As common as cellulite is, there's also an awful lot of misinformation out there about what it is, what causes it, and how to get rid of it. So before placing blame, scheduling a cosmetic procedure, or spending a fortune on over-the-counter products, read up on all the myths about cellulite.
Cellulite is caused by toxins in your body
Some over-the-counter cellulite products may claim to help remove impurities and toxins from the body. But neither their efficacy nor their claims about what causes cellulite are supported by science. Rather, cellulite occurs when underlying fat deposits begin to push through layers of collagen fibers, or connective tissue, under the skin (often in the buttocks and thigh areas, but also on arms, stomachs, and other common trouble spots, as well). Connective tissue can be weakened by hormones, lack of exercise and muscle tone, excess fat, and poor circulation, says New York City-based dermatologist Cheryl Karcher, MD. But the condition is not caused by "toxins."
Cellulite only happens to out-of-shape people
Being overweight does make the appearance of cellulite more noticeable; the more fat you have underneath your skin, the more it's likely to put stress on your connective tissue and bulge out of its weak spots. But cellulite also happens to women of all shapes and sizes, says Shira Ein-Dor, owner of the American Cellulite Reduction Center in New York City. "I even treat Victoria's Secret models," she says. "They're very lean, they work out and eat well, they do everything right but they still have cellulite."
Cardio is best for reducing all-over jiggle
Running or other forms of cardio can help keep weight off, which may reduce the appearance of dimples and dents. But to really smooth out your skin, you've got to strength train. One study by researchers at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, found that adults who did three 30-minute aerobic workouts each week for eight weeks lost four pounds, but gained no muscle—and only slightly improved body composition. When they paired 15 minutes of aerobic activity with 15 minutes of strength training three times a week, however, they lost 10 pounds of fat, added two pounds of muscle, and saw a greater overall improvement in body composition. In other words, they looked better and lost some of the wiggle!
Liposuction will make your legs (or arms, or tummy) look better
If cellulite is your problem, liposuction should not be your solution, says Dr. McDaniel. In fact, the cosmetic procedure could even make fat distribution more uneven, making its outward appearance even worse. Another vacuum-like (but non-surgical) procedure, however, known as Endermologie, has been shown to help: During Endermologie, a technician runs a suctioning device surrounded by rollers over a patient's skin, pulling and squeezing trouble spots for about 30 minutes. Results are visible after about 10 visits (two per week), which can cost between $80 and $150 each.
Only a dermatologist should perform cellulite treatments
A skin doc is a good place to start, and many dermatologists do perform treatments in their clinics. But cellulite is not a medical condition, says Ein-Dor, and a medical professional is not required to treat it. "I am not a doctor, but because I focus only on cellulite, I can provide many more options in my center than most doctors can provide in their offices," she says. Medi-spas can also perform treatments such as Endermologie and non-invasive laser procedures—but Ein-Dor cautions that you make sure your technician is licensed and has received proper training on whatever device you choose. (If you want a surgical procedure like Cellulaze, however, you'll need to see a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon.)
The clothing you wear can make an impact
Yes, wearing compression-style leggings while you exercise can reduce thigh jiggle as you move—but it's only a temporary effect, says Dr. Karcher, and you're unlikely to see any change after you strip down post-workout. "For any clothing that claims to actually have lasting results, it's just a marketing gimmick and it's not true," she adds. In fact, for some tight clothes, the opposite may be true: Elastic bands on underwear, for example, can actually contribute to the appearance of cellulite if they cut off circulation and limit blood flow.
Smoking can affect the appearance of cellulite
Cigarette smoke has been shown to reduce blood vessel flow and to weaken and disrupt the formation of collagen, allowing for the connective tissue to become stretched and damaged more easily and for underlying fat to show through. Plus, smoking can make you look bad (literally) in lots of other ways, as well: It causes premature wrinkles and aging, leave skin dry and discolored and can contribute to stretch marks, to name a few.
There's no permanent cellulite solution
Fact (for now)
This one's not exactly true or false, but scientists do seem to be getting better and better at finding long-term solutions for treating trouble spots. The most recent and promising procedure is a surgery called Cellulaze, approved by the FDA in 2012, in which an optic laser melts fat, breaks up fibrous connective tissue and stimulates the growth of new collagen, all through a pinhole-sized incision in the skin. "It's great because it works on both those fibers that are pulling down your skin and on the fat globules that are popping through," says Dr. Karcher. Recovery is quick, too: "You might be a little bit sore afterward, but you can have it done on a Friday and be back to work by Monday." The treatment starts at about $3,500 per leg, but results seem to last at least a year or two.
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