May 7th 2018
Cellulite: what really works?
May 15th 2017 / 1 comment
We asked the experts for their ultimate myth-busting cellulite guide
Have cellulite? You’re not alone. More women have it than Photoshop would have you believe. “I tell my patients that cellulite is so common – as many as 98% of females past puberty display some degree of cellulite,” says cosmetic dermatologist and Get The Gloss Expert Dr Sam Bunting. What is it exactly? “It’s basically due to fat under the skin poking out of its fibrous connective tissue ‘container,’ much like stuffing can poke out of a mattress. It’s compounded by skin thinning which affects the dermis,” she explains. “Men don’t get it because their ‘container’ holds the fat in more tightly. It is not due to obesity and it is not due to collections of toxins or fluid – it’s normal fat.”
Distinct in its make up, do treatments and creams claiming to help ‘smooth’ it out actually work? With a recent flurry of products springing up ahead of summer, we asked the pros for their top myth busters and tips for ensuring you’re wasting neither your time nor your money.
THE CELLULITE MYTH BUSTERS THE PROS WANT YOU TO KNOW
Myth 1: Miracle creams reduce cellulite
If you’re looking for long-term results, cellulite creams are unlikely to deliver the goods. “Topical cosmetic creams unfortunately don’t penetrate into this deep tissue layer, so any improvement they deliver will be simply due to moisturisation and improvement of skin appearance,” points out Dr Bunting.
Myth 2: Only overweight people get cellulite
“Even rail-thin models and professional athletes can — and do! — have cellulite, but thanks to the magic of Photoshop, you’d never see that in a glossy magazine,” comments nutritional therapist Emma Olliff.
Myth 3: Cardio is best
It takes a multi-faceted approach. Workout-wise, solely increasing the miles you run on the treadmill won’t produce the results you’re looking for. “Certainly this type of exercise will reduce body fat, which is an important factor, but even skinny girls get cellulite as it’s more to do with the connective tissue and lack of muscle tone,” explains personal trainer Christina Howells.
Myth 4: Cellulite only affects older women
Lifestyle proves key. “While it’s true that age does cause the connective tissue fibres to weaken, other factors such as weight change, stress and smoking can also weaken them too,” says Christina.
Myth 5: Losing weight = losing cellulite
“Weight loss may improve cellulite, but unfortunately not always,” explains Dr Bunting. “And if weight loss is extreme, there may be associated sagging of the skin too.”
Myth 6: Liposuction always works
The bottom line? It won’t. “Even more invasive treatments like liposuction will only improve the appearance of cellulite in a fraction of patients treated,” cautions Dr Bunting.
SO WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS?
Build firm foundations
Where should we be concentrating our efforts from an exercise perspective? “It’s our muscles that are important for providing a firm foundation and preventing fat displaying everywhere,” says Christina. “Furthermore, fat is exceptionally soft and won’t do much for skin tone, whereas muscle tone helps to make our skin more taut.”
Recommending strength and bodyweight training, Christina recommends targeting all of the lower body muscles from every angle to give legs and bottom a more toned appearance. “I personally would recommend following a lower body strength training programme three times a week,” she says. “This includes exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunge patterns, hip lifts and step-ups - try the following exercises from Thatgirllondon.com for starters.”
Position: Feet are a little wider than hip width apart, with toes slightly turned outwards. Your hands are clasped together in front of your chest.
Action: With a straight spine, sit your body downwards between your legs so your hips are lower than just below your knees. At the bottom, root down through the heels to push yourself back to the start position.
Hot tip: Keep the weight in the heels and the chest lifted.
Gliding lunge pattern
This is my personal favourite for working the entire leg musculature while incorporating balance, co-ordination and flexibility.
Position: Stand with feet together and arms by your side.
Action: 1) Step the left leg out to the side in a lunge position so the left knee bends at 90 degrees as you sit the hips backwards. The right leg remains straight with your heel firmly on the floor.
2) The left arm reaches up and gently back to open the chest while the right hand reaches towards the left shin.
3) Step the legs back together and then repeat the movement stepping out on a diagonal backwards angle following the same arm pattern.
Repeat 8-12 repetitions on each leg.
Hot tip: Ensure you don’t just reach the hand to the floor but rather bend deep into the lunging leg to activate the glute muscles while keeping the chest lifted.
Hip bridge with thread the needle
Position: Lie down on your back with your arms alongside the body. Left leg is bent at 90 degrees with the heel rested on a chair. Your right leg is in the air bent at a 90-degree angle.
Action: Dynamically lift the hips towards the sky contracting the left buttock so that your torso and pelvis are in a straight line.
