All your questions answered in one page
It is true that most cellulite creams do not "work". But this is not because "creams do not get absorbed", as ignorant "experts" in the media believe. A well designed, highly concentrated, quality cellulite cream not only does get absorbed very well, but also does "work".
On the other hand, the same tabloid media and glossy magazines that proclaim on one page that "creams do not get absorbed", on another page they promise "instant fat melting" with the new wonder cellulite cream or treatment. Regardless of being negative or positive, hype sells...
To clarify the matter: most cellulite creams don't work indeed, but for entirely different reasons:
- either because they are cheaply made, regardless of how expensive they are
- or because women who buy them do not change at all their cellulite-causing lifestyle and expect creams to perform miracles, as the tabloids tell them
The few creams that work, do so by acting on multiple aspects of cellulite by way of the active ingredients contained in them. For example, curcumin is well known as an anti-inflammatory, caffeine is widely established as a lipolytic, escin is equally widely accepted as a circulation booster and gotu kola is proven as an effective natural skin firming chemical, to name but a few of the dozens of active ingredients that can be used in cellulite creams. As long as multiple research-proven actives are of high purity and contained in high concentrations they do indeed work - in combination with some healthy eating, alcohol avoidance and exercise, of course. Furthermore, if the cream is used before or after intensive exercise the results can be maximised.
One thing that most people do not know is that a well-designed quality cellulite cream, even an expensive one, can actually provide better value for money than a quality cellulite treatment, although it is admittedly more slow acting. But the combination can offer an optimum balance between speed of results and value for money.
In fact, concentrated cellulite creams, vegetable juicing, vibration / power plate training, berry fruits and interval training are the top ways to beat cellulite at home, for those who cannot afford a quality cellulite treatment.
On another note: no, it's not the massage action while applying the cream that provides results, it's the cream. It is physiologically impossible to reduce cellulite with a five-minute puny massage while applying a cream.
As a last comment: if you wish to get results from your cellulite cream, firstly choose one which contains multiple actives, of high purity and in high concentrations, don't just got some retinol or caffeine. Make sure you follow a super healthy, active lifestyle to make the most of it. And most importantly: use the cream twice-daily. It is amazing how many women forget to use their cream for days on end and still expect it to work...
Discover the Celluence® creams
Advanced cellulite / leg wellness creams
All our articles and papers
"Creams don't get absorbed". Seriously?
Most people are misled by ignorant beauty "experts" to believe that cosmetic products do not get absorbed by the skin. This is in contrast to a huge body of scientific evidence that shows exactly the opposite.
Anti-ageing, anti-cellulite and other skincare creams do get absorbed, so much so that regulatory authorities around the world have very strict limits of how much of each chemical, natural or man-made, can be contained in each product.
The EU, for example, has extremely stringent such limits and cosmetic companies must provide a full list of ingredients together with a safety report based on upper inclusion limits. EU legislation explicitly states that cosmetic ingredients are absorbed by the body, not just by the skin, and must be used in appropriate, safe amounts. Of course the upper safe limit of something like vitamin C is very high, while the upper limit for other chemicals is very low.
A huge body of science, unknown to beauty "experts"
Depending on the design of the product, cosmetic ingredients may be absorbed to a larger or lesser degree. A good example of designing for minimal absorption are sun protection creams and lotions, where we desire skin absorption to be minimised. On the other hand, a good example of formulating for maximal absorption are anti-ageing or anti-cellulite creams, where we do want the actives to penetrate not just the epidermis, but also to reach the dermis and hypodermis.
Penetration enhancers and penetration inhibitors are also used, and special techniques based on physics rather than chemistry, such as electro-mesotherapy cosmetic treatments, can be used to further boost skin penetration. Furthermore, simple mechanical techniques, such as skin needling beauty treatments can also boost penetration.
On the other hand, liposomes, special silicon compounds and active molecules attached to sugar or fatty acid molecules, are some of the several transdermal skin delivery mechanisms proven to help penetrate into/through the skin and deliver active molecules inside the cells.
