How to Reduce Stubborn Cellulites
Cellulites can be a recurrent nightmare for women of all ages. Often related to unaesthetic appearance, this unpleasant condition can affect many women, regardless of their weight and age. It is estimated that around 80-90% of post-pubertal women deal with cellulite, affecting both their self-confidence and mood.
But what is cellulite exactly, and how to treat it? Before going on, remember that having it doesn’t mean you’re fat: it can also affect skinny people. Living with cellulite can be uncomfortable and lead to low self-esteem; most of the time, it is impossible to remove it completely, and you can only act to reduce it.
What is a cellulite?
If you have cellulite, your skin looks bumpy and dimpled, and in the most severe cases, becomes saggy or draped. Most of the time, the skin gets a typical “orange-peel” (or “cottage cheese”) appearance. Cellulite mainly affects the tummy, the thighs, and the buttocks area.
There are three different degrees in which cellulite can appear, and they’re classified according to the Cellulite Severity Scale (CSS):
Tissues lack elasticity, and skin appears swollen with some dimpling. If you have mild cellulite, you can notice it only if you pinch your skin.
Affected tissues start to become less elastic than other parts of the body, and the dimpling is more visible. Skin can hurt a bit if you pinch it.
Skin becomes more and more bumpy and dimpled, and you can see areas of peaks and valleys.
In general, cellulite is a condition that evolves gradually, and this gives an advantage: you can start treatment when it’s still at its beginning. Addressing the problem as soon as you notice it is much better than starting too late (which, in turn, can make it harder to reduce it).
What are the causes of cellulites?
The main causes of cellulite are poor blood circulation and low water levels in the connective tissue area. The connective tissue acts as a support that protects and connects organs and other tissues in your body. Some connective tissues are bones, fat (the so-called “adipose tissue”), cartilage, and lymphatic tissue.
When there’s bad blood circulation and water retention in the connective tissue area, there’s often a lower collagen production and a weakening of such tissue. That’s why the fat cells protrude and become more visible, giving birth to the typical dimpling effect; that’s when cellulite appears.
Typically, cellulite affects women of all ages and ethnicities, while in men, it is rare; this is probably because of the connective tissue’s structure in women. Additional factors can increase the probability of developing cellulite. Some of them (such as ethnicity, distribution of body fat, and metabolism) are related to genetics, so you can’t prevent them. Other causes of cellulite include:
Hormonal changes (especially estrogen).
If hormone levels change, the blood circulation gets affected, too. Lower blood circulation results in less oxygen supply to the cells; thus, collagen production gets lower.
With age, your collagen levels lower, resulting in less elastic skin, making cellulite more visible.
Increased fatty tissue
Even though everyone can have cellulite, it is prevalent in overweight people or those with excess fat because it’s more likely for those cells to swell and become more visible.
The lymphatic system is responsible for draining waste fluids from your body, but it needs healthy conditions to work correctly. Whenever there’s an infection going on, its functioning can compromise. In such cases, the lymph nodes that work to cleanse the cells get clogged: they cannot function properly, so all the toxins accumulate in the tissues and cells. That’s when cellulite forms.
Besides those risk factors, also your lifestyle can increase your risk of developing cellulite. Some of the lifestyle-related causes include:
Lack of physical exercise
Lack of movement weakens blood circulation and is one of the main causes of gaining weight.
An unbalanced diet
An unbalanced diet, low in essential nutrients and rich in sugars or fat may lead to extra weight, thus increasing the amount of fatty tissue in the body.
A high intake of salt
Using too much salt increases fluid retention.
Low water intake
If you don’t drink enough water, your liquid retention worsens, and there’s inadequate liquid circulation in the body.
Smoking increases fluid retention and makes the skin thinner and weaker.
Wearing tight clothes
Wearing tight clothes that can limit the blood flow (especially in your tight and buttock area).
Stressful lifestyle or lack of sleep can lead to unbalance in your organism. And, as we’ve said, balance is essential to keep your body’s function properly.
How to reduce stubborn cellulite?
Reducing cellulite depends on many factors: most of all, its intensity (remember the Cellulite Severity Scale?) and your physical condition. Let’s get real: there is no miraculous treatment with which you can get rid of cellulite forever. But this doesn’t mean you’ll have to live with orange-peeled skin for the rest of your life: there are a lot of home remedies that can reduce cellulite and can make your skin look much better, and several surgery treatments can noticeably decrease your cellulite.
Home remedies for cellulite
Movement helps you reduce cellulite because it increases your muscle tone and reduces your weight. A stronger tone means that your skin is more firm and less bumpy. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense (its final aim needs to be a better blood circulation), but it’s essential to keep doing a low-intensity, constant activity. It’s better to move every day, even if at a milder rhythm than to do vigorous physical exercise for a couple of days per week. You can do gymnastics, yoga, brisk walking, but you can also adopt healthier habits. Some examples? Instead of taking the elevator, choose to use the stairs or walk to your workplace and leave the car at home.
