Cellulite is not a direct by-product of menopause, but many women start noticing this dreaded skin change during the menopausal years. Sometimes called ‘orange peel’ skin or ‘cottage cheese’ skin, cellulite is a condition that affects a woman’s self esteem. In our obsession with perfect bodies, cellulite encroaches on almost every aspect of women’s emotional well-being.
The term cellulite came into popular use during the 1970s to describe the dimpled skin many women get on their thighs, buttocks, and abdomens. Cellulite is nothing more than a fancy word for plain old fat. Specifically, cellulite refers to the pockets of fat that become trapped between the layers of skin.
Cellulite: trapped fat?
The outer layer of our skin, called the epidermis, covers the deeper inner layer of skin known as the dermis. Additionally, there are three deeper (subcutaneous) layers of fat underneath the dermis. Normally these layers support each other evenly, giving the outer layer of skin (epidermis) a taut, smooth appearance. Skin tissues found in these layers surround the fat deposits and keep them in place.
When the structure of these skin tissues breaks down, the result is the fat gathers into small pockets that are no longer held together in a tight structure. These fat pockets are trapped within the skin’s layers and begin to transform individually. No longer are the fat pockets strung together in a firm layer, but rather become spread out. Now the fat pockets are more visible at the skin’s outer surface.
Women and cellulite
About 90% of all women beyond adolescence will develop cellulite during their lifetimes. Cellulite can appear at any time, but often becomes more noticeable during menopause and peri-menopause. Menopause is not a direct cause of cellulite, but some experts point out that estrogen levels are responsible for maintaining strong connective tissue. As our estrogen levels decrease during menopause, the greater the risk for developing that orange peel complexion. But many women will begin to see signs of cellulite long before menopause or peri-menopause.
Men store their fat cells differently, and tend to have more fat around the abdominal area. Women on the other hand have more fat cells to begin with, and these are mostly concentrated around the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Men’s fat cells tend to maintain more firmness and support within the skin than women’s fat cells.
Stages of cellulite
*Mild cellulite is normally not visible under normal standing conditions or when lying down. But when you squeeze your buttock or thighs, you will notice some dimpled skin.
*Moderate cellulite is more visible when standing and the skin appears slightly or moderately dimpled.
*Severe cellulite is very easily detected and the skin appears to have a rough texture like that of an orange peel or cottage cheese.
Causes of cellulite
Besides the aging process, cellulite is often blamed on a diet high in fats and/or processed foods, a lack of exercise and a lack of water in the skin. Yet cellulite strikes women of all shapes and sizes; being thin does not guarantee a life free from dimpled skin. Once the connecting tissues in the skin weaken due to age, the skin’s elasticity and firmness are affected.
No real cure
Despite an abundance of so-called cures and treatments for cellulite there is no real way to get rid of cellulite. Women spend millions of dollars every year searching for magical creams, lotions, and even surgeries to deal with cellulite.
Changing our diets to lessen fat intake can help to shrink the size of fat cells and pockets we have, but the fat cells themselves will never melt away or disappear. Exercise is crucial for maintaining good overall health, but there are no true methods to target specific areas of the body for spot treatments. Exercise is great for strengthening our muscles and is good for our skin, yet is unable to really penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin.
Cellulite is inevitable for most of us; even the most avid athletes will end up with cellulite at some point in their lives. There are no real cures to deal with cellulite, and many women end up spending a great deal of money to prop up their emotional selves. Many experts tell us that we need to learn to accept our bodies for what they are and be proud of who we are. Cellulite makes that process just a little bit more difficult.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You