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Cellulite, medically known as gynoid lipodystrophy, refers to the formation of dimples on the skin surface due to the presence of a large number of enlarged fat cells under the skin. These fat cells accumulate in bunches as the fibrous bands, or septae, pull the skin surface down.
Cellulite commonly occurs in the legs, stomach, buttocks, and thighs. They may form due to different reasons, including genetics, thinning of outer skin layers, hormonal disbalance, certain water-retaining medications, tissue inflammation, lymphatic system problems, smoking, alcohol consumption, use of tight clothes, and even stress.
Cellulite is a fairly common condition affecting around 85% of women. It rarely develops in males. (1) It is suggested to get timely treatment for cellulite as it can worsen with age.
Medical Treatments for Cellulite
Several FDA-approved treatments can manage cellulite. You can consult your dermatologist, aesthetician, or a plastic surgeon for a treatment modality best suited for you. (2)
You can opt for noninvasive/minimally invasive treatments, such as:
- Acoustic wave therapy. Shockwave energy is used to boost blood circulation and restore skin elasticity in the affected area.
- Laser treatment. Cellulaze is a laser treatment wherein the doctor uses light energy to burn the excess fat and remove the fibrous strands responsible for the dimple formation.
- Radiofrequency. Heat is produced in the affected area to dissolve excess fat cells.
- Ultrasound. Ultrasonic waves can help reduce fat tissues, thereby reducing cellulite.
- Cryolipolysis. Fat cells are frozen to reduce cellulite.
- Carboxytherapy. Carbon dioxide is injected into the skin dermis to manage cellulite.
- Injectables and dermal fillers. Your doctor may suggest poly-L-lactic acid and QWO (collagenase clostridium histolyticum-aaes) injections in the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production. This tightens and smoothens the skin.
- Endermologie. Also known as endermology, this treatment uses rolling suction devices for lipomassage.
You may also be required to undergo invasive treatments, such as:
- Laser-assisted liposuction
- Subcision or Cellfina. The fibrous bands that cause dimple formation are cut using special needles.
- Vacuum-assisted precise tissue release. Similar to subcision, this procedure involves cutting the fibrous bands to release the underlying tissue, allowing it to fill up the space and reducing the appearance of dimples. (3)
These medical treatments have varying duration of effects. Some treatment results may last for 6 months, whereas in other treatments, your cellulite may reappear only after a year.
Home Remedies for Cellulite
A number of anecdotal home remedies claim to reduce cellulite, although no scientific evidence validates the effectiveness of these claims. You can try the following home remedies and see what works best for you. Make sure to consult a doctor before using any oral remedy.
1. Massage for lymphatic drainage
The lymphatic system is responsible for the drainage of waste from the body. If your lymphatic system is inactive, lymphatic waste may accumulate and cause metabolic disorders, ultimately leading to cellulite formation. Therefore, lymphatic drainage can help manage cellulite. (4)
It is believed that massaging your skin can help with lymphatic drainage. It stretches the underlying tissue and boosts blood circulation at the same time.
You can consult an expert to learn how to perform manual lymphatic drainage, or you can use devices such as mechanical massagers, dry brushes, and foam rollers for the same.
How to use:
- Massaging your skin using lotions or ointments made for cellulite treatment. It is believed that these products can contribute to the improvement of the condition, but their effects need to be verified through large-scale human trials.
- Dry brushing can be performed using the following steps:
- Ensure that the skin and brush are dry.
- Gently brush your skin, starting at the feet, working your way up to the shoulders. Start from the left side of the body and move toward the right, moving the brush toward the heart to boost circulation. Focus on the cellulite-affected areas.
- Perform dry brushing for around 5 minutes.
2. Take collagen supplements
Cellulite formation disrupts the extracellular matrix, thereby affecting the skin dermis and subcutaneous connective tissue. A study found that using collagen supplements for 6 months lowered cellulite when compared to a placebo. (5)
How to use:
Consult your doctor on the use of collagen supplements for cellulite treatment and its appropriate dosage.
3. Use gotu kola
Centella asiatica, commonly known as gotu kola, is a popular dermatological agent. Gotu kola extracts improve metabolism in connective tissues, stimulate lymphatic drainage, exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, and boost microcirculation, thus contributing to cellulite treatment.
However, these effects of gotu kola are supported only by a few clinical studies that lacked a control group. (6) Further well-structured studies are required to establish the efficacy of gotu kola.
How to use:
Gotu kola is available as topical ointments and oral supplements.