Furthermore, several pharmaceutical creams, gels and ointments exist (e.g. anti-inflammatory creams for musculoskeletal pain, bioidentical hormone creams etc.), that are proven in pharmaceutical-level clinical studies to be absorbed and indeed to be approved by regulatory authorities as clinically effective.
The 500 Dalton rule
A general rule of a thumb was proposed by a group of scientists in 2000, which states that compounds that must penetrate into/through the skin for pharmaceutical or cosmetic purposes must be of a molecular weight below 500 Da (Dalton). The scientists stated that almost all known pharmaceutical drugs proven to penetrate the skin are of 500 Da or smaller size.
However, since then it was shown that quite larger molecules, often above 1000 Da, can also penetrate into/through the skin, usually with the help of the specially designed delivery molecules, penetration enhancers, electroporation / electro-mesotherapy or skin needling, that we mentioned above.
Most natural actives are much smaller than 500 Dalton
In regard to cosmetics, most natural actives that are used in anti-ageing / anti-cellulite creams are of sizes below 500 Da, with some being of up to 700 Da molecular weight and extemely few being 1000 Da. Some examples of such actives, include:
- Caffeine, 194.19 Da (2.5x smaller than the upper size limit)
- Quercetin, 302.236 Da (1.6x smaller than the upper size limit)
- Ascorbic glycoside, 338.265 Da (1.5x smaller than the upper size limit)
- Ascorbic acid, 176.12 Da (2.8x smaller than the upper size limit)
- Forskolin, 410.5 Da (1.2x smaller than the upper size limit)
- Asiatic acid, 488.70 Da (just below the upper size limit)
- Curcumin, 368.38 Da (1.4x smaller than the upper size limit)
- Retinol, 286.45 Da (1.7x smaller than the upper size limit)
This list could go on and on and on, but the fact is that as far as skin formulations containing vitamins, antioxidants and similar anti-ageing compounds are concerned, absorption is not a problem: those actives are well below the 500 Dalton size and they do penetrate the skin, even more so if the design of the formulation is focused on absorption (for various reasons, not all products are designed as such)
Those actives are even more easily absorbable, if natural penetration enhancers are used for the creams or electro-mesotherapy / skin needling are used for body/face aesthetic treatments.
An urban myth
Clearly, the urban myth of "creams do not get absorbed" is exactly that: an urban myth propagated by the usual hear-say of misinformed "experts".
Hundreds of studies have been contacted, possibly thousands, by cosmetic manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and universities, and whole volumes of books have been written on transdermal absorption and skin penetration. Yet some people keep maintaining that the earth is flat...
On the other hand, these same people advocate naive methods, such as the application of ground coffee bans on the skin for the reduction of cellulite. However, it is well-known that the very little caffeine contained in the ground coffee is firmly bound to the fibrous structure of the coffee bean, making it impossible to release caffeine onto the skin just by rubbing the coffee grounds on it.
It just beggars belief...
- Paper: The 500 Dalton rule for the skin penetration of chemical compounds and drugs.
- Abstract: Human skin has unique properties of which functioning as a physicochemical barrier is one of the most apparent. The human integument is able to resist the penetration of many molecules. However, especially smaller molecules can surpass transcutaneously. They are able to go by the corneal layer, which is thought to form the main deterrent. We argue that the molecular weight (MW) of a compound must be under 500 Dalton to allow skin absorption. Larger molecules cannot pass the corneal layer. Arguments for this "500 Dalton rule" are; 1) virtually all common contact allergens are under 500 Dalton, larger molecules are not known as contact sensitizers. They cannot penetrate and thus cannot act as allergens in man; 2) the most commonly used pharmacological agents applied in topical dermatotherapy are all under 500 Dalton; 3) all known topical drugs used in transdermal drug-delivery systems are under 500 Dalton. In addition, clinical experience with topical agents such as cyclosporine, tacrolimus and ascomycins gives further arguments for the reality of the 500 Dalton rule. For pharmaceutical development purposes, it seems logical to restrict the development of new innovative compounds to a MW of under 500 Dalton, when topical dermatological therapy or percutaneous systemic therapy or vaccination is the objective.
