Cellulite – Homemakers.com, Spring 2008
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Cellulite – Homemakers.com, Spring 2008

Cellulite – 7 myths and truths

Do cellulite treatments work? Can you reduce cellulite or remove it and say goodbye to it for good? Separate fact from fiction about that dimpled skin on so many women’s butts and thighs.

By Sarah Snowdon

You glance over your shoulder at the mirror and your brow furrows in disapproval. All that time you spent at the gym and even though your thighs may be smaller, the cellulite seems to be staying for good. You’re not alone.  According to SmartSkinCare.com, an independent skin-care information portal, 80 to 90 per cent of women live with the troubling, dimpled, “orange-peel” skin known as cellulite.

Cellulite is a nuisance for many women and you can find it on the thighs, buttocks and abdominal areas of postadolescent women. Despite the multitude of products and treatments that promise to get rid of this stubborn skin nuisance, it still exists and is not clearly understood. Here, three dermatologists debunk common myths with tried and tested truths on how to remedy your cellulite woes. 

1. Fact or fiction: Tanning hides cellulite
Fact, but tanning also worsens cellulite. “Tanning will only conceal the appearance of cellulite in the short term,” says Dr. Mariusz Sapijaszko, medical director of the Western Canada Dermatology Institute in Edmonton. “[Over the] long term, ultraviolet radiation will weaken and thin the skin, exacerbating the look of cellulite.”

According to Dr. Lisa Kellett, dermatologist at DLK on Avenue in Toronto, there are benefits for some who choose to tan, and skin-saving alternatives for others. “For fair-skinned people, tanning can improve the appearance of cellulite,” she says. “But self-tanner is highly recommended.” 

2. Fact or fiction: Loofahs reduce the appearance of cellulite
Fiction: Regular use of a loofah can increase circulation and exfoliate the superficial layer of skin; however, it has a limited effect in dealing with cellulite. Dr. Paul Cohen, dermatologist at the Rosedale Dermatology Centre in Toronto, explains that loofahs do not reach the deep tissue required to affect cellulite, but the exfoliation may help the exterior layer of the skin look smoother. “It is an inexpensive method that anyone can use to improve the surface layer of skin,” says Dr. Kellett, “but it won’t cure cellulite.” 

3. Fact or fiction: Exercise can help banish cellulite
Fiction: Since poor lymphatic drainage in fat cells underneath the skin contributes to the formation of cellulite, exercise and drinking lots of water would seem like a surefire solution. Despite this assumption, experts believe weight and cellulite are not directly related. “Exercise can help the physical appearance of cellulite in that it will decrease fat volume and prevent its further deposition,” says Dr. Sapijaszko. “But it has a mild effect on the appearance of cellulite.”

4. Fact or fiction: Only plus-size women get cellulite
Fiction: Cellulite it is often associated with problems relating to obesity. “The biggest myth is that people who are really thin don’t have cellulite,” says Dr. Kellett. “I’ve seen women in my practice who are in top physical form and they still have cellulite!” 

Dr. Cohen agrees that even if you’re at an ideal weight, you can still have cellulite. “Cellulite does not distinguish between thin or overweight people. It’s more a function of how fat is distributed throughout the body,” says Dr. Kellett. 

5. Fact or fiction: Creams with natural products can reduce the appearance of cellulite
Fact: Some natural creams are proven to be more effective than others. “Topical vitamin A acid derivatives such as retinol, tretinoin, adapaline and tazarotene have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the appearance of cellulite,” says Dr. Sapijaszko. “These creams work by increasing the collagen content, thereby firming the skin.” 

Retinol refines the top layer of the skin and helps with fine lines but it won’t penetrate the fat layer necessary to treat cellulite. There is no lack of products on the market that claim to cure cellulite but consumers should be discerning. 

“Often, those who are conducting the research have a vested interest in the product,” says Dr. Sapijaszko. “There is a need for more objective data with sustained results.” Speak with a professional about your options. 

6. Fact or fiction: Cellulite can be “cured” by plastic surgery and other noninvasive procedures
Fact and fiction: Plastic surgery is seemingly the closest option to a cure for cellulite, yet it has not been proven effective by any objective source. Liposuction works as a healing mechanism; as the skin swells and gets firmer, the appearance of cellulite diminishes. 

Some studies have shown that subcision – whereby a needle is inserted under the skin to detach the fibrous bonds that cause cellulite – can be beneficial in treating cellulite. 

Dr. Cohen says that there have been some positive results from endermology, a noninvasive process using massage, rolling and manipulation of the tissue, causing swelling or edema and temporarily masking the appearance of cellulite. 

UltraShape, a new noninvasive way to treat cellulite, has also shown dramatic results. Soon to be approved by Health Canada, UltraShape liquefies fat through a focal ultrasound.

Most of these procedures are temporary and do not offer a long-term solution to cellulite.

7. Fact or fiction: Cellulite is genetic
Fact: While eating right, exercising and using the right products can help to a certain degree, genetics, hormones and gender play a central role in the formation of cellulite. According to Dr. Sapijaszko, women in the same family have similar degrees of cellulite. “Much of what causes cellulite is not within our control. There is a definite genetic component involved,” says Dr. Cohen.

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