And if you’re up for a more intense activity, you can do jogging, kickboxing, swimming, aqua fitness, or you can try some workouts like squats, step-ups, and glute kickbacks. To experience their benefits, you should exercise two or three times per week, 30 minutes per day. If you do gymnastics, try to do three sessions of 15 repetitions each. Remember to always stretch before gymnastics to prevent unwanted muscle injuries.
Adopt a healthy diet
Diet is everything. Indeed, what you eat has a massive influence on how you feel: your energy levels, your mental health, and your body’s correct functioning. And a balanced diet is also essential if you want to lose weight.
A diet that helps you reduce stubborn cellulite would include at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day, the right amount of healthy fats and whole grains, and would be low in salt, refined carbs, sugars, soft drinks, and processed food.
To increase liquid drainage, you can eat more vitamins and minerals: among them, potassium (you can find it in dried fruit) or vitamin C (fruits like oranges and kiwis are loaded with this nutrient).
Drink more water
Drinking enough water is essential to reduce cellulite. Among its countless functions (it cleanses the body, promotes digestion, regulates body temperature, and much more), water carries nutrients to your cells and improves liquid exchange: it’s vital to decrease fluid retention.
There’s no general advice on how much water you need daily. A golden rule would be to drink between 1.5 and 2 liters of water per day (or eight glasses per day). In general, if you do rarely feel thirsty and your urine has a light yellow shade, your water intake is probably adequate.
Even if skinny people can have cellulite, extra weight makes it more visible. Overweight people have more fat cells, and these cells will be more likely to swell and lead to the typical “orange peel” appearance. If you are overweight and would like to lose some pounds, ask a nutritionist or a dietist for adequate treatment. If you lose too much weight (or you do it too fast), your cellulite can look worse or even appear in those areas in which your skin is loose.
To have clearer, firmer, and more shiny skin, you should quit smoking. Smoking has a detrimental impact on your skin because it makes it thinner and more prone to sag; it also increases cellulite on your thighs and bottom.
Limit alcohol and coffee
Both alcohol and coffee cause dehydration and fluid retention, so you should limit them in your diet. If you’re a coffee-lover, you can modify your intake to one or two cups per day, or you can give tea a try.
Use creams and lotions
Even if most of the time they’re advertised as something miraculous, creams and lotions won’t let you magically eliminate cellulite. But, if applied constantly, they can improve your skin’s appearance and make it smoother. Some of the most recommended and effective active ingredients of creams for cellulite are:
Retinol. It’s believed that retinol thickens the epidermis and strengthens the skin’s texture. In a 1999 study, volunteers used a topical cream with 0.3% of retinol for six months and noticed an increased blood flow and an improved skin density. That’s because the body metabolizes retinol to produce retinoic acid and increases the synthesis of collagen. To experience some benefits from retinol creams, you should use them for at least six months.
Caffeine. Applying a caffeine scrub on your skin can have incredible effects. In a study, 15 volunteers with cellulite applied water-soluble caffeine on their skin twice a day for six weeks. Results showed that their cellulite reduced, and the cream didn’t have serious adverse effects (only some participants experienced skin irritation). Why is caffeine so effective? The exact reason it’s not clear. It could be because it dehydrates the cells and makes the skin less bumpy or improves blood circulation.
Before using each cream or lotion, always get approval from your primary healthcare provider and run a test to know how your skin reacts (you might be allergic).
Do a massage
Massage stimulates your blood circulation and liquid drainage, and it’s a fantastic remedy to make your skin look shiny, younger, and more elastic. It also aids in getting rid of excess fluid, so the typical cellulite dimples will be less noticeable.
You can do it alone, at home, or go to a massage therapist. If you’re at home, you can use a rub to massage the zone gently. You can do it while in the shower or before applying lotion.
There are many different techniques, but they all have the same purpose: stimulating blood and liquid circulation. The massage itself won’t reduce your cellulite but will make it less visible and improve your skin’s appearance.
What are the basic rules to do a home massage and the best techniques to use?
- You can massage your feet, legs, tummy, buttocks, and thighs.
- Don’t be afraid of applying pressure and make firm movements.
- You can either use your hands or only the fingers. In the first case, you can keep your palms open or close your fists and punch then skin. In the latter case, use the tips of your fingers and apply firm pressure.
- Make circular movements going from the bottom to the top.
- Pinch your skin or knead it (squeeze, pinch, and pat it).
- Apply a cream or a lotion to combine their anti-cellulite effects with those of the massage.
- Light up a candle or some incense to set up a relaxing atmosphere.
Tummy massage. Use small, circular movements from left to right. Start from your hips and go to the navel, and then go back.
Legs massage. How to do a leg massage to stimulate your circulation?
