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Beyond The Headlines: Do Anti-Cellulite Creams Really Work?

We’ve all seen the products claiming to cure cellulite – but do they actually work? The first scientific review testing the benefits of cellulite creams and lotions has some interesting findings…

If you suffer with cellulite, it might be helpful to know that you’re not alone. Women of all shapes and sizes have to deal with it – up to 90% of us in fact[1].

Cellulite is just normal fat stored beneath the skin around our hips, thighs and bum. The skin appears lumpy and dimpled because the fat deposits push and distort the connective tissues beneath the skin.

Skin thickness, gender, the amount and distribution of body fat, and age all play a role in whether you have cellulite or not. It’s also hereditary.

A lot of treatments for cellulite are out there, and many make promises they can’t keep.

Here, we take a look at whether there is any evidence anti-cellulite creams – a popular choice to treat the condition – actually work.

Lotions and creams to treat cellulite generally contain chemicals called methylxanthines – these include caffeine, which is thought to help increase fat metabolism, and two chemicals called aminophylline and theophylline, which are muscle relaxants that may help break down fatty deposits1.

Let’s look at the evidence

Recently the first ever evidence review of all available treatments for cellulite was conducted by a team of specialists in America, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology

The team looked for all studies conducted about cellulite treatment. They identified a total of 17 studies involving more than 600 participants that published results on the treatment of cellulite with creams and lotions.

Around half the studies looked at products that combine caffeine and retinol (vitamin A) with other ingredients. Two studies tested the effects of caffeine alone, and two assessed retinol alone.

  • Of the four studies that tested a single active ingredient, only one showed that treatment with a cream was more effective at reducing cellulite than treatment with a placebo (a dummy cream).
  • Of the 14 studies that tested more complex product mixtures, only five showed an improvement in cellulite after treatment with the active cream.

The team conclude (unfortunately) that “there is little evidence that topical skin cream treatments have a potential positive effect on the appearance of cellulite".

All hope is not lost, though – the research team found that laser treatment (called acoustic wave therapy) shows positive results in improving the appearance of cellulite.

But it appears the old-fashioned way to fight cellulite is the best way - avoiding gaining weight, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.



[1] Luebberding, S., Krueger, N., & Sadick, N. S. (2015, August). Cellulite: An evidence-based review. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 16(4), 243-256

What Is Your Period Blood Telling You?

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