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Cellulite is more common in women (sigh….) and most common on the hips, thighs and buttocks. By some estimates, 98% of adult women have it!

What is Cellulite?

Cellulite is the collection of fat, muscle and connective tissue that is deposited under the skin in a lumpy sort of way and which gives the skin a dimpled look.  It is more common in women (sigh….) and most common on the hips, thighs and buttocks. By some estimates, 98% of adult women have cellulite!

So what causes cellulite?  All sorts of things can play a role in the appearance of cellulite—these include heredity, the thickness of the skin, your weight, your gender, your age, how much you exercise and your overall health condition.  There are some dermatologists who believe that cellulite is a normal variation and simply represents aging.  The skin is the largest organ of the body and is constantly assaulted by internal and external factors. As we age, some damage may accumulate and the skin may react by forming the lumpy areas of cellulite.  We don’t really know why it forms, though the female reproductive hormones do appear to play a part in how cellulite is distributed on the body. It may be helpful to remember that while cellulite bothers people, medically, it is not indicative of a problem—it is called a benign condition, meaning it causes no harm. Benign or not, there are many ways to approach the situation.  Look through the following list and see what might work for you! The treatments range from massage, dietary approaches, and various wraps.  People have also tried drugs and injections. Always keep in mind that you should speak to a trusted health professional before you undertake any kind of program.

Natural Techniques to Fight Cellulite

  • Massage can be used.  My preference is for a massage therapist, but there are a number of massage machines available that use a system of rolling cylinders that pulls, squeezes and massages areas of the skin. One, Endermologie™ has been approved by the U.S. FDA for temporary reduction in the appearance of cellulite. Treatments generally last for 30 minutes to an hour and 10-12 treatments are needed before most people see results. It can be rather expensive as well.  But, most people report the experience as relaxing as well.
  • Mesotherapy and injection lipolysis have been used to reduce cellulite and fat under the skin. Mesotherapy is a technique that uses the injection of a variety of substances into the subcutaneous fat.  This is thought to dissolve the fat. Some of the natural materials injected include collagenase, caffeine, phosphatidylcholine and deoxycholate.  Collagenase is a naturally occurring enzyme that breaks down—you guessed it—collagen.  Collagen is a substance found in connective tissues. Phosphatidylcholine is a naturally occurring substance important in the structure of the cell membrane. Deoxycholate is a natural acid found in bile.  It works a bit like a detergent and destroys fat cells.
  • Heat induction has also been used to try and “dissolve” cellulite. VelaSmooth, a device that uses radiofrequencies to heat the cellulite has recently been approved by the US FDA specifically for cellulite treatment.
  • Using a similar mechanism, ultrasound can break up the fatty tissue as well. One small study  found a significant decrease in cellulite after 3 treatments.

Topical Treatments for Cellulite

  • Vitamin A applied topically also appears to be effective.  Retinol, a substance related to Vitamin A has also been used and has been shown to improve the appearance of cellulite. It is believed that retinol strengthens the elastic fibers and the collagen, thus smoothing out the skin.
  • Topical treatments such as combinations of Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), rentinol and caffeine have shown some effectiveness.  One product  containing gingko biloba, sweet clover, seaweed, grape seed oil, lecithins, and evening primrose oil was studied. After 2 months, significant changes were not seen.  Additionally, a number of women in the study actually gained weight—something most women would definitely want to avoid.
  • Some topical creams contain substances such as aminophylline, which does break apart fat cells.  There are however, no large studies that show a positive effect and one that shows no effect.
  • Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)  has also shown effectiveness when taken orally in reducing cellulite, improving venous flow and improve the appearance of varicose veins.

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  • 8. Avram M.: Cellulite: a review of its physiology and treatment. J Cosmet Laser Ther 6. 181-185.2004
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