Just as researchers haven't found a cure for cellulite, they also haven't been able to pinpoint its cause. Hormones predispose you to fat buildup. Your genes also contribute, determining the way your connective tissues and fat are distributed. But cellulite-prone areas also contain hair follicles, blood vessels and muscle. Researchers still debate which components are responsible for cellulite production.
One hypothesis blames the blood vessels and states that cellulite is created when blood isn't flowing through the vessels properly. As fat expands, it presses against blood vessels. The blood vessels then press against the skin, creating an uneven surface [source: Avram].
Another theory blames white blood cells, which help increase the body's immunity to disease. This hypothesis purports that people with cellulite have chronically inflamed white blood cells. Inflamed cells shrink, causing the skin to lose strength. Stored fat then pushes against weak skin creating the uneven surface [source: Avram].
The most widely accepted hypothesis to date blames connective tissue. Connective tissues are the fibers under the skin that connect the skin to muscle. In men, connective tissues appear in a criss-cross pattern, creating a net-like barrier to keep fat away from the skin. In women, connective tissues appear as parallel bars, giving cellulite fat an opportunity to push up through them. As the fat pushes against the tissues, they begin to bulge, pressing into the skin. The tissues then imprint themselves upon the skin, giving your skin a dimpled, uneven look [source: Bouchez].
If the connective tissue theory is true, then weight gain will only make matters worse, forcing extra fat against cellulite and strained tissues. Age will also increase the likelihood of cellulite's appearance. With age, skin loses strength and elasticity, thereby losing its ability to hide imperfections. Muscle that loses its tone with age may also add to the wrinkled appearance.
Though the cause is unknown, a variety of cellulite treatments has been developed based on these theories. On the next page, learn about exercise as a treatment.