The Cold, Hard Truth About Cellulite

Jun 26, 2013

When my pool opened a few weeks ago, I donned my swimsuit, grabbed my towel and was headed for the door when I spotted my reflection in the mirror.  A closer inspection revealed that thanks to some recent weight gain and a lifestyle that could be charitable described as sedentary, my cellulite was back with a vengeance. Great.

According to Prevention magazine, “Despite what you’ve heard about trapped toxins or poor circulation being to blame, cellulite is one thing — fat.’

“It just looks different because of how it’s arranged. Everyone has strands of connective tissue that separate fat cells into compartments and connect fat tissue to skin. In women, these fibers form a honeycomblike pattern, so any increase of fat in a given area tends to bulge. You don’t see cellulite in men because their fibers run in a horizontal, criss-cross pattern that prevents bulging or dimpling.” (Ed. Note: Lucky bastards.)

I whole heartedly accept that the only thing that will significantly reduce the amount of cellulite on my legs is eat healthy and exercise.  But, while I may have been lazy about my anti-cellulite routine in recent months, there are some things you can do to minimize its appearance.

Dry Brushing. Using a dry bristle brush to massage your thighs improves circulation and plumps skin.  Firmer, thicker skin reduces the cottage cheese look.  And dry brushing also helps keep your lymphatic system happy.  I initially bought a long-handled dry brush, but switched to a palm-brush, which is easier to control.

Firming Cream. If you’re hoping for a miracle product, don’t waste your time.  But creams and gels that contain caffeine and hyaluronic acid can improve circulation and disguise cellulite for a few hours.

My favorite product is Shiseido Body Creator Aromatic Body-Sculpting Concentrate ($38).  It’s off the market, but you can still find it on Amazon.  If you’d like something available from a department store, the FatGirl line from Bliss is popular.  And if you need a drugstore alternative, Nivea Q10 Firming Gel is a good choice.

Saran Wrap. Fighting cellulite requires that I reach into my bag of pageant-girl tricks.  To improve the efficacy of your firming cream, take a hot shower (to open the pores), dry brush your thighs, hips, tush and stomach and apply your firming cream.  Then, grap a roll of Saran wrap and some Scotch tape.

Wrap each thigh in Saran and tape down the ends to hold it in place.  You should wrap the area snugly, but not so tightly that you hinder circulation.  I have no idea why this works, but it does.

Self-Tanner.  As my former pageant coach so cruelly put it, “Tan fat looks better than white fat.”  But self-tanner does help conceal cellulite, especially if you contour it to deflect attention to the firmer areas on the side and front.  This is a trick Victoria’s Secret models use.  The CHS-endorsed self-tanner brand is and always will be, St. Tropez mousse.

Surgical Options.  If you’re in need of a more serious intervention, Cellulaze is a new cosmetic procedure that can help you banish cellulite.  I’m not there yet, but if you are, you can learn more here.

Makeup

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  1. Terri says:

    Thank goodness for Costco Stretchtite brad of saran. Gonna need this in bulk the way things are going. Would like to make it to the pool a couple of times before the summer wanes.

  2. Kate says:

    I’ve seen plenty of men with cellulite. It’s less visible on them because, typically, their fat is centered in their abdomens and chests, not their hips and thighs.

    The Saran wrap doesn’t reduce your cellulite- the release from the constriction of the wrap causes your skin to swell, temporarily creating a smoother appearance. Same for the dry brushing; you’re just causing a (very mild) injury to your skin. The healing response (inflammation) makes it look slightly better.

    If you’re self-conscious, go with a sarong. Or just focus on the fact that 98% of women have visible cellulite- if you don’t hate their bodies, there’s no reason to hate yours!

    • Belle says:

      It didn’t say that it reduces cellulite, I said it reduces it’s appearance. Temporary camouflage to be sure. But camouflage nonetheless.

      And I don’t hate my body at all. Wanting to smooth out your skin, wear makeup or color your hair just means your looking for some improvement.

      • Kate says:

        I meant the royal “you”. Jeez, I feel like this is somewhat hostile to your readers.

        The thing is, cellulite, much like stretch marks, can’t be prevented, repaired, or removed. It’s not like acne or dying your hair, because those are things that can be changed. It’s not even like rhinoplasty (which I’ve had), because there’s no permanent surgical intervention for cellulite (much like stretch marks, where the skin can only be removed). I don’t feel it’s helpful for Prevention or any other magazine to sell women the idea that something that is almost entirely genetically determined is something that can be changed or fixed. I’m not attacking *you* personally, Belle- I like this blog.

        • Em says:

          It irks me that whenever Belle defends her point, she’s called hostile and defensive and rude.

          Should she just roll over? Should she never respond to anyone? Would you prefer she delete the comments that she doesn’t agree with like so many bloggers do? What response would make all of you happy? Do you just want to lodge your complaint and have her smile and nod like a doormat?

