Strategies that Fight Cellulite

Although working out and eating right help you feel good and improve your health, there's no doubt that most of us also do so to improve our appearance. And with shorts and swimsuit season quickly approaching, cellulite might be on the minds of many, particularly women—80%-90% or more of whom report having at least a little cellulite.

With so many products on the market promising to drastically reduce the appearance of cellulite or remove it altogether, it's tempting to pick up a bottle and just hope that it takes away that uneven and dimpled surface of the skin. But, wait! Before investing your hard-earned cash in some overnight solution that sounds too good to be true, do a little homework first—and find out what really works when it comes to preventing and reducing the appearance of cellulite.

What Is Cellulite?
Cellulite is formed by fibrous connective cords that connect your skin to your underlying muscle. In between these cords are your fat cells, and as your fat cells accumulate, they push up against your skin, while at the same time, the connective cords pull down. This pulling and pushing under your skin creates an uneven surface or dimpling that has the texture of cottage cheese or an orange peel. Because cellulite is more concentrated in areas that have a higher fat content, most women have some degree of cellulite on their thighs, hips and rear, but it can also be found on the breasts, lower abdomen and upper arms.

Why Some Have More Cellulite Than Others
Many factors play a role in cellulite, including your sex. Although men can and do have cellulite, it's more common in women due to their genetic make-up and higher levels of body fat (compared with men). Age, weight and lifestyle also play a role. As you age and your skin becomes looser, you may notice more cellulite on your body—even if your weight or body fat percentage remains unchanged. Weight gain can also make cellulite more noticeable, as can being inactive, enduring high levels of stress and, according to the Mayo Clinic, using hormonal contraceptives.

However—and here's the kicker—lean individuals can still have cellulite. Much of cellulite is actually genetic, so if it tends to run in your family, you may be more likely to have it regardless.

Natural Ways to Treat Cellulite
So you have some cellulite. Is there anything you can do about it? The following healthy lifestyle habits have been shown to help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
  • Lose weight. Although you may not be able to get rid of cellulite completely, when you lose body fat by exercising and eating a healthy diet, you can greatly improve the appearance of dimpled skin because you'll have less fat pushing up against your skin.

  • Resistance train. There is no such thing as spot training (losing fat in a specific body area by exercising it), but by strengthening and building your muscles—particularly in areas where you carry cellulite—you can give your skin a more even texture and tone.

  • Do cardio. Aerobic exercise is a fantastic way to burn calories and burn fat, thereby reducing the size of fat cells under the skin. Plus, aerobic exercise can also help you lose weight!

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains can give your body the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to properly burn fat and keep your skin and tissues healthy. In fact, healthy proteins from nuts, beans and fish, and antioxidant-rich green tea, berries and garlic can help build up collagen—a connective tissue that helps plump up the skin and makes the signature peaks and valleys of cellulite less extreme. A healthy diet full of vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids can also improve skin texture.

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is an easy way to improve the texture of your skin. It seems counterintuitive, but by drinking more fluid, your body actually releases excess fluid that you may have been holding onto (including in your cellulite-prone areas). Not to mention that water is just darn good for you!

The Skinny on Cellulite Reduction Products and Treatments
With so many cellulite treatments promising dramatic results, do any live up to their claims? Some cellulite treatments have been shown to diminish the appearance of cellulite, but there really is no product that can permanently remove cellulite. For many of these treatments, the effects will only last as long as you are using the product (if they last at all). Here's the skinny on the most popular treatment options.
  • Massage. While not proven as an effective long-term treatment, vigorous massage or rubbing the skin with a stiff brush may increase blood flow, remove toxins and reduce excess fluid. Lipomassage actually uses a hand-held machine to knead the skin between rollers. The results usually don't last for more than a day or two.

  • Cellulite creams. There is no shortage of creams in a variety of price ranges that claim to be the cure for cellulite. But, according to the Mayo Clinic, no studies show that these creams work—with one exception. A twice-daily application of 0.3% retinol cream has been shown to diminish the appearance of cellulite after six months of use. Beware though, in some cases, the ingredients in these creams can actually cause allergic reactions or rashes.

  • Self tanner. While self tanners do not actually reduce the amount of cellulite in your body, these products can make cellulite less noticeable by evening out or darkening your skin tone.

  • Lasers and radiofrequency systems. Some treatments involve using radiofrequency and infrared light to break up cellulite. These usually take quite an investment and multiple treatments to see results. However, people do see results that can last up to six months after completing these treatments.

  • Liposuction. This is the most invasive and complicated cellulite treatment, as it involves a surgeon inserting a narrow tube under your skin to suction out fat cells. Although liposuction can shape the body and remove fat, it doesn't always remove cellulite, and it may actually make cellulite appear worse. Laser-assisted liposuction is a newer, less invasive form that destroys fat cells while tightening the skin, and may be a more effective treatment for cellulite. Again, though, there are serious risks of complications with this more invasive procedure.

  • Mesotherapy. Another more serious treatment, mesotherapy is a procedure that injects a solution of aminophylline, hormones, enzymes, herbal extracts, vitamins and minerals under the skin. While there's no research on its effectiveness, this treatment can cause several unwanted effects including infection, rashes, and bumpy or uneven skin contours (which pretty much seems like the opposite of what you want)!

The best way to really fight cellulite? Stop fighting it altogether and learn to love your body as it is! Cellulite isn't a health problem—only an aesthetic issue. Celebrate your body for everything it does for you—and remember, almost everyone has cellulite somewhere.