Cellulite: Separating the Myths from the Facts
Cellulite is one of life’s frustrating realities which affects nearly 90% of women at some point during their lives, even those who are generally fit and slender. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about what cellulite is, what causes it and how to treat it. This blog looks at the facts vs the myths so you can choose how best to approach the problem.
Cellulite is caused by toxins in your body
Myth There are many over-the-counter products claiming to help remove toxins and impurities thus reducing the appearance of cellulite. However, their claims are not supported by science. Cellulite is caused by underlying fat deposits starting to push up through the layers of collagen fibres (connective tissue) under the skin - usually in the thigh and buttocks areas. There are several different factors which can weaken connective tissue including hormones, muscle tone, excess fat, lack of exercise and poor circulation. The condition is not caused by toxins according to leading New York City-based dermatologist Cheryl Karcher MD. However, eliminating toxins from your body will support your body systems functioning efficiently and will therefore help problems like cellulite when combined with more direct, hands-on treatments.
Cellulite only happens to out-of-shape people
If you are overweight then any cellulite is likely to be more noticeable. More fat beneath the skin will put added stress on your connective tissue. However, women of all shapes and sizes can develop cellulite. Shira Ein-Dor, owner of the American Cellulite Reduction Centre in New York City says "I even treat Victoria's Secret models. They're very lean, they work out and eat well, they do everything right but they still have cellulite."
Cellulite gets worse with age
Fact Hormones do seem to play a role in the presence of cellulite. As women mature their bodies produce less oestrogen which can result in poorer circulation and a decrease in the production of new which therefore causes older connective tissue to break down.
Women get more cellulite than men
Women do tend to carry more fat around their thighs/hips and also have less supportive connective tissue to keep it all in place. Men’s fat chambers are slightly different, more like scaffolding outside a building, and therefore more supportive. It is estimated, however, that about 10% of men will suffer from cellulite.
Cellulite may be in your genes
Cellulite does run in families. If your grandmother or mother had cellulite there’s a higher possibility that you will also develop it. But genetics only plays a small part in the cellulite conundrum. Other factors also play a role like exercise, diet and weight. If you tackle these other factors effectively then you can probably override the genetic influence.
Non-invasive procedures for cellulite really do work
Fact Radio frequency and massage techniques have been used for several years to reduce the appearance of cellulite and they are effective. Manipulation of the connective tissue under the skin, improvements in circulation and stimulation of collagen can all help improve skin tone with results lasting 6-12 months. Dr. Karcher states that "these are going to work better than drug-store cream and they can be worth it if you have the time and the money to spend on them."
Exercise can reduce the appearance of cellulite
Regular exercise won’t get rid of cellulite but it can help reduce its appearance significantly. Strengthening and stretching the areas where connective fibres under the skin have become weak, in addition to burning away excess fat overall, can help. Firming and toning muscles will in turn tighten the skin making cellulite less noticeable. Strength training and yoga are particularly helpful as they build muscle and boost circulation.
Skin-firming creams can cure cellulite
Myth Despite manufacturers’ claims, there are no topical creams (either prescription or over-the-counter) which have been shown to reduce the appearance of cellulite permanently. Products containing retinoids may provide some temporary effects by creating a thicker skin cover to hide bumps, but retinol is a controversial ingredient which can be accompanied by side effects.
Cardio is best for reducing all-over jiggle
Myth Cardio exercise, such as running, can help keep weight off but to really smooth out your skin you need strength training. A study by researchers in Massachusetts found that adults who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week for 8 weeks lost 4 pounds but gained no muscle and their body composition improved only slightly. This was compared with 15 minutes of aerobic activity plus 15 minutes of strength training 3 times a week, which saw a loss of 10 pounds of fat and an increase in 2 pounds of muscle with a greater overall improvement in body composition.
Certain foods can help fight cellulite
Diet alone can't determine whether or not you’ll get cellulite but eating a healthy, well-balanced diet which is plant-heavy can reduce inflammation throughout your body and help maintain a healthy weight. Keeping well hydrated will also keep connective tissue strong and supple and you can achieve this by drinking plenty of water and eating foods with a high water content such as cucumber, tomatoes, radishes and peppers.
The clothing you wear can make an impact
Myth Wearing compression-style leggings while you exercise can reduce thigh jiggle as you move but the effect is only temporary effect and you are unlikely to see any change after you remove the clothing. Any clothing that claims to have lasting results is just a marketing gimmick. In fact the opposite may be true for some tight clothes and they can actually contribute to the appearance of cellulite by cutting off circulation and limiting blood flow.
Smoking can affect the appearance of cellulite
Cigarette smoke reduces blood vessel flow, weakening and disrupting the formation of collagen. This allows connective tissue to become more easily stretched and damaged so that underlying fat shows through. Smoking can also make you look bad (literally) in other ways as it causes premature wrinkles and aging, leaves skin dry and discoloured and can contribute to stretch marks.