“I love my cellulite!” – said no one, ever.
Good luck finding a single soul who actually appreciates their cellulite. And there are a lot of us out there: The lumpy, cottage cheese-like condition affects around 90 percent of women—and 10 percent of men.
“There’s no discriminating when it comes to cellulite,” says Sejal Shah, M.D., board certified dermatologist. “It typically crops up after puberty and makes skin appear dimpled or lumpy as normal fat under the skin pushes through the bands of connective tissue that surround the fat cells.” When these fat cells expand, they put pressure on the connective tissue and push against the top layers of the skin, creating that “cottage cheese” look we all dread.
Women are more prone to cellulite because of the sex-specific architecture of the fibrous collagen bands in their skin tissue. “In women, the fibrous bands, called septae, form perpendicular to the skin, so their naturally larger fat cells get lodged between the bands, putting pressure on the skin in a sort of mattress-button effect,” explains Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., Beverly Hills-based dermatologist. Men have much smaller fat cells that form at 45 degree angles from the skin, which is why they’re less plagued by cellulite, Shainhouse says.
While there’s no denying that cellulite is a hard-to-treat condition, the good news is that there are some methods that can help minimize it. Here are six of the most common cellulite treatments out there.
Topical Caffeine Treatments
Exfoliating products that contain caffeine as a main ingredient may help lessen the appearance of cellulite. “As a stimulant, caffeine dilates blood vessels in the body, so when you rub it on the skin’s surface, it can temporarily tighten the area and tone the tissue,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. “By exfoliating away dead skin cells, you showcase your skin at its smoothest, while the caffeine helps to minimize fat cell size, further smoothing the skin’s appearance.”
If you’re looking for another holistic, natural approach, you may want to get yourself a dry brush. “This technique has been around for centuries and involves brushing the skin with a stiff-bristled brush,” explains Engelman. “Dry brushing exfoliates the skin, boosts circulation and elasticity, and can help reduce the appearance of cellulite.” Apply gentle pressure and brush from your extremities toward the center of the body.
Look for a brush with firm bristles that are cactus or vegetable-derived (synthetic materials are more likely to cause irritation on the skin), like this long-handled Bernard Jensen skin brush.
Exercising and Eating Right
One of the more long-term routes to smoother-looking skin is living a healthy, active lifestyle. “If you are overweight or obese, shedding some of those extra pounds and toning up can significantly improve the appearance of cellulite,” says Shah. (Remember what we mentioned before about muscle making skin appear tauter?)
Plus, eating a healthy diet filled with omega-3s is another way to help tackle cellulite, says Shah. Good-for-you fat strengthens the cell walls in your skin and can significantly smooth out its appearance, Shah says.
“A firm massage can improve blood flow and help reduce excess fluid in an area of the body, which temporarily improves the appearance of cellulite,” says Shah. If you’re simply massaging the areas at home, Shah recommends using a retinoid or retinol cream. While it won’t directly treat the cellulite, it may improve skin texture and tightness therefore reducing the appearance of cellulite.
The first-ever FDA-approved treatment for cellulite, Cellulaze is a procedure in which a small laser tube is inserted just underneath the skin to cut the connective tissue bands causing the skin’s dimpled appearance. “Cellulaze can significantly improve and minimize the appearance of cellulite,” says Engelman. “I’ve yet to see a case where the procedure completely eliminates it, though.” That’s important info to keep in mind since a single Cellulaze session can cost upwards of $5,000.
The latest cellulite treatment to be approved by the FDA, “Cellfina utilizes a suction method to stabilize and raise a section of anesthetized skin,” explains Shainhouse. “Then, a rotating blade the size of a needle cuts the fibrous bands beneath the skin, releasing the bound-down tissue and the skin’s dimpled appearance.” Like Cellulaze, Cellfina costs a pretty penny, pricing out around $4,000 to $6,000 a treatment.