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Doctors say it's okay to be like Ashley Graham and embrace your cellulite

At least 85 percent of women over 20 have cellulite. While treatments exist, experts agree the best treatment is body acceptance.
/ Source: TODAY

Ladies, you have more in common with Ashley Graham that you ever imagined. Wondering what possibly makes you like the model? Cellulite.

At least 85 percent of women over 20 have it and Graham’s willingness to flaunt it, plus her message of loving it, might be the best treatment.

“A little cellulite never hurt nobody...Stop judging yourself, embrace the things that society has called ‘ugly’,” the model wrote, with a photo of herself in a dress riding a bike, proudly showing off her cellulite.

There's nothing wrong with your cellulite.

And, she’s right. There’s no research connecting the dimpling found on the thighs, butts, bellies, arms and breasts to any condition or disease, said Dr. Adam Friedman, associate professor of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“I think the emphasis is on treatment rather than the underlying pathophysiology,” he said.

Blame genetics and aging for your cellulite.

While experts remain unsure why cellulite develops, they do understand what is happening. Cellulite occurs more frequently in women — though men certainly get it — and happens as part of the natural aging process.

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As people grow older, the structures in the epidermis, the middle layer of skin, start breaking down and bands of fibrous tissue are tethered down and push fat up, which makes the skin appear pitted. Cellulite seems genetic; if your mom has it, you’ll probably have it, too.

New treatments may get rid of cellulite — but only for a short time, and they're not a sure thing.

While topical treatments, such as creams and massages, do little to reduce cellulite, new technologies might banish cellulite — for a matter of time.

The FDA recently approved Cellfina, a device which suctions the skin, injects a local anesthetic, and uses a micro-blade to slice through the tethered fibrous tissue that cause the dimpling. The company claims to reduce the appearance of cellulite for two years.

Woman leg with cellulite.Shutterstock

“The literature is mostly preliminary and has some good, long-term promise for moderate or severe cellulite,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gusenoff, a plastic surgeon and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center BodyChangers, a lifestyle program to help people get healthy.

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But this treatment is not recommended for obese or overweight people, he said. And, cutting the tethers could possible destroy the skin or make it droopy.

Another treatment, Cellulaze uses lasers under the skin to liquefy the fat, which makes the skin appear smoother for at least a year. But again the lasers might destroy other nearby structures, including blood vessels, and damage the skin.

“Most of these preliminary reports are industry-sponsored studies,” Gusenoff said. “We have to look at these with a grain of salt.”

A healthy lifestyle can help.

While people of all body sizes develop cellulite, being overweight and obese can worsen the appearance. This is why Dr. Apple Bodemer, a Madison, Wisconsin dermatologist, recommends that people establish a good exercise routine, eat healthy diet, and stay properly hydrated.

A diet rich in antioxidants helps maintain the skin’s elasticity, which can reduce the prominence of cellulite. The reason? Antioxidants trap the free radicals that damage the skin’s elasticity.

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“I stress that a healthy diet, regular exercise, that’s part of an overall healthy plan, that will certainly help,” said Bodemer, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Cellulite doesn't appear as noticeable on darker skin so Bodemer recommends people use self tanner if they want to diminish its appearance (she never advises anyone to tan).

Patients who feel insecure about their cellulite can also get deep massages, which can provide minimal, temporary relief.

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“Aggressive massage might help and that can help with improving mood and body image,” said Bodemer. “But there’s not a lot of good research that it is a long-term solution.”

Cellulite is common and harmless. But it makes many feel insecure so they hide it by avoiding shorts, skirts and bathing suits. The experts agree that seeing Graham and others embracing their bodies sends a powerful message.

“If we have more positive role models like her it could help people that maybe are socially impaired" because of their cellulite, Gusenoff said. “Most women probably don’t need any treatment. They need to be happy how they are.”