- Dietary polyphenols are beneficial plant chemicals found in fruit, herbs and vegetables, which are known primarily from their antioxidant action
- Most importantly, however, different polyphenols also exert anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, metabolic and anti-obesity action on the human body
- In fact, scientists now know that it is not the antioxidant action that is important in polyphenols but the action on inflammation and metabolism
- EGCG (from green tea), resveratrol (found in berries), quercetin (found in onions), curcumin (from turmeric), catechins (in cocoa), epicatechins (in pine bark and grape seeds), proanthocyanidins (e.g. in cranberries), and myricetin (found in fruit) are some of the most "famous" polyphenols
- A review published in 2014 reports that thousands of cell, tissue, animal and human studies in the last few years have shown the beneficial effects of polyphenols on health, and specifically in metabolic disorders and obesity
- Cell studies show that dietary polyphenols fight fat in multiple ways. They:
- Reduce the life span of adipocytes (fat cells)
- Reduce fat cell growth
- Inhibit the capacity of fat cells to accumulate fat
- Reduce fat cell proliferation
- Stimulate lipolysis (fat breakdown and release from fat cells)
- Boost energy expenditure / fat oxidation ("fat burning") outside fat cells
- Stimulate thermogenesis (fat burning inside fat cells)
- Inhibit adipose tissue inflammation within and outside adipose tissue
- Fight oxidative damage within and outside fat tissue
- Fight metabolic dysfunction within and outside adipose tissue
- Reduce high glucose levels, triglycerides, cholesterol and glycation
- "Animal studies strongly suggest that commonly consumed polyphenols have a pronounced effect on obesity as shown by lower body weight, fat mass and triglycerides through enhancing energy expenditure and fat utilization, and modulating glucose homeostasis"
- "On the other hand, human studies are more limited and are more inconsistent about the anti-obesity impact of dietary polyphenols probably due to the various study designs and lengths, variation among subjects (age, gender, ethnicity), chemical forms of the dietary polyphenols used and confounding factors such as other weight-reducing agents", the study authors state
- However, our experience of reviewing such studies in the last decade shows that polyphenols are more effective on cell cultures, tissues and animals are more effective simply because of the much higher dosage than used on humans, which is quite often one or two orders of magnitude greater
- Nevertheless, the general trend with the use of polyphenols in human trials is towards a healthier metabolic profile and reduced fat accumulation, obesity and it's complications, even with normal, dietary intakes or with reasonably increased intakes in the form of supplements etc.
- However, polyphenols could be much more beneficial at local level, i.e. for spot fat / cellulite reduction than it is for whole body level. This is because whole body weight loss depends too much on food intake and exercise and because very high intake of polyphenols at whole body level is practically impossible and possibly unhealthy
- Clearly, high-concentration topical application, similar to that seen in cell, tissue and animal studies makes much more sense, and is a trend seen in quality cosmeceuticals recently, including anti-ageing and cellulite creams
- In all cases, more "randomised controlled trials are warranted to reconcile the discrepancies between preclinical efficacies and inconclusive clinic outcomes of these polyphenols", as the study authors report.
- Source: Novel insights of dietary polyphenols and obesity.
