The ABC’s of Cellulite

Statistics from trustworthy sources like ABC News point out that at least 90% of women around the world develop cellulite at some point in their lives.

Although this skin condition isn’t serious, it can turn into extra weight to carry for those that want to look good.woman applying cosmetic cream on legs from cellulite

Even though there are no concrete scientific tests that show that it is possible to get rid of it, there are practices that come recommended by specialists that can considerably help to reduce cellulite.

What is cellulite?

The scientific name is dermopanniculosis, but everyone knows it by its common name, cellulite.

The National Library of Medicine in the United States has shown that cellulite is comprised of fat deposits under the skin.  This fat is stored in the upper layer of the common fat that everyone has.  It is also spread around throughout the connective collagen that provides elasticity to skin.

When these fat cells group together in large quantities, the collagen tissues are stretched and make visible accumulations that look like cottage cheese or orange peel.  This is why it is often times called “cottage cheese skin”.

What causes cellulite?

Having cellulite doesn’t mean that you’re overweight.  Cellulite can even appear on thin people.  Although if you are overweight, losing weight could help with your cellulite.

This condition is a lot more common in women than in men.  If there are women in your family that have cellulite, there is also a good possibility that you will develop it someday.

Other influential factors include:

  • Poor diet
  • Slow metabolism
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dehydration
  • Body fat
  • Certain fad diets
  • Thickness and color of skin

Cellulite tends to be less noticeable in darker skin.  If you have whiter skin and you plan on wearing your bikini or shorts out, apply a tanning cream, which could make the dimples in your thighs look less noticeable.

How to treat cellulite

There are a lot of products and treatments that promise to eliminate cellulite in the thigh and buttocks.  However, there is very little evidence that indicates that these work for extended periods of time.  There are other options that you should know about, howeer.

Methylxanthines: This group of chemical substances includes aminophylline, caffeine and theophylline, commonly used in creams for cellulite.  There is not scientific evidence that these creams are effective against cellulite, and in some cases they could even be harmful.  They could have the effect of causing the blood vessels to expand, which could be dangerous for people with circulatory problems.  Certain studies have shown that a small reduction in thigh measurements were witnissed with certain combinations of these substances because they have properties that break down fat deposits.  However they do not promote any significant loss of cellulite.

Liposuction: This surgical procedure is used to eliminate fat deposits in the body.  Liposuction however, eliminates surplus deposits of deep fat, not cellulite, which is just below the skin.  The American Academy of Dermatology states that in reality, liposuction could make cellulite even more noticeable by creating the depressions in the skin.

Mesotherapy: Mesotherapy is a fairly controversial therapy.  It originated in Europe, although initially it was used to treat skin inflammation.  Substances such as amino acids, vitamins, enzymes and minerals are injected into the subcutaneous tissue.  This treatment can break down fat and provide a minor improvement in the appearance of cellulite.  It does, however, have certain risks, like swelling, infection, and skin irregularities.  The substances used for these treatments are “off label”, which means that they have not been approved by the FDA for other medical uses.

Massage and spa treatments: These types of treatments could have a positive effect on the way cellulite looks on the skin.  This is because they stimulate lymphatic drainage, the system that eliminates excess liquids and toxins from the skin.  It does not have a direct effect, however, on the fat deposits in subcutaneous skin.

Laser treatments: Just any old laser treatment doesn’t work for cellulite.  The FDA has only approved 2 devices that combine massage, suction and laser therapy.  TriActive and VelaSmooth are the 2 machines that are supported by the FDA, which use low level lasers.  Both cases require several treatment sessions.  The laser treatments are more costly than just the massage, and the entire program could easily cost thousands of dollars.

Dietary supplements: Some of the most commercialized products to treat cellulite include ginkgo biloba, bioflavonoids from grape seeds, fragrant cloves, black seaweek extract, onagra oil, fish and soy oil.

These supplements improve the metabolism, fight fat, reduce stress, improve circulation, and more.  These claims cannot be precisely evaluated.

Concepts like “metabolism” or “circulation” for example, are not easily measure on an objective basis to determine improvement or not.  These products also haven’t been evaluated by the FDA because they are not medications.  They are therefore exempt from having to meet the scientific standards for safety and efficacy which are applied to drugs.  There are also no valid clinical studies for supporting these dietary supplements for treating cellulite.  The studies that have been performed on these supplements have not produced positive supporting results.  Certain dietary supplements that are used to treat cellulite could also have other health risks, or could interact with certain prescribed pharmaceuticals.  Once example is the concoction known as Cellasene, which contains iodine.  A lot of doctors warn that this could be harmful for individuals with thyroid and other conditions.

Collagenase: Collagenase is a natural enzyme that neutralizes collagen, a component in connective tissue that keeps skin cells together.  This treatment aims to break up the connections between collagen that keep fat deposits in clumps, which are visible to the eyes.  It will make them less visible.

A study with 10 women with cellulite was performed in 2006 which showed that collagenase injections could produce positive results in the appearance of cellulite.  The longer term effects of this treatment are still unknown, as well as if there are any permanent improvements.  This treatment is considered experimental and still is not commonly available.  The study currently being performed will determine if the Collagenase injections could be a viable option for treating cellulite.

You could also use medicinal plants to fight cellulite.

What’s the best option?

Following a healthy diet, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, and keeping your muscles tones with exercises, is definitely the most realistic and recommended way to keep your body in shape. 

Patients should be very careful when trying dietary supplements, surgical procedures, or non-certified aesthetic techniques.  Although the FDA has approved certain treatments that involve laser devices and massage, it is important to remember that these treatments are costly and slow, and are only approved for a temporary and light reduction of cellulite.

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