Health & Beauty

What Is Cellulite, and Can You Get Rid of It? What to Know About Treatment Options

First things first: we’re all for embracing our natural curves and loving our bodies exactly as they are (they do amazing things!), but we also totally understand and respect the urge to make some tweaks in order to feel your best. Whatever that looks like for you, don’t apologize for it! We all take care of ourselves in different ways, and for some people, that might mean trying to get rid of cellulite. But before you try and tackle the age-old annoyance, you might be wondering what it is, and if you can even treat it.

Cellulite is the term for dimpled, lumpy skin found on the thighs, hips, buttocks and abdomen. Cellulite isn’t a disease or disorder — it’s a normal skin condition that affects an estimated 80%–90% of women. It rarely affects men, probably due to differences in fat accumulation, connective-tissue structure and skin thickness.

For many, the sight of cellulite is a beautiful and powerful reminder of beauty and strength. For others, it might evoke some negative feelings and self-esteem issues, which is also totally normal. So, what is cellulite, and can you get rid of it? If you still have unanswered questions, this guide may be able to help.

In this article:

What Causes Cellulite?

Cellulite is caused by the topmost layer of fat — subcutaneous fat — bulging into the skin. This fat is also found in the fibrous connective tissue that connects the skin to underlying muscle. The taut tissue pulls the skin while the fat pushes outward, producing a dimpled appearance.

Confused? Check out our helpful cellulite illustration:

As you can see, women’s fat cells are held in place by cube-like structures formed of fibrous cords. Men’s fat cells, on the other hand, tend to be contained by a crisscrossing series of similar structures. When women gain weight, their fat cells enlarge and push into the skin. When men gain weight, the arrangement of their fat-cell chambers allows them to stretch evenly.

In addition to the gender differences, there are other factors that determine the likelihood of cellulite or the severity of its appearance. Heredity might be the most significant, which may explain why cellulite can affect women of all sizes.

It can also be influenced by:

  • Hormones
  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Physical activity levels
  • Total body fat percentage
  • Age
  • Poor circulation 
  • Intense periods of weight gain

How Do You Get Rid of Cellulite?

A woman getting cellulite treatment on her backside.

There’s no evidence cellulite is unhealthy or bad for you. It’s just one of the ways the body naturally stores fat. While it’s not exactly possible to make cellulite disappear entirely, you can reduce its appearance if you’re bothered by it.

Doctor and MedSpa cellulite treatment options

From Cellfina to radio frequency, there are several options to consider if you’re happy to go down the route of seeing a doctor or attending a MedSpa — a hybrid between a medical center and a traditional day spa.

Cellfina

The minimally invasive Cellfina cellulite treatment can improve the appearance of cellulite by cutting the fibrous cords woven throughout fat in the thighs and buttocks. 

These tight cords pull down the skin, which pushes up the fat cells and causes the “orange peel” dimpling effect. By cutting the cords, the skin releases, giving the thighs and buttocks a smoother appearance. 

The treatment is performed in a doctor’s office with a local numbing agent and is FDA-cleared to improve the appearance of cellulite for at least three years. Cellfina only treats cellulite, not fat, and cannot be used on areas such as the face and back.

Cellulaze

A minimally invasive cellulite laser treatment, Cellulaze uses a laser to heat the tissue below the surface and target the fibrous cords causing cellulite. During the treatment, a small cannula — a tube about the size of the tip of a pen — is inserted under the skin through an incision.

The laser can also liquify fat and increase the thickness of the skin to stimulate collagen production and help create a smoother look. 

The treatment, performed in a doctor’s office, takes between one to two hours and requires a local anesthetic. Bruising and discomfort is a possible side effect, and recovery lasts a day or two. Results are expected to last for roughly a year.

Radio frequency

Radio frequency waves heat tissue and promote collagen production to smooth and tighten skin. The results are mixed and only last for a few months to a year. There are different forms of radio frequency treatment:

  • Thermage is one of the most well-known radio frequency treatments. It is primarily used to tighten loose skin and smooth wrinkles, but can also be used to temporarily improve the appearance of cellulite by boosting collagen production. 
  • Venus Concepts has two treatments designed to fight cellulite: Venus Versa and Venus Legacy. These treatments use a combo of radio frequency and pulsed electromagnetic fields to help break down the fat under skin, boosting collagen production. Results last around four months.

Endermologie

Endermologie is an FDA-approved French massage system that studies have shown can help reduce body circumference. According to the manufacturer, 67% of people saw cellulite reduction after three sessions. However, results depend on the person and repeated treatments are needed.

A handheld machine is used to massage the skin in an attempt to soften fat and promote lymphatic drainage. It requires the client to wear a special bodysuit.

Spa cellulite treatment options

A woman getting a full-body treatment in a spa.

Who doesn’t love a trip to the spa? Fortunately, there are spa treatments that will also help with reducing the appearance of cellulite — bonus!

Massage

So-called lipo massage relies on a device’s motorized rollers to lift and knead the skin. This is meant to stimulate lipolysis, which can shrink fat cells and increase collagen production. Clients must wear a special bodysuit that facilitates maneuverability. Endermologie is a well-known brand. Six treatments are needed to produce a noticeable improvement which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s said the treatment feels like a deep-tissue massage. Results last a few weeks and providers recommend a monthly treatment plan to maintain results going forward.