- Abstract: The prevalence of obesity has steadily increased over the past three decades both in the United States and worldwide. Recent studies have shown the role of dietary polyphenols in the prevention of obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases. Here, we evaluated the impact of commonly consumed polyphenols, including green tea catechins, especially epigallocatechin gallates, resveratrol and curcumin, on obesity and obesity-related inflammation. Cellular studies demonstrated that these dietary polyphenols reduce viability of adipocytes and proliferation of preadipocytes, suppress adipocyte differentiation and triglyceride accumulation, stimulate lipolysis and fatty acid β-oxidation, and reduce inflammation. Concomitantly, the polyphenols modulate signaling pathways including the adenosine-monophosphate-activated protein kinase, peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein α, peroxisome proliferator activator receptor gamma activator 1-alpha, sirtuin 1, sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c, uncoupling proteins 1 and 2, and nuclear factor-κB that regulate adipogenesis, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses. Animal studies strongly suggest that commonly consumed polyphenols described in this review have a pronounced effect on obesity as shown by lower body weight, fat mass and triglycerides through enhancing energy expenditure and fat utilization, and modulating glucose hemostasis. Limited human studies have been conducted in this area and are inconsistent about the antiobesity impact of dietary polyphenols probably due to the various study designs and lengths, variation among subjects (age, gender, ethnicity), chemical forms of the dietary polyphenols used and confounding factors such as other weight-reducing agents. Future randomized controlled trials are warranted to reconcile the discrepancies between preclinical efficacies and inconclusive clinic outcomes of these polyphenols.
Spot fat / cellulite reduction with a quality cellulite cream
A good topical fat loss cream is one that contains a high amount of several natural ingredients that stimulate fat release from your fat cells (just for the record, few such good fat loss creams exist). Your superficial fat cells constantly release or accumulate fat in reaction to contact with various substances that reach the fat cell. These substances can reach your fat cells either through the blood circulation (foods, hormones) or through the skin (creams).
If for example blood capillaries infuse glucose in the adipose extracellular fluid (the fluid that surrounds a fat cell), the cell will react by absorbing this glucose and converting it into fat. If insulin is infused at the same time, glucose absorption increases. This leads to fat cell enlargement - certainly not a good thing for local fat reduction.
If, on the other hand, adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone) is infused from the blood into the adipose tissue during to exercise (or during a fight with your partner!), the fat cell will tend to release fat. If caffeine originating from a cream is infused through the tissues and into the adipocyte extracellular fluid, it will stimulate the fat cell to release fat. If retinol is infused it will stimulate the fat cell to change it's function towards fat release and can even make the cell die off early (this process is called apoptosis). All these things lead to fat cell shrinkage or even fat cell early death - certainly a good thing for local fat reduction.
Since one biochemical pathway usually is not enough to produce the results you are after, your fat-releasing cream should ideally contain several ingredients that act via several pathways. And of course, those ingredients should be in high enough concentrations to make an impact on your fat cells. Otherwise the message will be subdued and the cells will react more to the insulin and the glucose and the saturated fat you are feeding them, rather than to the cream ingredients...
So there you have it - you need a cream with several fat-fighting ingredients in significant concentrations, combined with a diet poor in carbs and saturated fat that does not encourage your fat cells to grow (and ideally combined with some exercise that will give a helping hand to your cream in it's fight against the flab).
If these four conditions are met (multiple actives, high concentrations, low calorie diet & exercise), a cellulite cream can indeed help you lose local fat, a process called spot fat reduction. And as the name suggests, this reduction is small and localised, i.e. you cannot expect to lose pounds of fat, but rather small localised fat deposits and, of course, cellulite.
Different cellulite creams have a Peach Factor of 1/5 ~ 4/5
- Due to the multi-faceted nature of cellulite, cellulite creams with one or two actives, acting on one or two aspects of cellulite, simply do not work
- Furthermore, due to the "stubborn" nature of cellulite, creams with a low percentage of actives, regardless of their total number, also do not work
- For a cellulite cream to be effective, it needs to contains both a comprehensive selection of several actives that act on all facets of cellulite, and high concentrations of those actives
- Unfortunately, such a combination, i.e. high number of actives, in high concentrations, is very unprofitable, especially if one considers that 10x more product quantity is needed for the legs, than for the face
- So most cosmetic manufacturers prefer to put in their "cellulite creams" a couple of actives in low concentrations and spend loads of money on marketing instead. For this reason, most cellulite creams simply do not work.
- However, a handful of manufacturers do place emphasis on quality rather than marketing, and in that case you pay for the actives to help your cellulite, not marketing or high profit margins. In that case, cellulite creams do work.
- When choosing a good cellulite cream you should look for a cream with multiple high quality actives, such as forskolin, centella, escin, curcumin, caffeine, pine bark extract etc, in high concentrations.
