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Does Alcohol Cause Cellulite
Alcohol and Health

Does Alcohol Cause Cellulite?

June 11, 2024
17 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 11, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 11, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
June 11, 2024
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Alcohol Can Make Cellulite Worse

  • Cellulite is a collection of fat that forms beneath our skin and has a lumpy appearance. Alcohol exacerbates cellulite by affecting collagen and skin elasticity, fat metabolism, and hormones.
  • Quitting or cutting back on alcohol, reducing salt and sugar intake, and maintaining an active lifestyle can help minimize the risk of cellulite and improve the appearance of existing cellulite.
  • Reframe can help you take the first step in reducing alcohol consumption, so you’ll both look and feel better.

It’s bikini season, and you’re trying on your new bathing suit and checking yourself out in the mirror. But wait a minute. What is that lumpy stuff on your thighs and buttocks? You’ve never had cellulite before and didn’t notice any until just now. You haven’t gained or lost any weight. But you did drink a lot over the past few months. Could that have something to do with it? 

For those of us who have ever been self-conscious in shorts or a bikini, we most likely know about cellulite. But many of us may not know about its connection to alcohol. Read on to learn more and find out how to manage it.

What Is Cellulite?

Does Alcohol Cause Cellulite

Cellulite is a collection of fat that forms beneath the surface of the skin and pushes against our connective tissue, causing lumps and dimples. It normally appears on the thighs, hips, buttocks, and abdomen, and it primarily affects women. There are four different “grades” of cellulite. 

  • Grade 0: no cellulite whatsoever 
  • Grade 1: mild dimples when the skin pinched or when you sit down 
  • Grade 2: moderate dimples both sitting and standing
  • Grade 3: severe dimples both sitting and standing

Cellulite itself doesn’t pose any health risks, but it can be a sign of other health problems, such as poor diet. 

Cellulite is not to be confused with cellulitis, which is a completely different condition. Let’s clarify the difference before we move on.

Cellulite vs. Cellulitis: Not the Same Thing

If you’re wondering about alcohol and cellulitis, it has nothing to do with cellulite. While we’re focusing more on cellulite for today, we’ll touch on cellulitis and alcohol as well.

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection on the skin that causes pain, swelling, and redness. Cellulitis needs to be treated right away; otherwise, it can spread and cause further infection. Cellulitis needs to be treated with antibiotics.

People get cellulitis from an open wound or injury or from chronic skin conditions, such as eczema and athlete's foot, which cause breaks in the skin.

Drinking makes us more likely to get cellulitis, particularly if we drink heavily. The cause is liver damage, decreased immunity to infection, dehydrated skin that is more likely to break, and risk of injury.

Cellulitis recovery is typically only a week or so, and avoiding alcohol is typically necessary since the treatment requires antibiotics.

Cellulitis and cellulite do have one thing in common, though: they both involve the skin. With that in mind, let’s go back to cellulite and dig a little deeper.

What Causes Cellulite?

Cellulite is caused by many factors.

  • Genetics. This is not the sole cause of cellulite, but it does increase our chances of getting it.
  • Hormones. Cellulite is caused by higher levels of estrogen. Higher estrogen levels lead to decreased collagen levels, which make the cellulite appear worse. Women are more prone to cellulite than men because they have more estrogen. In fact, it’s so common among women that 80–90% of all postpubescent women have it, whereas less than 10% of all men have it. Interestingly, cellulite typically begins to appear between ages 20 and 30 when estrogen levels are at their peak, but it gets worse after that because of the aging process, despite estrogen levels going down with age.
  • Aging. As we age, we lose collagen, and our skin loses elasticity, causing cellulite to appear worse.
  • Diet. Salt, sugar, and carb-loaded foods contribute to cellulite. Foods high in salt cause us to retain water, making cellulite worse.
  • Lifestyle. Being sedentary contributes to cellulite, as it stimulates something called lipogenesis, which is our body storing what we consume as fat.

You can imagine that sitting for long periods of time, eating salty, carby foods, and being female all spell out cellulite, but there is another piece to the puzzle. Let’s focus on the connection between alcohol and cellulite. 

Alcohol and Cellulite

The good news is that alcohol doesn’t directly cause cellulite to form. The bad news is, it can make existing cellulite appear worse. There are many reasons why alcohol makes cellulite worse, and we’ll explore each in detail.

Alcohol’s Connection to Cellulite

Alcohol affects various parts of our body that worsen the appearance of cellulite.

  • Circulation and blood vessels. Alcohol increases blood pressure over time and can damage our veins. Problems with veins affect the blood flow and may make it harder for the skin and connective tissue to bounce back. 
  • Hormones. We know excess estrogen, as well as poor estrogen metabolism, leads to cellulite formation. Alcohol increases estrogen levels, which directly exacerbates this imbalance.
  • Fluid retention and dehydration. Alcohol dehydrates us and causes water retention, which directly leads to cellulite because it’s harder for the body to eliminate excess toxins or fat cells.
  • Elastin and skin texture. Alcohol speeds up the aging process by damaging skin elasticity and depleting collagen, making the skin thinner. This makes skin look saggy and the cellulite look worse.
  • Calorie intake and weight gain. Cellulite is also caused by excess calories, particularly in the form of carbs. Any excess calories lead to increased fat storage, which contributes to cellulite. Alcohol is full of empty calories, which makes this worse.
  • Metabolism and fat storage. Alcohol causes lipogenesis, which may result in an overall increase in fat content. The more fat we have, the more potential for cellulite formation.