Body wraps

A body wrap is a combination of skincare products (usually moisturizing and skin-tightening products) and a thermal blanket. Although skin may look more plumped up and smoother for a few hours, body wraps have no direct effect on cellulite, making them a good option before a special event but not for longer term results.

Most body wraps follow roughly the same protocol. The spa attendant first administers a body scrub and then applies the wrap’s primary ingredient, typically a moisturizing agent. 

The next step is to swaddle the client in a thermal blanket and leave them to relax for roughly half an hour. Wraps tend to vary from spa to spa, but common ingredients include seaweed and caffeine to temporarily plump up and tighten skin.

Lifestyle changes and exercises to get rid of cellulite

A woman going for a run outside.

The good news is you don’t have to go down the cosmetic procedure route if you don’t feel comfortable with the idea. For a completely natural approach, some remedies to improve the appearance of cellulite include adjusting your diet and lifestyle or cellulite creams.

Diet and exercise

Sure, a good diet and regular exercise won’t necessarily eradicate cellulite, but a good anti-cellulite program can help — good news for all those fitness fanatics. By losing weight, strengthening muscles, boosting circulation and eating a healthy, balanced diet, you can rest assured that you’re ticking all the right boxes.

Cellulite creams

Though cellulite creams won’t get rid of cellulite, they may improve its appearance. For instance, according to the Mayo Clinic, a twice-daily application of a 0.30% retinol cream has been shown to improve the appearance of cellulite after six months of use. These creams won’t get rid of cellulite but can thicken up skin to help camouflage the dimples.

Many topical creams are explicitly designed to treat cellulite. The key to finding a cellulite cream that works is browsing product reviews before you buy. Anecdotal evidence suggests some creams visibly improve cellulite over two months or so.

Other creams, however, aren’t much more than glorified water (though you shouldn’t freeze them and put them in a margarita).

Aminophylline creams may help reduce fat deposits or at least dehydrate the skin, pulling it taut and alleviating imperfections. Retinol creams are also widely used to promote collagen growth for a smoother, more toned look.

How Much Does Cellulite Treatment Cost? And Other Things You Need to Know

A woman paying for something by putting her credit card into a machine at the front desk of a spa.

If you’re considering cellulite treatment but you’re still unsure which option is best for you, there are a few things to be clear about before you get started.

How much is cellulite treatment?

The cost of your cellulite treatment will, of course, vary depending on the type of procedure you choose to have. Factors such as the treatment area and your location will also impact the price.

Low-budget cellulite creams can start at around $15 and go up to $80 depending on the brand. So, this is a great route to go down if you’re watching the pennies and can make-do with a short-term improvement.

More thorough treatments will vary depending on how many sessions you have but three sessions of VelaShape can cost up to $1,800. Cellfina procedures can stretch to as far as $5,000 depending on the treatment area.

Is cellulite treatment permanent?

Results can be long-lasting if a healthy lifestyle is maintained but are dependent on individual health history and body type. It’s not exactly possible to make cellulite disappear entirely, but you can reduce its appearance. If you’re bothered by cellulite, though, the type of treatment you choose might provide you with a noticeable improvement.

Can you get rid of cellulite with exercise?

You can’t alter the way your body stores fat. However, if you’re willing to do the work, losing weight is a good way to minimize its appearance — the less volume fat cells have, the less they need to push outward and dimple the skin. It also may help prevent cellulite from forming by eliminating body fat. However, weight loss and exercise won’t get rid of cellulite completely.

Top Tips

  • Talk to your doctor or dermatologist – Discuss treatment options and what might be best for your skin type.
  • Think about whether you would prefer non-invasive treatment or cosmetic surgeryLiposuction might also be an option if you would like longer results. 
  • Do what makes you happy – Consider if you need to treat your cellulite at all and if you can embrace it as part of your beautiful body.

FAQs

Close-up of a woman exfoliating her legs.

What is the best cellulite treatment?

There isn’t a top-performing or most effective cellulite treatment as results will depend on your skin type, the severity of your cellulite and how many sessions you have. Even if you pay for the most expensive cellulite treatment, if you don’t follow up this with a healthier lifestyle you might not see the results you desire.

Does dry brushing help cellulite?

Dry brushing is essentially an exfoliation technique that uses a soft-bristle brush to get rid of dead skin cells. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that dry brushing improves cellulite. It can increase blood circulation and temporarily plump the skin which may be where this myth has stemmed from.

Does collagen help cellulite?

Collagen may help to reduce the appearance of cellulite as it repairs and strengthens skin tissue and collagen bands. There have been studies that show improvement with collagen supplements, but this is not guaranteed for every person.

Does cupping help cellulite?

There isn’t much research to suggest that cupping indefinitely improves cellulite. A small study was performed in 2015, showing that regular cupping decreases the severity of cellulite, but this isn’t enough to reliably say that cupping is effective.

Think cellulite treatment is the right choice for you? Find great local offers with Groupon for VelaShape and CoolSculpting procedures.

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