          I don’t agree with Belle every time, but I respect that she’s willing to interact with us and answer our questions and even debate with us.

  3. Katy says:

    I just go with thinking if cellulite as lucious thigh dimples and running with it.

  4. B says:

    That saran wrap suggestion creeps me out. If I’m at the point where I’m wrapping my legs in saran wrap bc I’m insecure about my body, then it’s probably time to see a therapist (or hit the gym, but poor body image is often more about the mental and less about the physical).

    • Belle says:

      How does not liking the look of cellulite mean that I need therapy? When you go to the spa for wrap what do they wrap you in? Saran wrap and a blanket and that’s considered pampering. If I’m going to spend the money on firming cream, I want it to work to the best of its ability.

      And if saran wrap is beyond the pale, what is plastic surgery or weight watchers or spending $200 on a trip to the salon?

  5. Anne says:

    I have cellulite, wish I didn’t, but this post makes me a little sad (maybe my feminist antennae are particularly sensitive on the heels of the TX filibuster). So much work and money just to go swim in an apartment pool. And these are temporary fixes; if you have cellulite, you can’t hide it 100% of the time, so how are you supposed to feel if someone sees it? Ashamed, lazy?

    • Belle says:

      It’s not about what anyone else thinks, esp since my pool deck is usually empty. I just don’t like the way it looks. No different than dying my hair or or covering my acne. I feel better when things are a bit smoother, I don’t think that makes me anti-feminist.

  6. M says:

    Or put another way: “If you can’t tone it, tan it!”

  7. Laurie says:

    Thanks for the tips Belle! I’ll have to try this saran wrap concoction. No matter where you are its always important to put your best foot forward and while cellulite is something most women struggle with nothing is going to stop me from doing my best to make it disappear.

  8. Spiritmom says:

    I wouldn’t waste my time on any of that ridiculousness. Exercise. Because my evenings are swamped with my kids’ activities (I’m blessed with 4 of them), I get up at 5:15 am and run 3 miles. Everyday. Also, everything we eat I cook. Eating out is way too expensive for a family of six and its fattening as hell. I also pack all 6 of our lunches because school lunches are nasty and I don’t want my husband going out (for reasons mentioned above). It’s simple, really. 1. Eat real food 2. Move!!!

    • Belle says:

      Yes, but what about all the women who are in great shape and still have cellulite? I don’t see why the idea of having a bit of ripple and wanting to reduce it’s appearance is so incendiary.

      If I had said I wanted to buy a pair of Spanx to smooth out the look of my clothes, no one would be telling me to head to the gym. But suggest a very common remedy for minimizing the appearance of cellulite, and I’m told it’s ridiculousness.

      • Spirimom says:

        I am 43 and have had 4 kids, I need all the help I can get. I use all kinds of lotions, make up, etc. What I was referring to as ridiculousness was the idea of spending all kinds of time brushing and wrapping thighs and no time exercising said thighs. And take it from me, the older you get the harder it is to stay in shape. Even with my daily runs, I have a little cellulite. It happens, but I will fight it to the end!

        • Jenn L. says:

          If you refer to Belle’s first post of that day, she actually indicated that she is getting back into working out.

          I am in pretty good shape for my activity level, and I have cellulite. You don’t just run it off, honey. =\

    • Nothing to do with cellulite, but I think post is pretty inspirational. I’m impressed that you manage to feed home-cooked meals to a family of 6 daily and also work out. I have a hard time with the two people and a puppy! I type this as I eat a homemade lunch at my desk for that 4th day in a row (I’m pretty proud of myself). I decided that for health and monetary reasons bringing lunch was the way to go (plus I’m a decent cook so what I bring usually tastes better than what I buy). And I have to say I much better than I do when I eat take-out.

  9. Pancakes says:

    I don’t know why everyone’s flipping out about Belle’s tips to reduce (even temporarily) the appearance of cellulite. She addresses the fact that eating right and exercise are the only guaranteed solutions, but when you still have cellulite, why not do something to improve its appearance?

    This is no different to putting foundation on your face to even your skin tone. Are you ashamed of your face? No! But do you want to do something to help it along? Yes. Same thing.

    Thanks for the tips, Belle. This is the first year I’ve had cellulite, so it was definitely an unpleasant surprise.

  10. Em says:

    Belle has cellulite. Belle doesn’t like her cellulite. Belle wants to smooth out her cellulite. BIG EFFING DEAL.

    After reading these comments, I feel like I need to defend myself for taking Belle’s advice and buying a firming cream. I suddenly want to mention that I teach spin classes at the local rec center and that I think I have a spectacular ass, and there’s no reason I should feel that way.