You cannot burn cellulite fat from a particular area with exercise alone
Exercise alone cannot lead to cellulite reduction in any particular area of the body (spot cellulite reduction). During exercise, the body decides where to draw fat from according to your genetic inheritance, lifestyle and hormones. In most women, fat on the thighs and butt (including cellulite fat) are the last places from where the body removes fat during exercise. This is because: fat cells in those areas have naturally occurring chemicals that can be described as metabolic brakes which ensure fat release during exercise or when dieting is kept at a minimum; and because the "cellulite tissues" have reduced circulation, and as a result they receive less lipolytic agents from the bloodstream (such as adrenaline) during exercise than other tissues.
But you can focus the effects of exercise by combining it with a strong cellulite treatment or cream
Therefore you can maximise the effectiveness of cellulite on a particular cellulite area by taking one or both of the following measures: you can block those metabolic brakes (alpha-2 adrenoreceptors and phosphodiesterases, among others) with a good cellulite cream that contains the right ingredients (alpha-2 adrenoreceptor inhibitors and phosphodiesterase inhibitors, respectively); you can increase circulation deep in the cellulite tissues during exercise with a suitable cellulite cream - or immediately before/after exercise with a strong anti-cellulite treatment that significantly increases circulation.
Examples of cellulite treatments that maximise the effects of exercise when applied before or after exercise
Any cellulite treatment that significantly increases circulation can be used immediately before or immediately after exercise, in order to maximise it's effectiveness on a specific cellulite area. The best examples are cellulite-specific massage, pressotherapy, high-power radiofrequency, high-power ultrasound and vacuum treatments. High intensive monopolar radiofrequency stands out as an anti-cellulite treatment, as it provides both significant skin firming and significantly increased circulation.
Cellulite cream ingredients that maximise the effects of exercise when applied before and after exercise
Two common alpha-2 adrenoreceptors are golden chamomile extract and the herbal extract yohimbine. An examples of phosphodiesterase inhibitor is caffeine. In addition to inhibitors, a good cellulite cream should also contain fat release stimulators, such as forskolin, and circulation enhancers such as the horse chestnut extract escin, the butcher’s broom extract ruscogenin etc.
These are some of the many anti-cellulite cream ingredients that can be used together with vigorous exercise to maximise and focus the effect of exercise where the cellulite cream is applied. Needless to say that a cellulite cream that is more concentrated and contains many different active ingredients will have more effectiveness than one with a low concentration of a couple of active ingredients.
The effect of a cellulite cream combined with exercise is more subdued than that of a cellulite treatment combined with exercise. However, given that an one-month supply of a quality anti-cellulite cream costs roughly the same as a single anti-cellulite treatment, cellulite creams are is a very cost-efficient solution. Furthermore, if you exercise very often you can further enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the cream.
Cellulite treatments and creams cannot be used with low intensity exercise for spot cellulite reduction
This combination of cellulite creams and treatments with exercise is only effective when vigorous types of exercise are performed, such as interval training, fast running, spinning classes, fast cycling, or when playing vigorous sports such as basketball, football, netball etc. Unfortunately, light, slow exercise - such as Yoga, Pilates, slow walking and slow running - is not expected to provide any significant results, due to the low amount of adrenaline and noradrenaline released during such activities.
This is because, at low adrenaline levels (low intensity exercise) fat cells stop releasing fat after about 20 minutes of exercise. After that time, whatever fat is to be burned during exercise originates from the liver or from fat stored in the muscles - not from fat cells. As a result, low intensity exercise can not boost the effectiveness of the treatment or cream, because it can not stimulate the release of significant amounts of fat. All in all, low intensity exercise is better than nothing, but if you really want to reduce cellulite fast you should opt for high intensity exercise or sports.
