Cellulite is a very common skin condition that causes the skin on the thighs, buttocks, hips, and abdomen to have a dimpled, lumpy appearance. It affects over 90% of women at some point during their lives. However, it rarely occurs in men. There are some key differences between male and female physiology that help explain why cellulite primarily impacts women.
The Causes of Cellulite in Women
There are a few main structural factors that contribute to the development of cellulite in women:
- Thinner skin – Women generally have thinner skin than men. Thinner skin shows the effects of the fat beneath more noticeably.
- Vertical collagen structure – Men’s collagen structure lies in a criss-cross pattern allowing fat to be distributed evenly. Women have collagen aligned vertically which can more easily allow fat to bulge through.
- Higher body fat – Women naturally have a higher percentage of body fat than men. More fat cells pushing up against the skin accentuates the lumpy look of cellulite.
- Lower muscle mass – Having more muscle tone underneath the skin can help minimize the dimpled appearance of cellulite. Men generally have more muscle mass than women.
- Hormones – Estrogen encourages fat storage around women’s thighs and buttocks. It also influences fat cell distribution and blood circulation which can worsen cellulite.
These natural differences all make women more prone to developing cellulite in areas like the thighs, hips, and rear.
Hormones like estrogen are a major contributor to why women get more cellulite than men. Some specific ways female sex hormones promote cellulite include:
- Encouraging fat storage around the buttocks, thighs, and hips.
- Stimulating the release of certain enzymes that can break down connective tissues in the skin. Weaker connective tissue allows fat to protrude through more easily.
- Slowing down blood circulation which can exacerbate the appearance of cellulite.
- Altering fat cell distribution so fat is held directly under skin rather than deeper down.
Estrogen levels are particularly high during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause – all times when women often notice their cellulite worsening. The estrogen gives women’s bodies that “pear” shape with more fat storage around the hips and thighs.
Men do have estrogen too but at much lower levels than women. And testosterone and human growth hormone help counter estrogen’s effects by increasing muscle mass. So men tend to collect fat around the abdomen rather than on the legs and rear.
Differences in Body Fat
Body fat percentage also helps explain why females suffer from more cellulite than males. Women naturally carry a higher percentage of body fat than men:
|Gender||Recommended Body Fat %|
Having more body fat means women are more likely to have fat cells pushing up against the skin. So there is more opportunity for the fat to squeeze through weak spots in connective tissue and create that dimpled look.
Men tend to carry fat in the abdominal area rather than thighs and rear. Abdominal fat lies deeper under the skin so it is less likely to cause a lumpy appearance.
Lower Muscle Mass in Women
Having good muscle tone beneath the skin can help minimize the bumpy look of cellulite. Muscle helps fill in dimples and evenly distribute fat underneath skin tissue.
But most women have less muscle mass than men, especially in the lower body. With less muscle to hold it in place, fat can more easily protrude through connective tissues and look lumpy.
Building muscle tone through strength training exercises like squats or lunges can help reduce the appearance of cellulite in women. But it takes diligence to build significant muscle mass. Meanwhile, men naturally have higher muscle mass, particularly in the lower body.
Genetics play a role as well. Some women seem prone to cellulite from puberty no matter their diet and exercise habits. Likely their collagen matrix and circulation are structured in a way that encourages cellulite to form.
On the other hand, men with similar genetics would not display cellulite as noticeably thanks to thicker skin, higher muscle mass, and lower estrogen.
Lifestyle Contributions to Cellulite
While cellulite is largely caused by genetic and hormonal factors out of women’s control, some lifestyle habits can make it better or worse:
- Yo-yo dieting – Gaining and losing weight repeatedly can damage elastic connective tissue leading to weaker skin.
- Lack of exercise – Not strength training enough allows muscle loss and replacement with fat.
- Poor diet – Eating too many refined carbs can trigger inflammation and fluid retention.
- Dehydration – Not drinking enough water can exacerbate a lumpy appearance.
- Smoking – Smoking damages skin collagen and restricts blood vessels.
- Tight clothing – Restrictive clothing reduces blood flow amplifying cellulite.
While men can also have these unhealthy habits, women bear the brunt of cellulite issues from them. Even with an optimal diet and fitness routine, most women will still have some degree of cellulite due to genetics and body structure.
Very Few Men Get Cellulite
While it’s quite rare, some men do develop cellulite. This is typically seen in:
- Overweight or obese men who have significant fat deposits.
- Men taking steroid medications like corticosteroids that can thin skin.
- Male bodybuilders taking illegal steroids, hormones, or insulin.
- Men with low testosterone and subsequent higher estrogen levels.
- Male patients who’ve undergone radiation therapy for cancer treatment.
So men are not completely immune to cellulite. But, statistically, over 90 percent of cellulite cases occur in women. The main exceptions in men involve scenarios like obesity, hormone disorders, or medications influencing cellulite development.
Treating and Preventing Cellulite
While cellulite is extremely common, there are ways women can help reduce its appearance:
- Follow a balanced, low-inflammation diet.
- Stay hydrated drinking plenty of water daily.
- Do strength training to build muscle mass in the thighs and rear.
- Use a massaging body brush on the skin to improve blood flow.
- Try cellulite creams that contain caffeine or retinol to tighten skin.
- Wear compression garments that improve circulation and smooth lumps.
- Schedule massage therapy to drain excess fluid and toxins.
- Consider professional cellulite treatments like acoustic wave therapy.
While frustrating, a little cellulite does not mean a woman is out of shape. But a healthy lifestyle can help minimize bumps and dimples. And avoid crash diets that exacerbate the issue with rapid weight fluctuations.
Cellulite develops primarily in women due to natural differences like thinner skin, higher body fat, lower muscle mass, and the impacts of female hormones. Estrogen in particular encourages fat storage around the thighs and rear leading to more cellulite development.
While rare, some men can get cellulite if overweight/obese or due to medication usage, hormone disorders, or treatment like radiation. But the vast majority of cases occur in women.
While somewhat based on genetics, women can take steps like building muscle tone, massage, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet to help reduce the bumpy look of cellulite. But some degree of cellulite in women is extremely common and not a major cause for concern about one’s health or fitness level.