Over 90% of women have it, yet the American media, fashion industry, and culture at large prevent us from accepting it: cellulite. Even as we begin to see more and more curvier models in the press, we never see any signs of the divets and dimples that result when fat deposits peek through the fibrous tissue under our skin. What's particularly frustrating about our society's inexplicable allergy to women with cellulite is that women's bodies are basically designed to have it. On the whole, women's higher levels of estrogen cause our fat cells to be positioned in our bodies such that fat, even if we don't have a lot of it, can appear unevenly, particularly around the thighs and backside.
"Men's connective tissue is more interwoven than women's," New Jersey dermatologist Margarita Lolis, MD, told Shape.com. "Imagine men's connective tissue like mesh on a screen door—it's harder for fat to get through—while women's connective tissue isn't as tightly formed, leaving more spaces for the fat to bulge through." Not a whole lot we can do about that.
Speaking of things that are out of our control, while cellulite is loosely related to weight, women of all different sizes have it—and as you age, it's even more likely to show up. There's no quick fix for it (not even surgery); in fact, there's not even anything long-term that will cure cellulite 100%. "Exercise will not get rid of cellulite, because aging will happen no matter what," Crunch Fitness trainer Sandy Liang told Shape. "I myself have cellulite, along with many fitness trainers and models I've come across."
And yet, it's hard not to feel self-conscious about the cellulite you're 90% likely to have, especially during the summertime when airbrushed bikini photos pervade our Instagram feeds and general media consumption. So in an effort to make this incredibly common and objectively non-scary thing called cellulite more visible, we took to Instagram to round up a few beautiful images of real women rocking their dimples with pride. Keep scrolling to find 15 photos proving that cellulite is not only normal, but it's also fire.
Nineteen-year-old body-positive activist Holly James calls herself the "cellulite queen" in this sultry summer image. "Thick thighs win," she captions.
Nikki G is a plus-size Instagrammer who proudly calls her colorful images "fat art." We're in love with the caption on this breathtaking photo: "How do you like your rolls? Buttered? Covering honey? I like mine out in public for the world to see."
In this sunshiny post, health and fitness Instagrammer @fittybritttty writes, "I used to never think I would be able to feel so confident and proud while wearing a bikini! … The moment I let go of the fear of what others thought of me, was the moment I was able to truly embrace my inner bikini goddess!"
Model Tabria Majors's beauty can't be denied, but in the caption of this vulnerable pic, she admits that she still feels insecure about her cellulite—proof that confidence is something that even the most body-positive women struggle to maintain every day.
Cellulite and stretch marks happen on what one might consider "thin" bodies, too. Blogger and mother of three Sarah Nicole embarked on a health journey that resulted in a 100-pound weight loss, but her skin still sports dimples and stripes. "Sometimes I think my journey with self-love was rooted in exhaustion," she writes in the caption of this post. "Seriously, I think I was just tired … of the time I spent wishing and wanting another body. … So maybe that's all it took. Getting to a place of … knowing that the only way to feel renewed was to press the refresh button and start working on a new compassionate outlook towards myself."
It is so ridiculously refreshing to see someone post a booty-out beach pic like this one from @brooklynpetite without having smoothed out her skin to look more traditionally "perfect."
"I took over 100+ photos to get this shot," plus-size Instagrammer @mellbeauty confesses in this caption. "I use[d] to judge myself so much for not looking like these images found on the internet/magazines but I realized it's never just one shot and they are always retouched. … So I'm here to bless you with a non retouched image of me … cellulite, bumps and all!"
Jazzmyne Robbins's funky style and sassy humor make her one of my personal favorite people to follow on Instagram. "Fell in love with my ass crease and cellulite," she captions this post.
In general, Italian beauty standards are often even more impossible than American ones, making this unretouched, unapologetic post from Instagrammer @lamorii all the more important. "Ho la cellulite, come quasi ogni altra donna di questo pianeta," she says, meaning, "I have cellulite, like almost every other woman on this planet."
Try not to be charmed by this cute-as-hell photo of body-positive Instagrammer @jessycagetsfit taking a quaint trip to the hardware store in her Lowe's-blue hot pants.
How beautiful is this image of Sharon Teeuwen, a vegan student from Amsterdam? "I should accept my body as it is!" she says. "Small titties, bloated belly, cellulite, tiger stripes and all!"
We have but one word to say about this incredibly fly shot of curvy model Aryn Terry: damn.
"OH BODY IMAGE," mother of two Mary Salas writes in her caption of this photo. "I would usually never ever post these photos. Because #cellulite. The filters help, sure. But it's there and it's mighty. It's probably genetic, it's probably because I don't do squats religiously, it's probably because I have pale skin, it's probably because I had back-to-back pregnancies. But you know what? I took my shorts off publicly for the first time since probably high school. Because I don't want my daughters to grow up knowing their mom was insecure.
Even if I have to fake it til I make it for a bit… I want my daughters to grow up with a mother confident in who she is, inside and out. My cellulite and thick thighs don't define who I am."
"Normally I WOULDN'T post this," captions 21-year-old Belgian Instagrammer @lifeofchey_. "Because I would be scared of the reactions a lot of people would give. 'Oh, you're not skinny,' 'You have cellulite' … 'I don't want to look at this.' WELL YOU SHOULD! Cause this, this is beautiful."
"Your health is not determined by a magic number on the scale, your lack of cellulite, or your jean size. It's determined by your habits. And remember, that health includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual," body-positive Instagrammer Mary Jelkovsky astutely captions this photo.
Want more inspiring body content? Read our July letter from the editor, all about body love.