[Safety note: always check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ability to safely perform vigorous exercise]
"The ........... (fill in the dots with your favourite gimmick) melts the fat which is then naturally removed from the body via the kidneys"
Claims about effortless fat-melting treatments and creams are everywhere: on web articles, in newspaper pieces, on magazine reviews, in blogs and in company brochures. Several providers of anti-cellulite treatments (typically laser, acoustic wave and similar treatments) as well as producers of "anti-cellulite trainers", corsets, underwear and jeans, claim that these treatments/products can “melt the fat", which is consequently "naturally expelled" from the body, through the kidneys or liver. This cannot be further from the truth, as any biologist or doctor knows. Emphasis is placed on the phrases "melt the fat" and "naturally expelled", which do not make any sense, as we will see below.
Cellulite fat tissue can not “melt” with any treatment, "serum" or fancy pants - and fat itself does not need to melt, it is already in liquid form in the body
The reality is that the cellulite adipose (fat) tissue cannot "melt" with any treatment - surgical or non-surgical. Period. Such a treatment does not exist. Neither any anti-cellulite “serum”, lotion or cream can melt cellulite fat tissue instantly in order to “remove 49% of your cellulite in 7.5 minutes” or similar time. No anti-cellulite serum "melts" cellulite fat, or any kind of fat, neither in 10 minutes nor in 10 years. Neither of course fat tissue melts with tights that contain caffeine in their fabric or because of anti-cellulite pants that “emit far infrared rays that melt the fat which is then disposed by the body naturally”. These claims are so absurd that they sound like they came out of a comedy sketch. Yet the sad thing is that a large proportion of women believe in them.
I specifically used the term “fat tissue” in the above three paragraphs to avoid mistaking “fat tissue” for “actual fat stored in the fat tissue”. The actual fat stored in fat tissue does not have to be melt because it is already in liquid form in the body (referred to as "lipid" droplets in scientific literature). So even in that respect, the “fat melting” claims are a fraud.
Putting things in perspective
The truth is that some treatments (only a small proportion of the large number of radiofrequency and ultrasound treatments available) do damage a certain proportion of cellulite fat cells, with fat from those damaged fat cells spilling in the nearby tissues. This process is called adipolysis. The same treatments can also stimulate the cellulite fat cells to release fat into the intercellular spaces. A small minority of highly concentrated anti-cellulite creams can also stimulate that process, which is known as lipolysis (most cellulite creams contain so little in the way of active ingredients that almost no lipolysis occurs when you use them).
What happens to fat that is released by fat cells?
The fat released and “spilled” into the tissues by either the lipolytic action of treatments or creams, or by the adipolytic action of (a small proportion of) cellulite treatments, has then to be taken up by the lymphatic system and transported onto the liver, muscles and other tissues where it has to oxidised ("burned") for energy.
Unless that fat gets burned for energy in the muscles, liver and other organs, it will end up being re-absorbed and stored in some fat cells somewhere else in the body. For fat to be burned for energy, the body has to be in a calorie deficit mode (less calories consumed than being burned for energy). Only a calorie deficit arising from more exercise and less eating can ensure that the released cellulite fat will be burned for energy and it will not return into the fat cells.
Fat can not be expelled by the body - it can only "burned" by diet and exercise
In summary, under no circumstances fat melts and then gets urinated or defecated away by the body, as many brochures, websites and misleading magazine/newspaper articles would have the public believe. Fat is not some kind of unwanted wind that the body has to "expel". For the body, fat is a valuable fuel source that can only be eliminated if it is oxidised for energy.
The reason cellulite treatment providers/product manufacturers make these claims is to mislead women into thinking that they do not need to diet or exercise, and that all they have to do is pay a small fortune for a convenient, "non-invasive lunchtime fat removal procedure".
So the next time you read about a treatment, cream or special garments that "melts the fat", you know that whoever makes that claim are lying, so stay well clear of them. Fat can be reduced, released, and then oxidised by the body, with a good treatment / cream in combination with diet and exercise. But it can not be melted and the urinated or otherwise "expelled away naturally from the body".
