How do I get rid of my cellulite?

Orange peel skin. Hail damage. Cottage cheese thighs. The euphemisms aren’t flattering – but it’s near-impossible to avoid cellulite. So what can you do about it?

A staggering 85 per cent of women over 20 are afflicted by those pesky lumpy dimples known as cellulite – even if they’re not exactly sure how they got there.

Consulting dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour says cellulite is commonly found on the thighs, buttocks and abdomen.

“It is completely normal in women of all shapes and sizes – even the slimmest and fittest,” Dr Armour says.

What causes cellulite?

“Put very simply, cellulite occurs when adipose (fat) tissue pushes through the connective tissue of the skin,” explains Body Science sports dietitian Harriet Walker.

Despite literally millions of us walking around with cellulite, Harriet says the precise cause is “multi-factorial and not fully understood”.

There are some recognised contributing factors to the presence of cellulite, including genetics and ethnicity.

And if you’re in the cellulite-free minority, it may not stay that way.

Clinical nutritionist and naturopath Michaela Sparrow explains that hormonal changes that occur during menopause and pregnancy can increase our susceptibility to cellulite.

“Hormones impacts the amount of fat we store, the quality of our skin and connective tissue health,” says Michaela. “When this occurs, it’s more common to start noticing cellulite.”

The presence of cellulite can also be affected by lifestyle choices including smoking, excess alcohol, lack of exercise and poor diet.

“These all affect the body’s healthy connective tissue structure, detoxification processes and circulation, which can all increase the appearance of cellulite,” Michaela says.

Can cellulite be removed or reduced?

So, is it possible to completely eradicate cellulite? Bluntly, no.

“Cellulite is part of the structural makeup of the skin,” explains Dr Armour, of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

But it is possible to reduce the appearance of cellulite, which has led to a variety of treatment options ranging from inexpensive DIY products to costly in-clinic procedures.

Dr Armour explains that these treatments aim to reduce cellulite’s appearance by “stimulating new collagen production, decreasing fat mass, or improving blood and lymphatic drainage”.

It’s a booming industry with a recent projection predicting the market will reach US$1438.5 million by 2026.

But there’s still limited empirical evidence about the effectiveness of such treatments, with Dr Armour cautioning that “visible improvements are often temporary”.

Lifestyle changes to limit cellulite

“There is no clear evidence of a specific diet or exercise protocol to reduce cellulite,” says Harriet.

But she says some likely contributing lifestyle factors can be improved, such as eating a balanced diet low in processed and inflammatory foods, and weight and resistance training “to theoretically encourage lean muscle and give a toned appearance”.

Michaela says people can try drinking ginger tea to support circulation and white tea to slow collagen breakdown, as well as foam rolling exercises to support fascia health and stretch out connective tissues.

It may be worth investigating any underlying hormonal imbalance, she says.

Cellulite reduction treatment methods

  • Creams: These contain caffeine or aminophylline to dehydrate fat cells in the skin and temporarily shrink cellulite.
  • Supplements: Dr Armour stresses there’s “little data supporting the effectiveness of cellulite-targeting supplements”.
  • Massage: A limited study found lymphatic system massage may reduce the appearance of advanced cellulite.
  • Light, laser and vacuum devices: “These professionally administered devices break up the tough bands that make cellulite visible,” says Dr Armour. “Multiple treatments are usually required.”
  • Cryolipolysis: This low temperature device destroys fat cells and has been trialled as a way to improve the appearance of cellulite.
  • Biostimulatory injectable fillers: “This relatively new treatment involves using fillers to improve the appearance of cellulite,” says Dr Armour.
  • Subcision: Branded as Cellfina, this skin-needling procedure has recently received a US Food and Drug Administration approval for demonstrating a five-year improvement in reduction of cellulite appearance.

Written by Sharon Hunt.