Allow the right knee to drop open to thread the right foot under the left leg. As you do this there will be a natural tilt of the hips but be sure to keep this minimal.
Reverse the movement and lower the hips back down to the floor.
Repeat 8-12 repetitions on each side.
Hot tip: You will be working the bridging side strongly so I want you to think about pushing through the heel when you thread the other leg through to engage the bum, (it’s subtle and more about the thought of activating the glute).
While cellulite creams are yet to deliver convincing long-term results, at-home gadgets and treatments may be more beneficial - to a degree. “Some devices may improve the appearance of cellulite, but these changes may well be temporary,” says Dr Bunting. Here are the technologies and treatments that she believes could show promise - with her expert provisos included also for good measure.
What is it? “Endermologie works by mechanically kneading the affected area – treatment is typically done twice a week,” Dr Bunting explains.
Her verdict: “It may be effective, but it’s expensive and we don’t know if results are maintained over time,” she comments.
What is it? “Radiofrequency devices like Velashape aim to heat the fat and the connective tissue ‘container’ surrounding the fat to smooth out dimples and reshape the tissue,” explains Dr Bunting.
Her verdict: “Small studies show promise but again, we don’t know much about the longevity of the results.”
What is it? “Cellfina is an FDA-cleared minimally invasive procedure which is used to improve the appearance of cellulite,” says Dr Bunting. “A better understanding of cellulite means we now know it's caused by connective bands that are woven throughout the underlying fat, pulling the skin down and creating dimpling. Cellfina’s technology addresses this by breaking up the bands and releasing them, allowing the skin to snap back and smooth itself out.”
Her verdict: “Cellfina is currently only available in the US, but may offer a new treatment option to women in the UK in the near future.” Watch this space.
For a short-term fix, it appears that application - specifically massage - could provide greater benefits than a cream. Ensuring expectations are kept realistic, former massage therapist Paola Bassanese counts a self-massage technique using a bar of soap as particularly useful in targeting localised cellulite and muscle tension in the upper arms, legs and glutes.
Her recommendations? With the edge of the bar of soap, massage using a scraping motion, starting from the bottom half of say, your upper arm, all the way up and repeat. Apply quite a bit of pressure to boost circulation and to reach the deeper muscles and fatty layers, spending 5 - 10 minutes in total for the whole body. There are some counterindications though - if you have a history of blood clots, sciatica or any medical conditions, she advises against attempting any type of self-massage and recommends seeking the advice of a medical practitioner first.
Also try doing a daily massage using a body brush too. Participants in an experiment on the BBC documentary, The Truth About Looking Good, saw around 26% improvement in their cellulite after five weeks after incorporating dry body brushing into their routine.
The final pillar comes in the form of what we eat, with certain diets proving a factor. “Those who eat a high amount of fat, carbohydrates and salt but little fibre are at a greater risk of developing cellulite,” explains Emma Olliff. “However, the addition of the right foods and drinks can help reduce it.”
“Eating foods with more fat may sound counterproductive to crafting an impressive physique, but increasing your fat intake could help combat cellulite,” explains Emma. “Try increasing your intake of unsaturated fats. Foods high in polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, such as oily fish, walnuts and sunflower oil, as well as monounsaturated fats from nuts, seeds and avocado may be particularly beneficial.”
“Part of the reason cellulite develops is due to a breakdown in the skin's connective tissue, known as collagen,” comments Emma. “Collagen is a type of protein, so high-protein foods in your diet can help to strengthen the collagen fibres and decrease cellulite. Try adding lean meats such as chicken, white fish, beans, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese to your diet to bump up your protein intake.”
“Foods that are high in vitamin C could be one of your best bets for fighting cellulite because it can help to strengthen your skin's connective tissue, which can reduce the appearance of cellulite,” explains Emma. “Increasing vitamin C intake means adding more vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, kiwis, broccoli, bell peppers and berries into your diet.”
Upping your water levels will also help. “It seems counterintuitive, but by drinking more fluid, your body will flush out toxins and keep your skin and tissues hydrated and healthy,” says Emma.
Switch to natural salt
“Switch from processed salt to a natural sea salt or Himalayan sea salt,” Emma recommends. “These have minerals that aid in hydration and metabolism.”
THE FINAL WORD
In terms of targeting cellulite, it seems a multi-pronged approach that incorporates lifestyle, diet and fitness is the most effective way of going about it. On the whole, cellulite creams still lack the long-term results to prove worth the investment, but incorporating some self-massage techniques could be of some benefit. Above all though, a realistic and healthy attitude is best. “I recommend regular exercise, a healthy diet plus a generous dose of self-reassurance that you share this with the vast majority of women,” says Dr Bunting. “So keep concerns in perspective.” And we agree.