"Reduce the appearance of cellulite by 45% in 8 minutes"
Cellulite affects 90% of women after the age of thirty so demand for effective solutions is high. Unfortunately when there is high demand for a solution to a problem there is also a high supply of deceptively marketed and exaggerated claims. Be it cellulite, baldness, erectile dysfunction or overweight - you name it - there is always a product that can supposedly immediately eliminate those problems - in no time...
However, ludicrous claims such as the one on the heading of this paragraph have nothing to do with reality. Cellulite cannot be reduced by 45%, or any other imaginary percentage, in 8 or so minutes by a mere “anti-cellulite” gel, serum, lotion or cream. Such claims simply have no scientific base.
It is physiologically impossible to reduce cellulite in such a short period of time and to such an extent, with any treatment or any cream, of any kind. This is yet another example of a “too good to be true” claim that the only thing it achieves is make women disappointed, suspicious and cynical of real treatments and creams that do work.
"Remove your cellulite in one convenient lunchtime procedure"
Similarly to misleading claims of instant cellulite reduction with a mere serum, there are also instant cellulite removal "lunchtime treatments" advertised that claim to remove all - or most - your cellulite in one or two, "non-surgical" lunchtime procedures. These "non-intrusive" treatments typically cost a small fortune and unfortunately the only thing they remove is the money of women with more money than sense.
In fact, we regularly receive phone calls from women who ask us why don't our treatments completely remove all cellulite in one single treatment as "XYZ" treatments does, and we try to educate them and advise them not to believe in miracles. However, in many cases people are not prepared to listen, given that quite often the sound of marketing hype is much louder than the voice of reason.
Real cellulite reduction
The fact of the matter is that in most cases cellulite cannot be completely eliminated due to permanent changes occuring in the skin connective tissue architecture. However, cellulite can be significantly reduced with a combination of exercise, healthy diet, a concentrated anti-cellulite cream and a course of 6-12 intensive cellulite treatments (depending on severity, and definitely not in one or two "lunchtime procedures"). Quite simply, there exists no instant, effortless and/or complete cellulite removal with any serum, treatment or cream - no more than Santa exists, anyway...
- If you have used cellulite creams before, you would know that most of them don't do much (if anything) or at best they offer a short-term effect. This is because most creams contain very little in the way of active ingredients and aim for a quick short-term effect (gimmick) based on functional ingredients (the "base" of the cream).
- The problem with cellulite is that, as we mentioned elsewhere on this website, it is a complex aesthetic problem. So by definition, an anti-cellulite cream that "works" must contain high concentrations of several high purity active ingredients, which act on many or all the aspects of cellulite, as mentioned above. However, out of ignorance and/or for reasons of keeping costs low and profits high, most anti-cellulite creams contain one, two or three active ingredients, of low specification and at low concentrations, hence the complaints by the public about cellulite creams.
- Another reason is the use of the cellulite cream for too short a time for it to create any real changes. Adipose tissue and connective tissue take several weeks to respond to any anti-cellulite cream or treatment. So a 2-3 week use before holidays of even the best cream will not produce anything other than a short-term result based on water retention (puffiness) reduction.
- Furthermore, for cellulite to be reduced, a healthy lifestyle must be maintained, which means exercise and avoidance of sweets, fried food, fatty food, excessive carbs, smoking and alcohol. It is unrealistic to indulge on all the above and then expect from a cream - or even a treatment - to offer any results. Unfortunately, in the fight between chocolate muffins and anti-cellulite creams the muffins win.
- And finally, genetics and the overall health of the user has to be taken into account. A young, healthy woman with good genes will react faster and better than an older one, or one who suffers from different health/metabolic problems, or one who has "fat" genes, even if they have an identical lifestyle. In the latter case, more discipline with lifestyle and more perseverance with cellulite reduction methods (treatments, creams) will be needed.
- So, in summary, there are three reasons why cellulite creams do not work: cream quality; lifestyle; genetics / overall health. A cream manufacturer has the responsibility to offer a quality, multi-ingredient cream that offers the user the best chances of reducing her cellulite, if she follows a healthy, cellulite-busting lifestyle. The rest really is up to nature!
