The sexy, saucy science on cellulite treatments

beauty, cellulite, fashion, Health, Wellbeing, wellness

Cellulite…… I paused to let that the shiver run down your spine.  It affects around 90% of the female population at one time in their lives!  So why/how does it happen and what does science say we can do about it?


Why/how it happens?

We’re not exactly sure why cellulite occurs, but the usual culprits: poor diet, smoking, not enough exercise and genetics are implicated. What we do know, is that cellulite occurs when the fat under the skin (the subcutaneous fat) pushes up into and disrupts the surrounding internal layer of skin (the dermis), which then gives off a bumpy appearance on the external layer of skin (the epidermis). Not good.


So, how can we fix it?

There’s two major options that have been studied: 1. Off the shelf cosmetic products AND 2. Conservative treatments offered by beauty therapists and/or plastic surgeons. Which one should you choose?

1. Cosmetic products:

A great quality review paper, pooled the results of all the different, recent studies analysing the effects of cosmetic products on cellulite. Level of cellulite was determined by measuring thigh circumference, with a smaller thigh circumference, meaning less cellulite (hooray). The paper found cosmetic products targeted at reducing cellulite decreased thigh circumference by on average half a centimetre. This tells us cosmetic products help, but probably not a great deal (half a centimetre isn’t a lot). Also, the effects in the longterm are unclear if you stop using the cream (1). Drat, drat, drat!


2. Beauty therapy treatments:

A review paper looked at all the various conservative procedures used by beauty therapists and sometimes plastic surgeons, finding not one in isolation, to be effective in the long term!  So there’s no solution, right? Wrong!

The study reported that each of the analysed treatments aimed at either: a. pushing the fat back that has seeped out of the dermis, OR b. Strengthening up the dermis, but not both. For cellulite treatment to be effective in the long term it must both put the fat back and strengthen the dermis to stop it from pushing back through.  The study suggested that you should then choose one of the fat expulsion and dermis strengthening methods listed below, which have been found to be effective at achieving their intended goal (2).

A. Fat expulsion methods: Endermologie, Velasmooth.

B. Dermis strengthening methods: Triactive, IPL.


Is it healthful?

Cosmetic cellulite products: Slightly decrease cellulite in the short term, but we’re not sure about the long term effects.

Our verdict: Slightly healthful. 

Beauty therapy, or conservative plastic surgery services: Using one treatment in isolation won’t work in the long term. However, combining one fat expulsion method (Endermologie, or Velasmooth), with one dermis strengthening method (Triactive, or IPL) in theory should work really well, but we simply don’t yet have direct evidence. Rats.

Our verdict: Slightly healthful, but could quickly be proven to be very healthful with further research on combined treatments!

I hope this has been healthful.


8 thoughts on “The sexy, saucy science on cellulite treatments

    1. Hi Liz,

      Great question. I imagine strengthening the underlying muscle would slightly help the appearance, but the overlying cellulite would still be there.

      You certainly can’t spot reduce – lose fat at an exact targeted location. However, if you lost overall weight, you may lose some from that area which would also be of assistance.


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