- Andrea Juarez
There’s nothing wrong with your cellulite
You were tricked into thinking it’s bad.
Photos by Alice Pasqual from Unsplash and Anna Shvets from Pexels. Graphic by the author.
Growing up, I often heard the women in my life complain about having cellulite or orange skin, as magazines and advertisements call it. They talked about how they despised the so-called imperfection and avoided wearing shorts or dresses above the knee to hide it. When I was thirteen years old, a family member called me out for having a lump of cellulite on my leg and said that I should begin to work out because I was too young to have cellulite. Too young or not, about 80 to 90 per cent of women have cellulite. “Developing the dimpled skin of cellulite seems practically inevitable if you’re a woman — no matter how thin you are,” said Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, to Cleveland Clinic’s publication, Health Essentials. “It doesn’t seem to discriminate based on body type.” According to Khetarpal, cellulite appears when the fat cells in the compartments beneath our skin grow over time due to hormones, lifestyle, and diet. As this occurs, the fibrous cords that connect our skin to our muscles, pull down on the skin as the fat pushes upward, creating the uneven, dimpled surface we see in our thighs, legs, and buttocks. If cellulite is so common, why is it one of women’s biggest insecurities? Tricking us softly
Back in the 17th century, cellulite wasn’t considered an imperfection. In fact, it was embraced. Artists featured and highlighted cellulite in their paintings.
By Peter Paul Rubens — The Prado in Google Earth: Home — 7th level of zoom, JPEG compression quality: Photoshop 10., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22620913
In 1873, the word cellulite appeared for the first time in the 12th edition of the Dictionary of Medicine by Émile Littré and Charles-Philippe Robin.
They defined cellulite as inflammation of cellular tissue.
One century later, cellulite debuted in the mainstream media in February of 1933, in an article on exercises against fat, written by Dr. Debec and published in the French magazine Votre Beaute, according to Rossella Ghigi, an expert researcher and author of the article The female body between science and guilt.
Dr. Debec defined cellulite as “a heap of water, residues, toxins, and fat, which form a mixture against which one is badly armed.”
The article was applauded by the emerging French cosmetic industry and beauty institutes.
Votre Beaute’s articles on cellulite were so successful, the publication soon began to recommend experts and published advertorials about slimming massage rolls and at-home treatments to remove cellulite.
Nonetheless, readers considered the remedies ineffective.
Four years later, in 1937, the French magazine Marie-Claire published an article on a physical training service entitled Watch Your Hip measurement.
The write-up described cellulite as a “fatty infiltration in the noble tissues” and stated that “the sneaky cellulite is more harmful to health than overweight. At the same time as more difficult to repress once one has let go.”
It’s possible that women in the West didn’t hear about cellulite until April 15 of 1968, when Vogue published a piece titled “Cellulite, the New Word for Fat You Couldn’t Lose Before.”
The article describes cellulite as “a fat that turns the lithe slow curves of a woman’s body into something less than ornamental, turns off the whole idea of wearing bikinis and the delicious bared dresses of the moment.”
Although Vogue published that article 52 years ago, women around the world still fall for the same tale.
Vogue’s 1968 article on cellulite
Your cellulite insecurity = big money for companies The Medical Encyclopedia of the U.S. National Library of Medicine says that cellulite is not harmful to your health and that most health care providers consider cellulite a normal condition for many women and some men.
But if you google cellulite, you get about 39,700,000 results. Most of them focus on how to remove it.
If you look on YouTube, the top search results are videos with titles such as At-home cellulite treatments, Six ways I reduced my cellulite, and How to get rid of cellulite.
It’s the same content that was promoted in magazines in 1933.
Even though anti-cellulite products and treatments may sound promising for some, they’re not 100 per cent effective.
Brands such as L’Occitane, Nivea, and Rexall have been accused of false advertising by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC won agreements from L’Occitane, Inc, which agreed to pay $450,000 USD to reimburse customers who purchased two skin creams that promised “clinically proven slimming effectiveness” and would “visible reduce the appearance of cellulite.” Basically, the majority of the anti-cellulite products and treatments are as ineffective as they were 87 years ago. But this is not stopping companies from making money off them. Grand Review Research, a market research and consulting company said in a 2018 article that the cellulite market size was valued at 1,260.22 million USD. And according to Acumen Research and Consulting, it’s expected that it will reach 1.5 billion USD by 2026. In defence of cellulite In her article, Rosella Ghigi wrote that beauty began to be democratized by the female press and that beauty ceased to be a grace and became a goal instead. “Faced with an emerging mass market where envy is institutionalized and consumption appears to be the remedy for all ills, the major role of this press has been to transmit to women the idea that beauty must be the visible sign of work on the body and permanent self-monitoring,” she explained. Ghigi wrote that from 1937 to 1939, the cellulite press coverage moved from the lower part of the body (legs and ankles) to the nape of the neck, which demonstrates that our outlook on the body changes over time. “Nowadays, you don’t see advertisements for cellulite in the neck, but at the time, the most visible parts of the female body were precisely the ankles and the head,” she wrote. Before beauty institutes and women’s magazines, cellulite wasn’t an issue to be concerned about, and it shouldn’t be a concern for 13-year-olds or for any individual, no matter their age. In defence of cellulite, I want to say that it’s completely normal. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s not unhealthy and it’s very likely it won’t go away. If the women of Hollywood embrace their cellulite, why you should be worried about yours?