1. Start making circular movements on one of your feet (from its sole to the heel).
2. Move to the back of the foot and continue making circular movements.
3. Repeat this procedure for the other foot.
4. Massage your leg from the ankle to the groin with firm circular movements.
5. Grab your calf and pinch the muscle (moving bottom-up).
Buttock massage. Kneel and make circular movements. Afterward, pinch the area. You can also massage your buttocks in a standing position: start from your hip, make circular movements towards your thigh, and then go back to the hip.
Take collagen supplements
Since problems in the connective tissue are the lead causes of cellulite, treatments aimed to restore the dermal structure can have a positive impact on your skin.
In a 2015 study, women aged 24-50 took oral supplements of bioactive collagen peptides (BCP) for six months. Treatment with BCP led to a significant improvement of cellulite and a reduced skin waviness on thighs. Taking collagen supplements seems to be a promising treatment to reduce cellulite and improve overall skin health.
Combine healthy habits and good practices
In general, adopting just one of the strategies mentioned above wouldn’t be helpful. To see some benefit, you need to combine different approaches together. For example, you can have a healthier diet, do regular exercise, and quit unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking). Combine such good habits with the use of a proper cream and a massage, and your skin will start to look younger, smoother, and softer.
Treatments for cellulite
There are a lot of cellulite treatments: what works for you, and what are their main pros and cons? We’ve tried to collect the most popular ones and list their characteristics and benefits. Our list has just an informative purpose and doesn’t have a medical or therapeutic validity; thus, remember to always consult a doctor or a dermatologist before choosing an anti-cellulite treatment. And if you decide to try any treatment to remove cellulite, make sure to go to a certified surgeon.
Laser is quite effective in treating cellulite because it targets fat cells (this means that it doesn’t attack other cells) and dissolves them.
One of the most common and effective laser treatments is the so-called Cellulaze. That’s an FDA-approved surgery in which a professional inserts a tiny laser fiber beneath your skin. The laser energy cuts the bands that cause bumps and dimpling. As a result, your skin becomes thicker.
The pros of this technology are that it’s not invasive and doesn’t hurt much, but it can be expensive and may need more than one treatment. The cons are that after a year, a bit of dimpling can reappear.
This procedure, also known as Cellfina, is another FDA-approved treatment. The doctor applies a needle under the skin (after numbing the area) to break the bands beneath the skin that cause the bumps.
According to the studies, the treatment with Cellfina should reduce cellulite in a single session, and the changes should last about two years.
Acoustic wave therapy
Acoustic wave therapy uses specific ranges of frequency to stimulate natural reactions in your body. It shows promising results in the treatment of cellulite. In a study, 30 women with severe or moderate cellulite underwent 12 sessions of acoustic wave therapy for six weeks. Results showed that the treatment reduced cellulite severity and hips circumferences and decreased the subcutaneous fat tissue thickness. However, further research and clinical studies need to be done to make sure it’s effective in treating cellulite.
Lipomassage is an FDA-approved technique that uses a special suction device to gather and massage the skin. It strengthens the collagen in your body and improves lymphatic drainage.
However, this treatment is quite expensive, and you may need several sessions to get benefits, which are likely to disappear with time.
Carboxytherapy works by inserting carbon dioxide gas (CO2) beneath the skin. Inserting CO2 in the tissue under the skin triggers a series of reactions that stimulate blood circulation. Increased circulation improves the skin’s appearance (this technique is also used for facial skin rejuvenation and to treat dark circles and alopecia).
Carboxytherapy shows promising properties: a 2016 pilot study demonstrated that women who received this treatment experienced a significant reduction of cellulite in their buttocks and thighs. The treatment is quick (it lasts from 15 to 30 minutes), but it can be pricey.
Carboxytherapy is an FDA-approved procedure, and it’s safe. It can have some side effects, which include discomfort during treatment and temporary bruising.
Liposuction is not a treatment for cellulite!
Liposuction is a technique that takes out the fat cells from the body using a tube placed under the skin. It is a common belief that by taking out fatty cells from your body, your cellulite disappears. However, liposuction is not a treatment to remove cellulite. As said before, cellulite isn’t related to being overweight and can also appear in skinny people.
That’s not all: not only liposuction doesn’t have benefits for your orange peel, but it can also make the dimpling more visible.
A dermatologist can help you understand what’s the best treatment for you
As a bottom line, the best way to deal with cellulite is to adopt healthy habits and make wise choices every day. With time, you’ll be able to reduce your fatty cells and liquid retention and increase your blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise, combined with massage, topical creams, and relaxing techniques, can noticeably improve your skin’s appearance.
Additionally, several technologies can remove or reduce cellulite; each of them has its pros and cons, and it’s always good to consult a doctor with a deep knowledge of such treatments. Results may vary and strongly depend on the surgeon’s expertise and skills.
In any case, consulting a dermatologist can be the wisest solution if you’re struggling with cellulite. Dermatologists are skin experts, and they understand better than anyone else how the skin works. You can go to a dermatologist who also does cellulite treatment, so he can clarify your doubts and help you decide what treatment can be most effective in your case.