Ashley Graham is known for celebrating her body, cellulite included, because why not? Graham is undeniably body positive—the supermodel regularly shows off her curves on social media and once wisely said, “Thick thighs save lives.” Now, she’s back at it with an Instagram photo showcasing a physical feature that, contrary to what you may have heard, is actually not a flaw: cellulite.
“I work out. I do my best to eat well. I love the skin I’m in,” Graham captioned the photo of herself sitting on the beach. “And I’m not ashamed of a few lumps, bumps, or cellulite…and you shouldn’t be either.” Commenters were overwhelmingly positive. “That’s right! Beautiful girl!” one wrote. “Such an inspiration,” another said.
If you have cellulite, you’re clearly in good company. Gary Goldenberg, M.D., medical director of the Dermatology Faculty Practice at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF that it is “extremely common” in men and women. However, he says, cellulite is more common in women due to a structural difference in the female collagen structure. “Cellulite can be seen from young to advanced age, but most commonly appears in a person’s 20s,” he says.
Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, tells SELF that cellulite happens when fibrous bands press fat up against the skin, creating a dimpled effect. Genetics play a big role in whether a person develops cellulite and how much of it they have, he says. Weight, not so much—even very thin people can have cellulite.
As Graham points out, cellulite is nothing to be ashamed of.
Make no mistake—Graham isn’t touting her workout and eating habits for nothing. Both can prevent you from developing as much cellulite as you would have otherwise, and they can help reduce it over time. That means building muscle via strength training, working on your flexibility, and trying to stick to a healthy weight, all of which are great for you in general. (Plus, eating well and exercising benefit your health and happiness in plenty of ways, so they’re worth doing for that alone.)
Diet and exercise also play into the health of your skin, which then plays into the appearance of cellulite. Zeichner likens your skin to a pair of Spanx that holds fat in place. The stronger and firmer your skin, the less dimpling you’ll see. That’s why he recommends keeping up a healthy lifestyle to help maintain your skin’s tautness.
As far as products to smooth out cellulite you already have, topical treatments with ingredients like antioxidants, which prevent damage to collagen, and retinol, which helps stimulate collagen, may help, Zeichner says. Creams and skin treatments with caffeine can help, too, he adds. But topical treatments won’t lead to dramatic results, and what results you do see will be temporary. They stop working once you stop using them.
In-office dermatological procedures, such the non-invasive surgical technique Cellfina, microneedling, laser treatments, and injections with the filler Sculptra, can smooth out the appearance of skin dimples as well, Goldenberg says. But in the end, whether you’re in the aisles of a drugstore or at a doctor’s office, remember there’s no magic bullet for cellulite.
If you have cellulite and you’d rather than you didn’t, talk to your dermatologist. They can discuss treatment options, or better yet, reassure you that since cellulite is normal, there’s actually no treatment necessary.
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