  11. Clementine says:

    Just to bring up another delightful point, sometimes it’s not gaining weight that makes cellulite more noticeable, sometimes it’s LOSING weight.

    What’s that you say? Yep! Delightfully, after losing weight my cellulite is more visible than when I weighed 25 pounds more. This is because as I lost fat volume in my legs, the connective tissue (honeycomb matrix described above) had more empty pockets to emphasize the delightful dimpling.

    My current technique to make people not notice it is to get giant bruises on my thighs from hiking and trail running with a big goofy dog and having a small apartment with a significant number of thigh-level things to run into in the bed-coffee-bathroom triangle. (This is a joke, but seriously, I tried on my swimsuit for an upper-thigh evaluation recently and was so distracted by a couple of bruises I had from being my awesome self that I actually forgot to check on the cellulite.)

    • Belle says:

      I’m sorry. That sounds like a one-two punch that no one wants.

      Two years ago, I finally started loving my real hair color enough to stop spending money on a colorist and then four months after it grew out enough to look good, I started going grey. Everyone who thinks they have this figured out, take one step forward…not so fast, Belle.

  12. becky says:

    Belle – for how long do you leave the saran wrap?

  13. Sam says:

    Belle, Thank you for the recommendations. I doubt that I will use them, as I can’t find the time, but it’s good to know that these temporary fixes are out there. I was initially sad when I read this post, because I feel that I am in the love-your-body-for-what-it-is camp, but I am also a daily user of hair color, make-up, nail polish, acne reducers, deodorant and perfume, high-heeled shoes, spanx (when I know I need them), flattering tailored clothing, distracting accessories and other things that enhance my body to make me what I want to portray to myself and the world. Is it a hobby? Is it an infatuation? Is it to turn my husband’s head? Is it to make an impression? Is it drinking too much Kool-Aid? I don’t know, but it makes me feel good, and it reflects the asperations and ambitions to achieve inner enhancements of emotional stability, familial and social contentment, eating healty, exercise, career fulfillment and a satisfied life. I’m thinking too much about this based off of lotion and saran wrap, but thank you anyway. I love your blog, and your fashion sense is right on.

    • Belle says:

      Thanks for your comment. I love my body, and I would never tell anyone they shouldn’t love theirs. But I feel about cellulite like a feel about acne or grey hair, I don’t see it as being about my body, it’s just an annoying condition I want to conceal.

  14. Heather says:

    Great suggestions! Nothing is a 100% fix or easy solution. These are just good additions to a healthy diet and exercise. I whole heartedly agree about the fake tan. It works miracles.

  15. Lady Lawyer says:

    My pageant coach was also a big fan of sunless tanner– “if you can’t tone it, tan it.” It does make a big difference, and it’s not very drastic.

    Good luck out there, ladies. And know we are almost ALL struggling with this, so let’s stick together and fight it!

  16. RR says:

    I agree with the posters who thought this post was off. Is Saran wrapping your legs different than smoothing your hair? YES! The feminist in me cries out that it just is. Seems like all time spent in the pageant circle has gone to your head.

  17. Cynthia W says:

    You know, there’s something in me that rebels at the idea of trying to brush and wrap the appearance of cellulite away. However, Belle is right – it isn’t any different than all the other things that we do to temporarily mask frizziness, dark circles, acne, gray hair, etc. Something about it may not appeal to me or to you, but, if it makes some people feel better about going out in public in a swimsuit, who cares?

    It’s not like she’s getting a boob job or Botox before heading down to the pool – although, if she is, it’s her perogative. Isn’t that what choice is all about? Or is choice for women only a good thing when said women agree with whatever is okay today?

  18. CH says:

    I’m not planning on Saran-wrapping my legs, and I agree that unrealistic standards of beauty (and the amount of time/money women are expected to spend trying to attain them) are absolutely a feminist issue, but…

    An individual woman choosing to try to minimize the appearance of her cellulite (or wrinkles, or gray hair, or acne, or scars, or anything else she’s self-conscious about) does not have to turn in her feminist card.

    Every woman reading this blog has to decide for herself what concessions she’s going to make to those unrealistic beauty standards. A lot of incredible activists and allies are working hard to change those standards and create a society in which women are seen as humans with agency and valued for their ideas and actions, not as decorative objects. But this is still the world we live in, and I can decide to what degree I’m going to participate and what battles are worth my energy and sanity in the areas of beauty and body image.

    I love my body. I think I’m beautiful without a drop of makeup or hair product. I believe we should live in a world where women are not judged or made to feel uncomfortable about their natural appearance. But I also have to leave my house and try to thrive in a space where there are a lot of expectations about “how a woman should look,” and I simply do not feel like fighting that battle every. single. day. So I shave my legs and put on makeup and do my hair and dress in flattering clothes and I go out and work on the parts of institutionalized sexism that matter more to me.

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