4. Apply a coffee scrub
The use of a coffee scrub is a commonly suggested treatment for cellulite reduction. Caffeine is thought to work by dilating the blood vessels, thus boosting blood circulation. This, in turn, can help burn the excess fat.
Moreover, scrubbing with coffee removes dead skin cells, and the massaging action can help in draining collected fluid. However, there is no scientific evidence to the use of coffee for vasodilation or lipolysis and, thus, for the treatment of cellulite. (7)(8)
How to use:
- Mix fresh coffee grounds with hot water. Add olive or coconut oil to it if you have dry skin. Apply the paste to the affected areas.
- Massage gently for a few minutes. You can also use a dry brush for the massage for improved efficacy.
- Rinse your skin and pat it dry.
5. Use other anecdotal remedies
Besides the above-mentioned home remedies, you can also try the use of zeolite, coconut oil massage, cayenne pepper consumption, apple cider vinegar massage, application of a green clay exfoliating mask, and juniper oil massage to improve cellulite.
These remedies may work by stimulating blood flow, draining fluids, or burning fat. However, these remedies, although popular on the Internet, are not backed by any scientific evidence and are largely based on anecdotal claims.
Self-Care Measures to Get Rid of Cellulite
You can try the following self-care measures to help reduce cellulite formation:
1. Exercise regularly
Cellulite formation commonly occurs due to excessive fat or adipose tissue in the body. As a result, overweight or obese individuals are at a higher risk of developing cellulite.
Therefore, it is suggested to exercise daily for around 30 minutes to maintain a healthy body weight. You must include both cardio and strength training exercises in your exercise regimen.
Performing only cardio can cause irregular fat loss without skin toning. This loosens your skin and increases cellulite appearance. (9)
You can try the following exercises:
- Cardio: Bicycling, jogging, brisk walking, running, dancing, and skipping
- Strength training: Side lunges, pistol squat, donkey kick, split squat, glute bridge, stability ball hammer string curl, and lateral lunges
2. Use over-the-counter medications
You can try different ointments, creams, and lotions containing herbal ingredients to reduce cellulite over time. These OTC products may take a few months to show results. (10)
Select products that contain components such as theophylline, 0.3% retinol, vitamin E, caffeine, aminophylline, vitamin C, escin, carnitine, forskolin, seaweed, (11) black pepper, (8) and sacred lotus. (12) These compounds may work by thickening and smoothening the skin, constricting the blood vessels, or reducing inflammation. (13)
3. Improve your diet
Consuming an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of cellulite. Therefore, it is suggested to make the following changes to your diet to contribute to cellulite treatment:
- Include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods in your diet.
- Lower salt consumption.
- Avoid eating foods rich in fats and preservatives as these can contribute to metabolic disorders such as hyperinsulinemia and can worsen cellulite. (14)
- Substitute saturated oils with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates such as candies, white bread, and soft drinks.
- Increase your consumption of lean protein, vitamins, and fiber.
- Consume foods that promote lipolysis, including turmeric, green tea, grapefruit oil, and cinnamon.
One study showed that these dietary interventions, when combined with topical treatments, can improve cellulite appearance in a few weeks. (15)
4. Consider supplements
You can consult your doctor on the use of grape seed extract, caffeine, ginkgo biloba, or omega-3 supplements for cellulite reduction.
5. Drink plenty of water
Dehydration in the body can worsen the dimpled appearance of cellulite. Therefore, you must consume at least 8 ounces of water each day and maintain optimum body hydration levels.
6. Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
It is vital to limit alcohol consumption and to quit smoking. Smoking can increase free radicals in the body and can constrict blood vessels, leading to decreased blood circulation and thereby increasing cellulite formation. (14)
7. Wear support stockings
Support stockings prevent the accumulation of tissue fluids in the body, therefore helping manage cellulite formation. You can also use a self-tanner to cover cellulite in the thigh areas.
8. Go for ionithermie cellulite reduction procedures
An ionithermie cellulite reduction is a cosmeceutical procedure that uses low electric currents to transport herbal extracts and oils to the cellulite area.
Commonly used solutions include algae extracts, tangerine oil, and juniper oil, which help reduce cellulite. You can also find ionithermie body contouring kits for use at home.
Cellulite is seen as dimpled skin, especially on the thighs and buttocks. It is generally a source of cosmetic concern and largely affects women.
You can undergo different cosmetic and medical treatments to reduce cellulite. These treatments may work by boosting blood flow, dissolving fat cells, and promoting collagen production.
However, no treatment leads to a permanent resolution of the problem. You can also try self-care measures, home remedies, and supplements to help reduce cellulite.