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Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Cellulite is the lumpy appearance of skin commonly found on the thighs, stomach, and butt. (It's often said to resemble "cottage cheese.") Fat pushes between the connective tissue beneath the skin, making the surface of the skin pucker and look lumpy.

You can check to see if you have cellulite by pinching the skin around your upper thigh. If it looks a bit lumpy, you probably have it. If you do have cellulite, you're definitely not alone. Most girls and women — and some men — have cellulite.

Several things influence whether a person has cellulite, such as:

  • Genes. Cellulite tends to run in families.
  • Sex. Cellulite is more common in girls and women than boys and men.
  • Weight. Thin people can have cellulite, but it's more noticeable in those with more body fat.
  • Age. Cellulite is more common as we get older.

No miracle products, treatments, or medicines can make it go away. Some "treatments" may temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite. For example, fancy salon treatments use deep massaging to puff up the skin. That can make cellulite look a little better for a while.

Other approaches — including lasers, radiofrequency devices, acoustic wave therapy, and some topical creams (like retinol) — may improve the appearance of cellulite. But these take several treatments over weeks or months and the results are temporary. Liposuction (surgery to remove deep fat) can actually make cellulite look worse. Injection of drugs and other substances into cellulite can have serious side effects, including infections and allergic reactions.

Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about cellulite. If you're overweight (and your doctor agrees), lose weight by eating a healthy diet, watching portion sizes, and exercising more.

Maintain a healthy weight and have an exercise routine that combines exercise with strength training. Replacing fat with muscle will improve the appearance of cellulite.

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2018