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I, like almost every other red-blooded American woman, could easily list twenty things about my appearance that I’d like to change. My nose is too big, my skin is too yellow, my hips are too wide– and I suffer from the admittedly unrealistic delusion that I’m too fat and too skinny at the same time.
And, like almost all other women, I spent years convinced that I had cellulite, a so-called skin condition that many people regard as disfiguring. As I started looking for treatments for cellulite, I uncovered disturbing information about this “disease” and its impact on how we view ourselves as women. As it turns out, cellulite, as we think of it, does not exist.
Cellulite as a Secondary Sex Characteristic According to a report in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser therapy, as many as 98% of post-pubescent women have cellulite. This is roughly the same number of women who have developed breasts. The characteristic we know as “cellulite” actually arises as a normal reaction to estrogen and progesterone. Like menstruation and breast development, cellulite is one of the characteristics that differentiate male and female bodies. It is no more abnormal than pubic hair, hips, breasts, or any of the other physical traits characteristically associated with grown women. The Invention of Cellulite as a disease was, quite literally, invented by fashion magazines. On April 15, 1969, Vogue magazine published an article describing cellulite as an increasingly common skin disease, and advertising solutions to “cure” this imagined problem.
The term “cellulite” existed within a medical context, to describe the secondary sex characteristic, beginning in the 1920s, but practitioners did not regard it as a disease or a problem. Today, many women believe that they have a skin condition because of visible cellulite. In fact, these people are simply displaying normal traits associated with womanhood.