ROBIN LYNNE GIBSON/WORKBOOK STOCK/GETTY IMAGESBy Meg Hemphill
Think that hours of leg lifts and climbing the StairMaster will dwindle away cellulite? Don't waste your time. "Cellulite has very little to do with fat; you couldn't exercise enough to get rid of it," says Howard Murad, M.D., author of The Cellulite Solution and founder of the Murad skincare line. "The thing to understand is that cellulite is a skin problem, not a fat problem." He explains that cellulite is found in areas that have less circulation (the buttocks and thighs); and that in these areas, collagen weakens at the dermis level (the layer just below the skin) and fat from below the dermis migrates up toward the skin's surface, giving the cottage cheese look. Even though exercise won't rid you of cellulite, it does improve blood circulation, which can help prevent fat buildup all over the body.
Never before has the FDA approved a laser treatment for alleviating cellulite until now, with Cellulaze, a laser that targets the three causes of cellulite. First, it disrupts or melts the bulging pockets of fat; then it releases the fiber spans that pull down on the skin and create the dimpled look; and finally, it stimulates collagen growth, which improves the skin's elasticity, minimizing the puckering in the cell walls that occur as we age. After the treatment, patients are encouraged to wear body shapewear (think Spanx) to help support the treated area, but otherwise can return to a normal routine immediately (except exercising, which should be avoided for about a week). The cost starts at $5,000 and increases depending on how much area needs to be treated. The smoother, less dimpled appearance can last up to a year, at which point you may need to have another treatment but results vary by patient.
Because a decrease of collagen is part of the reason why women get cellulite, Dr. Murad says a diet rich in nutrients that help build collagen is important. Fibroblast cells (which help build collagen) need amino acids that can be found in eggs, beans and seeds, and glucosamine, which can be found in whole grains and the shells of sea animals (or taken as a supplement). You can also use your diet to improve circulation: Sprinkle a little cayenne or red pepper flakes on your savory foods for an instant boost in blood flow.
Next time you consider an anti-cellulite gel, cream or other topical product, look at the ingredients. Most likely caffeine -- a known diuretic -- is on the list. Murad explains that in an area of weakened circulation where cellulite tends to appear, extra fluid can build up. "Caffeine helps minimize the fluid, but does not relieve the problem of fat migrating to the surface," he says. "Caffeine can help, but only on a temporary basis." Murad says when picking a topical treatment, find one that contains capsaicin (the active component of chili peppers): "It encourages circulation to the area, so look for that in products."
You may think going under the knife by way of lipo will reduce your cellulite, but Jenny Kim, M.D. of UCLA Division of Dermatology, says it isn't so. "Traditional liposuction removes fat deeper in the tissue and not as much of the fat closer to the surface of the skin where cellulite fat resides." There is, however, laser-assisted liposuction treatment becoming available. Because they target cellulite fat more effectively, Dr. Kim says it shows promise. "Ultrasonic liposculpturing, which uses an ultrasound to liquefy the fat and help sculpt and contour the body, may be a safer and more effective method of reducing cellulite as compared to traditional liposuction," she says. As with any treatment, consult a professional first to find out the options, risks, results and recovery associated with it.
While dry brushing is popular in medi-spas as a form of exfoliation and as a method of encouraging circulation, it can also be done at home. It involves using a natural bristle brush (found at most health stores, such as Whole Foods) and using it on the body to encourage circulation. Murad, a proponent of the method, says not to be too aggressive when dry brushing, though; just use gentle circular strokes on the thigh and buttocks to stimulate blood flow in the area. This method is not meant to be used wet, so leave the faucet off and do your dry brushing routine before you bathe.
Wondering why, when you step into the bathroom, you suddenly notice your cellulite more than you did in the bedroom? Certain light may intensify the subtle dimples and shadows cellulite creates. Explains Kim: "Cellulite may appear more prominent when shadowing on the skin accentuates the dimpling." Just like foundation helps even out the skin tone on the face, self-tanner can help even out the tone on the legs and butt by lessening the shadowing effect and making cellulite less noticeable. Murad adds that this is most beneficial on women with fair skin (and less so with women who have darker skin tones). For the best looking coverage, try a professional spray tan. "If it's not applied perfectly, [cellulite] can look worse," Murad says. Keep in mind that this is only a superficial improvement; it won't improve cellulite on a cell level.
Retinoids are chemical compounds related to vitamin A that are commonly found in skincare products. "Topically applied retinoic acids are thought to help treat cellulite by increasing the thickness of collagen in the skin as well as helping to improve the elasticity," explains Kim. He says tthat Retinol, a type of retinoic acid, also inhibits the maturation of the cells that turn into fat cells," explains Kim. When shopping for products, look for ingredients that include retinol, retinoic acid, retinol palmitate or retinyl. Although many retinoids are found in skincare for the face, brands including Eminence , Philosophy , Bliss and Murad have body-specific products.
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