Beauty

Are You More Likely To Get Stretch Marks Or Cellulite? What The Science Says, Based On Your Skin Tone

By Simone Sydel··  8 min read
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Do cellulite and stretch marks have anything to do with skin tone? Let's explore what available data has to say.

Cellulite and stretch marks are two different conditions that affect the skin's appearance. They differ in their appearance and location on the body, as well as their causes. Cellulite is characterized by dimpled and uneven skin, usually on the lower body parts such as thighs, hips, buttocks, and knees. Stretch marks, on the other hand, appear as thin, long lines that can be white, red, or purple and mainly develop on areas of the body that are likely to stretch out if there's weight gain or loss, such as the flanks, abdomen, thighs, buttocks, hips, and breasts.

The appearance of cellulite and stretch marks can make you feel extremely self-conscious about your body, but finding out the reasons behind their development may help you understand your body better.

Main Causes of Cellulite

Some of the main causes of cellulite include:

Weight gain

Weight gain is one of the main causes of cellulite. As you gain weight, the fat cells in your body expand and push against the connective tissue beneath your skin. This results in the formation of dimples and an uneven appearance on your skin.

Hormones

On average, women have 6-11% more body fat than men. Additionally, some endocrinologists and Ob/Gyns suggest that estrogen reduces a woman's ability to burn energy after eating, resulting in more fat being stored around the body. The likely reason for this is to prime women for childbearing, so it does appear that we have to work a little harder to get rid of cellulite.

Age

While cellulite can develop as early as right after puberty, it's generally more common in older age groups. This is because your skin becomes thinner and less elastic as you age. The connective tissue in your skin also weakens, and the fatty cells become larger. All of these factors contribute to the formation of cellulite.

Diet

Diet, or more specifically, not minding your diet, is one of the main causes of cellulite. If you eat a lot of fatty and processed foods and you don't lead an active lifestyle, this will help build up fat under your skin, which then leads to cellulite.

If your mother or grandmother had cellulite, then you're more likely to develop it as well.

Lifestyle Choices

Your lifestyle choices play a significant role in the development of cellulite. If you have a sedentary lifestyle or are a heavy smoker or drinker, chances are that you're more likely to develop cellulite at some point.

Genetics

Genetics plays a role in the development of cellulite, as it does with many other conditions. If your mother or grandmother had cellulite, then you're more likely to develop it as well. This is because certain genes are passed down from generation to generation, and these genes can predispose you to develop cellulite.

Main Causes of Stretch Marks

Contrary to cellulite, stretch marks have more easily identifiable causes. Pregnancy is a huge contributor to stretch marks, as many women start to notice them as their belly stretches to accommodate their baby. In addition, as your weight fluctuates, your skin stretches, and the elastic fibers that give it support can tear, resulting in stretch marks.

Another factor that can cause stretch marks in rare circumstances, particularly in certain areas such as the breasts, is getting cosmetic surgery or implants. While not all women who get implants will develop stretch marks, it’s a possibility because the skin needs to stretch to accommodate the new implant.

Does Skin Tone Have Anything To Do with Your Predisposition to Cellulite or Stretch Marks?

Cellulite and stretch marks are universal skin conditions, with an estimated 85-90% of women developing them at some point in their lives. However, some studies suggest that a woman’s race/ethnicity can be a potential determinant of her body composition. In general, women of color have been shown to have less subcutaneous fat (the type of fat that leads to cellulite) than Caucasian women. But it’s also been observed that it's more likely to be found on the hips and thighs of Latin women and on the abdomen of Caucasian women.

In general, women of color are less likely to develop cellulite than Caucasian women. 

Some reports suggest that Asian women are also less prone to developing cellulite than Caucasian women. Some have theorized this may be due to the general Asian diet being lower in saturated fat and less acidic foods, whereas Westerners consume more processed food; however, this has not been confirmed.

What's certain is that cellulite is developed by an unhealthy lifestyle, particularly by a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. So if you want to avoid cellulite, make sure to live a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy foods instead of relying on genetics to determine whether or not you'll get it.

As for stretch marks, there are some suggestions that skin tone might play a role, but this has not been substantially confirmed. Some studies have found that stretch marks are more common in lighter-skinned individuals, while others have found that they’re more common in dark-skinned individuals, which makes it difficult to determine whether skin tone is actually a determinant of stretch marks.

How To Prevent and Treat Cellulite

There are several effective ways to try to prevent or reduce the appearance of cellulite. Here are three that are likely to make the most significant difference:

Diet and Hydration

Your diet may affect cellulite, so it’s important to eat a balanced, healthy diet. A healthy diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight and not have sudden weight fluctuations, which can worsen cellulite.

Additionally, dehydration can also make cellulite more noticeable, so it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. This will help keep you hydrated as well as encourage circulation and lymphatic flow.

Exercise

Regular exercise can improve circulation and help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which can further reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage involves gently manipulating specific areas of your body to help lymph fluid move to an area with working lymph vessels. This will help reduce the accumulation of fluids that can lead to cellulite and improve the appearance of your skin.

To get the most benefit from a lymphatic drainage massage, it’s best to have several sessions over a period of weeks or months. You can also give yourself a lymphatic drainage massage if seeing a professional isn't an option. To do this, you can use your hands, a dry brush, a loofah, or a massage roller. You can start at the feet and move upward using long fluid strokes or circular motions. This is best done before a bath or shower.

Lymphatic drainage massage reduces the accumulation of fluids that can lead to cellulite.

How To Prevent and Treat Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are a bit more difficult to prevent than cellulite, as they’re most often caused by weight gain during pregnancy, which is something you don't have total control over. However, here are some useful things you can do to help reduce their appearance after they've already formed:

Topical Retinoids

Topical retinoids are a type of vitamin A that can help improve the appearance of stretch marks by stimulating collagen production and increasing cellular turnover. Increased cellular turnover should flatten and fade the stretch marks faster, while increased collagen production can help fill them out. However, retinoids are not recommended for use during pregnancy, so it's best to wait until after you've given birth to use them.

Microneedling

Microneedling, also called collagen induction therapy, is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that uses a roller with multiple very fine needles to penetrate the skin, gradually inducing the formation of new collagen, which can help eliminate unwanted stretch marks and smooth out uneven skin texture. Microneedling does come with some recovery downtime, including redness, swelling, and irritation side effects, which usually lasts between 24-48 hours.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is another option for reducing stretch marks, especially when it comes to newer stretch marks that have just formed and haven't turned white yet. During laser treatment, concentrated rays of light are directed at the stretch marks, stimulating new growth, smoothing the scars, and fading their color.

Lasers also require some recovery downtime, so it's best to consider doing this kind of treatment during winter, as exposing yourself to strong sun right afterward can actually do more harm than good.

Closing Thoughts

While cellulite and stretch marks are extremely common, this doesn't mean that you're powerless against these conditions because both can be maintained and even eliminated with some effort, lifestyle changes, and help from professional treatments.

With all that said, it's important to remember that cellulite and stretch marks are not dangerous, and they don't pose any health risks, so there's no need to feel self-conscious or ashamed of them.

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