Types of Cellulite and Their Treatment: Aqueous, Fibrous or Adipose

Cellulite can be adipose, fibrous or watery. Its characteristics are key to a successful aesthetic treatment. We'll tell you more about it.
Types of Cellulite and Their Treatment: Aqueous, Fibrous or Adipose
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 02 October, 2022

Cellulite, also called “orange peel skin”, is a skin disease that affects millions of women around the world. This pathology usually causes great discomfort and affects people’s self-esteem. Are you interested in knowing about the different types of cellulite and their treatment? Keep reading!

The Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (article in Spanish) (AEDV) estimates that between 85 and 98% of women suffer from cellulite at some point in their lives. It’s more common in white people and its incidence in men is no more than 10%.

In most cases, the different types of cellulite are the early manifestation of an underlying problem. Such is the case of hormonal disorders, inadequate diets, and intolerance to certain foods. Timely treatment is essential to improve the appearance of the skin and prevent its progression.

What is cellulite?

Cellulite is known in aesthetic medicine as edematous fibrosclerotic panniculopathy. It’s a skin disease that appears as a result of metabolic and endocrine disorders.

It usually manifests with small lumps and irregular depressions on the skin surface. It’s common on the thighs, buttocks, upper arms, and lower abdomen, according to research.

It usually appears during hormonal changes in women, such as pregnancy or puberty. In itself, it’s caused by an increase in the quantity and size of fat cells or adipocytes, with the consequent changes to vascular drainage.

In this sense, there will be greater retention of fat and fluids, accompanied by a hardening of the skin fibers, which gives the characteristic appearance of this condition. This aesthetic problem shouldn’t be confused with infectious cellulite.

The latter is an inflammatory disorder that appears when the skin is invaded by pathogenic germs. Unlike orange peel skin, in infectious cellulite, the skin surface will be swollen, red, hot, and painful to the touch.

A person with cellulite.
Cellulite manifests as small dimples on the surface of the skin.

Cellulite symptoms

It is common for symptoms of different types of cellulite to appear during adolescence. In early forms, there is usually an increase in skin thickness without other manifestations. In general, we can see the following:

  • Small depressions in the skin
  • Irregular lumps
  • Deep nodules
  • Decreased elasticity
  • A sensation of heaviness or numbness in the area
  • Pain on palpation in advanced cases

Main causes

This condition has a mainly hormonal and genetic basis. Similarly, weight variations are one of the factors that contribute most to its appearance. However, the main culprit is hormonal overproduction.

The excess of hormones in the body promotes abnormal functioning of adipocytes. The latter become inflamed and increase in size and number, until they turn into fat nodules. In addition, the skin fibers become tighter, which forms a rigid network that pulls down and gives the appearance of orange peel skin.

In general, the most common causes of cellulite are as follows:

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of exogenous estrogens
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Abundant food in fats, sodium, and sugars
  • Use of tight clothing

What are the types of cellulite?

These days, experts recognize three types of cellulite; adipose, fibrous, and aqueous. These have different characteristics from each other and can appear in the same person.

Adipose cellulite

This is the most common form of all types of cellulite. It’s characterized by the fact that the affected area loses consistency, sinks easily when touched, and moves clearly with movement or changes in posture. For this reason, it’s also called “flaccid” or “soft” cellulite.

Similarly, there are usually lumps and irregularities in the skin. It isn’t usually accompanied by pain, but can produce a certain heaviness. In general, it’s due to the accumulation of fat under the skin due to a poor diet, lack of physical exercise, or drastic diet plans.

It’s also usually located in the buttocks, hips, thighs, waist, abdomen, and inner knees. In general, to help to reduce it, the following is recommended:

  • Reduce consumption of saturated fats and processed foods.
  • Incorporate foods high in fiber and good fats, such as avocado and olive oil.
  • Increase water intake.

On the other hand, localized anti-cellulite massages are beneficial. Some procedures such as pressotherapy, mesotherapy, and carboxytherapy also work.

Fibrous cellulite

This is the most difficult type of cellulite to eliminate. It’s common in young women with obesity, and even in thin women. In general, the affected skin usually becomes hardened, like a compact block, as a result of the thickening of the septa that trap the fat nodules. It is usually called “hard” or “compact” cellulite.

It’s also characterized by being painful to the touch, due to the compression of the nerves in the area. In addition, the skin is usually subjected to a lot of tension, which promotes the appearance of stretch marks. Sometimes the affected area can become cold.

This type of cellulite typically forms on the buttocks, knees, inner thighs, and arms. Treatment recommendations include a balanced diet – high in protein and low in fat. Physical exercise is also a therapeutic advantage.

The most useful aesthetic treatments are LPG endermologie (lipomassage) and ultrasound. On the other hand, body radiofrequency has also provided good results in many people with this type of cellulite.

Aqueous cellulite

Aqueous cellulite is also known as “edematous cellulite”. It usually combines characteristics of both types of cellulite described above at the same time. In most cases, the affected skin is soft and supple to the touch. In addition, it may or may not be accompanied by pain.

Its presence is related to fluid retention, resulting from problems in lymphatic or venous circulation. It’s typically located in the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and arms. People affected usually report heaviness and swelling in the legs.

The most effective aesthetic treatment is lymphatic drainage by pressotherapy. Likewise, it’s advisable to use endermologie to recover the firmness and elasticity of the skin. Likewise, medium-impact sports are ideal for recovering muscle tone and reducing excess fat.

Aesthetic treatments available

Currently, there are a large number of drugs that help destroy fatty tissue and improve cellulite. Such is the case of drugs with lipolytic effects, microcirculation activators, phosphatidylcholine and retinol.

Dermatologists are the experts trained to diagnose and classify the types of cellulite. Based on this, they will also guide you towards appropriate treatment. The most common aesthetic methods to treat this condition are the following:

  • High-energy acoustic waves
  • Radiofrequency and ultrasound
  • LPG Endermologie
  • Pressotherapy
  • Body mesotherapy
  • Carboxytherapy
A skin massage.
The combination of healthy habits and some aesthetic therapies makes it possible to greatly reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Recommendations to prevent these types of cellulite

Cellulite is a condition that can be prevented through small changes in habits and lifestyle. Some of the most useful recommendations to reduce the risk of suffering from this aesthetic problem include the following:

  • Increase the intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, and potassium
  • Reduce the consumption of foods with sodium, fats, and sugars
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and coffee
  • Eliminate smoking
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise regularly, at least 2 to 3 times a week

A common aesthetic problem in women

As you can see, there are different types of cellulite and its treatment varies according to the characteristics and severity of the condition. Right now, the dermatologist can help you find strategies to minimize its appearance and improve your skin health. Don’t hesitate to consult one!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Benaiges A. Concepto, clasificación y tratamiento de la celulitis. Offarm. 2003; 22 (5): 78-88.
  • Alcalde T. Celulitis. Asesoramiento integral desde la oficina de farmacia. Offarm. 2009: 28(5): 107-114.
  • González M, Galimberti D, Valdivia D, Seiref S. Celulitis: tratamiento combinado con mesoterapia, láser y radiofrecuencia. Dermatología Cosmética, Médica y Quirúrgica. 2015; 13(1): 13-19.
  • Arellano A. Carboxiterapia. Dermatología Cosmética, Médica y Quirúrgica. 2006; 4(4): 288.
  • Velilla M, Ávila J. La piel: un enfoque integral más allá de la función de barrera. Dermatología Cosmética, Médica y Quirúrgica. 2016; 14(4): 50-65.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.