensive network of vessels which run between all our cells and act as a waste dump – fluids pass into the lymph vessels and are filtered at various points in the lymph called lymph nodes (the ‘glands’ in your armpits, groin, neck etc.). The way in which the fluids enter the lymph and move along its vessels is by movement of the body, they do not have a pump like the blood system. The cells of the lymph vessels are attached to the surrounding cells by collagen and elastin fibres, so movement opens up the gaps to allow fluid in and move it along. Saggy collagen and elastin therefore contribute to a sluggish lymph system, which is, in turn, associated with the development of cellulite.

What causes cellulite?

Cellulite is actually more of a cosmetic issue than a health condition, although its presence usually indicates some sort of congestion in the body. Simply rubbing on creams or other potions from the outside will not make much difference at all – cellulite needs to be seen from the perspective of the whole body i.e. from the inside.

The exchange of substances – nutrients, waste products and all sorts of others – between cells depends on the efficiency of the cell membranes at selecting what goes through them as well as the efficiency of the blood flow and lymph circulation. When the body is sluggish or overloaded – through poor diet or lack of exercise – none of these work well which results in a build-up of toxins. Imagine a sludgy muck stacking up in between your cells.

The healthier and more vital your body is, the better it can clear toxins and burn up fat. The fluid in between your cells drains into...

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