Subcutaneous fat is the fatty or adipose tissue lying directly under the skin layers. Subcutaneous translates to "under the skin." It contains not only fatty tissues but also blood vessels, which supply the skin with oxygen, and nerves. Subcutaneous fat is a shock absorber, helping to cushion our skin against trauma, and also stores energy, which the body uses during periods of high activity.
Subcutaneous fat differs from fat that lies deeper in the body and cushions our organs. This is called visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand is the fat we most see lying under the skin. Too much fat can cause the skin to become tight or stretched, and result in dreaded cellulite or a dimpled look of the skin. When subcutaneous fat is relatively small in amount, it tends to lie loosely under the skin layers and is thus less visible.
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Not all subcutaneous fat is bad, or contributes to what some people consider unsightly. In fact, many people have fat injections to plump out their face and reduce the look of wrinkles. So as much as some of us may battle subcutaneous fat that contributes to notable cellulite, many others seek subcutaneous fat injections to maintain younger looking faces, or hands.
To reduce subcutaneous fat, many people resort to dieting. However, since this fat stores energy, it is often more easily reduced with exercise. Studies focusing on fat measurements show that women who exercise three to four times a week tended to have greater subcutaneous fat weight loss. About 60% of the pounds lost from exercise were subcutaneous fat. Dieters who did not exercise regularly still lost weight, but only about 30% of their weight loss was subcutaneous fat tissue.
Still, even people who are in shape and thin may have a little cellulite. This unfortunately can’t be reduced by most liposuction techniques. However, mini-liposuction is proving helpful in reducing this top layer of fatty tissue.
While we are used to considering fat bad, especially in a diet-obsessed culture, it should be noted that subcutaneous fat does have its purposes. It is fantastic for storing energy, for cushioning nerves and blood vessels, and for protecting the skin and the skeleton. It does serve several important purposes, though one can have too much of a good thing.