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What’s the difference between stretch marks and cellulite?

Updated January 7, 2021

Woman scrubbing cellulite

Stretch marks vs. cellulite

Cellulite and stretch marks are commonly discussed topics on various online forums for women. They worry so many women because they make a person look unsightly. No one wants to look unattractive right? Moreover, the presence of either of the two on a woman’s body can point to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Let’s look at what cellulite and stretch marks are, what causes them, and all the confusion between cellulite and stretch marks.

The only similarities between the two are that they appear on your skin and mostly in the same locations. And that’s where their similarities end.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks are harmless scars or stripes of discoloration on your body. They usually appear on the breasts, buttocks, thighs, and belly. They might be pink, blue, or blackish in the beginning and fade with time to become whitish.


It can also appear on your buttocks, thighs, breasts, and belly. It is the not-so-cute dimples on your skin. Sometimes, these dimples might not be very prominent, but squeezing the area inwards with both hands can reveal their presence.

Why do they appear on the skin?

Stretch marks are a sign that the inner layer of your skin, called the dermis, has ripped. Those ripped lines appear on the surface because the topmost layer of the skin is not that thick— more like a see-through effect. It is for this reason many experts strictly deny the usefulness of any topical lotions and creams to treat stretch marks.

Cellulite is a result of fat deposits underneath your skin enlarging and pushing against the walls of the dermis (the inner skin layer). However, the fibrous threads try to hold the skin in its place. The pulling effect of the fibrous threads against the pushing of the fat cells on the skin gives birth to dimples and bumps.

What causes stretch marks?

Stretch marks can be a result of pregnancy, genetics, weight gain, sudden physical growth, bodybuilding, etc. Anything that causes the muscles or fat inside the body to push against the skin to the point of stretching it will result in stretch marks. Family history, race, skin color, skin health, etc. can increase or decrease your susceptibility to the appearance of stretch marks.

Cellulite can be a result of pregnancy and weight gain too. Anything that increases fat in your body can cause cellulite. Cellulite can be a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle as well. If you eat too many fattening foods, you are more likely to end up with cellulite. Sedentary jobs, genetics, hormonal changes, etc. can also contribute to the formation of cellulite on your skin. Unfortunately, women suffer from cellulite more than men.

Can stretch marks be treated?

There are hundreds of topical treatments for stretch marks on the market, but you can never be sure if they will work or not. Home remedies with herbs and natural foods are also only as effective as the topical creams and lotions. In most cases, you can only make stretch marks fade away faster, but not treat them fully. Even laser treatments can only expedite the fade-away process.

Topical treatments are, yet again, not effective to get rid of cellulite. The reason behind that is pretty clear: it is not entirely a skin-related problem. Topical lotions can only tighten the skin to reduce the visibility of cellulite but for as long as there is excessive fat beneath the skin, some cellulite will be visible on the surface. A non-invasive procedure like cryolipolysis can be effective to treat cellulite. Other treatments include acoustic wave therapy, cellfina, and ultrasound.