So if we give up alcohol, will our cellulite go away? Well, it’s not just the ethanol we have to worry about. There are other problems hiding in various alcoholic beverages that are affect our bikini body, and one of the main culprits is sugar.

Sugar and Cellulite

We touched on salt earlier, but we need to talk more about sugar. Sugar is present in just about everything we eat these days, but also in many alcoholic drinks. Sugar causes inflammation and accumulation of fat, both of which contribute to cellulite. This happens because sugar gets deposited in fat cells and expands them; so even if you lose fat cells, the ones you still have are bigger and cause cellulite.

Cocktails and Cellulite

Cocktails are particularly bad for cellulite because of their sugar content. Sugar is one of the direct causes of cellulite formation, and many cocktails are loaded with it. A typical margarita has 24 grams of sugar; plus, the salt around the rim is also bad for cellulite. Furthermore, ingesting sugar in liquid form is worse than eating it because it increases insulin resistance and weight gain more than sugary foods.

Champagne and Cellulite

A typical brand of champagne contains between 6 to 12 grams of sugar per liter. While there are myths that carbonation contributes to cellulite, it’s actually the sugar. The same goes for wine, which makes wine and sparkling wine equally bad for cellulite.

Beer and Cellulite

While beer doesn’t have as much sugar as other alcoholic drinks, it does have a lot of carbs and empty calories, with some beers having more than others. A generic lager has around 10 grams of carbohydrates per 12-oz serving and may contain anywhere from 140-200 calories per serving. That’s a lot of extra calories with no nutritional benefits, which means it automatically gets stored as fat. Combine that with a side of salty fries, and it’s a recipe for cellulite.

Binge Drinking and Cellulite

Repeated binge drinking and binge eating can also cause cellulite. Binge eating or drinking causes an influx of empty calories that get dumped directly into fat cells rather than being processed normally as they would if we consumed them over a longer period.

In general, our body’s appearance reflects what we put in it. If we don’t give it the nutrition or exercise it needs, it will show.

Effective Strategies to Reduce Cellulite

Tips To Minimize Cellulite

Cellulite is common as we age. Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to minimize it.

  • Drink in moderation. If we do drink, we should avoid binge drinking — we should avoid it anyway! — and keep our drinks down to one per day for women or two per day for men.
  • Hydrate. As we age, our skin becomes more easily dehydrated, which makes cellulite look worse. Staying on top of our hydration will keep it tighter.
  • Get regular exercise. Being sedentary is among the worst things for cellulite as we get older. Getting up and moving regularly will keep our fat burning and reduce the amount that gets stored. 
  • Laser treatment. Laser treatment helps thicken the skin and can reduce the appearance of cellulite. 
  • Massage. Massaging can improve the appearance of cellulite in the short term by making the skin look smoother.
  • Diet. Avoid too much salt and sugar, and indulge in foods that build collagen and help the skin, such as citrus and healthy fats.
  • Stay out of the sun. Sun doesn’t cause cellulite, but it can damage connective tissue and make cellulite look worse, just as it does for the rest of our skin.
  • Vibrotherapy. A study on vibrotherapy — using a vibrational stimulus on the cellulite-affected areas — found that it improves cellulite appearance temporarily but not permanently.
  • Balance your hormones. Naturally reducing estrogen levels in our body can reduce the risk of cellulite. Plus, exercising and getting proper sleep can balance out the estrogen and testosterone levels in women.

Ultimately, none of these steps will make cellulite disappear completely and forever. The best thing we can do is maintain healthy habits, especially as we get older.

Fighting Cellulite

Don’t trade in that bikini for a pair of pants just yet. Your cellulite may not be too far gone, and with the incorporation of healthy lifestyle habits, you can minimize the risk of developing it. If you already have grade 3 cellulite, you can get regular treatments to help its appearance. And remember, it’s all about how you feel in your own skin. If you feel confident in who you are, love your body unconditionally, and nourish it throughout your life, you’ve no need to fret unnecessarily about cellulite.

Summary FAQs

1. Does alcohol cause cellulitis?

Alcohol does not cause cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection that is different from cellulite. But alcohol does increase our risk of cellulitis by decreasing our immunity to infection and dehydrating our skin, which causes it to break more easily and ups our chance of injury or falling.

2. What is the worst alcohol for cellulite and weight gain?

Drinks high in sugar are the worst for cellulite and weight gain, such as sugary cocktails, wine, and champagne. 

3. Is beer bad for cellulite?

Yes. Beer is high in carbohydrates and empty calories, both of which directly cause cellulite.

4. Are cocktails bad for cellulite?

It depends on the cocktail. Cocktails with a high sugar or salt content are worse for cellulite than those lower in sugar and salt.

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