- Cellulite is scientifically defined as Oedematous Fibrosclerotic Superficial Panniculitis (OFSB). In plain English this means: inflammation of the excessive superficial deposits of fat, accompanied by water retention and connective tissue deformity / scar tissue. Cellulite has also been likened to hypodermal stretch marks, i.e. stretch marks of the deeper layers of the skin (hypodermis).
- Since in most cases cellulite is accompanied by skin and connective tissue looseness, we should add that component to the official definition. In most cases, oxidation, glycation and capillary weakness / excessive permeability are also contributors to cellulite and integral aspects of this complex aesthetic condition.
- Regarding cellulite creams, it is evident by the complex nature of cellulite that one, two, or even three active ingredients cannot be of much help. A multi-pronged approach that tackles all aspects of cellulite is needed: fat accumulation, skin/connective looseness/injury, circulation, glycation, oxidative damage, inflammation.
- Therefore, an effective cellulite cream is one that contains multiple active ingredients that act on all aspects of cellulite, in high concentrations.
- This is yet another urban myth propagated by ignorant people who know nothing about anti-cellulite massage, or cellulite reduction in general, for that matter.
- The one-minute amateur light massage needed to apply a cream is 60x times less effective than a light sixty-minute anti-cellulite massage. And it is probably 180x times less effective than a proper, full-on, strong anti-cellulite massage.
- Now, if you have had one of the light cellulite massages before, you would already know that these don't do anything for cellulite. And if you were lucky enough to have found a specialist therapist who offers the super-strong variety, you would also know that at least six sessions of that super-strong, skilled, sixty-minute massage is necessary to see some good results, with twelve sessions being ideal.
- So in summary, the one-minute amateur massage applied every day to help absorb the cream is 1,080 times less effective than a course of six proper anti-cellulite massages, that are needed for some decent results and decent customer satisfaction. So if any results that are produced by an anti-cellulite cream are definitely down to the cream and not to the little massage needed to absorb the cream.
- The myth that creams do not get absorbed is propagated by ignorant people who have never bothered to read a science paper on this matter. Creams do get absorbed and there are thousands of science papers dedicated to transdermal absorption of creams - just have a look at this list for a start. Last time we checked there were 16,072 science papers on the subject: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=transdermal+absorption.
- There are also entire textbooks written on the subject of increasing transdermal / percutaneous absorption of creams containing cosmetic active ingredients or even drugs into the skin:
- In fact, since July 2013 the effect of skin absorption of active and functional ingredients of cosmetics is regulated by law in the EU, according to "EU Cosmetics Regulation 2009", with very strict guidelines on the level at which different substances can be absorbed into the body (of course our products fully comply with these very strict EU laws).
- All in all, creams do get absorbed and there are multiple ways to maximise and also speed or delay absorption, depending on the intended effect of the cream.
- Yes, they are extremely important!
- Fibrosis, glycation, inflammation and oxidative damage are all parts of cellulite, for which even the best, most powerful cellulite treatments cannot do that much.
- A good anti-cellulite cream, highly concentrated with multiple actives that act on all those four factors can provide valuable help, which is almost impossible to get with treatments
- Furthermore, a good anti-cellulite cream, highly concentrated with multiple actives that are well researched for their lipolytic, circulation boosting and skin firming action can synergistically assist any treatment, an addition to working well on their own too
- And, yes, a good cellulite cream DOES get absorbed, if properly formulated. Creams do get absorbed and in fact there are strict guidelines set by EU regulators about the maximum amounts that can be absorbed into the body by a cream.
- (The notion that creams do not get absorbed is based on either ineffective absorption systems in many cheap / badly formulated commercial creams, or in the usual ignorance about beauty shown by many beauty therapists and beauty journalists alike)
- However, you may have noticed that I repeated the phrase "a good anti-cellulite cream, highly concentrated with multiple actives" twice above. This is because, for cost-cutting reasons, most cellulite creams simply are not concentrated enough and do not contain actives against all seven facets of cellulite mentioned above.
- A proper cellulite cream is expensive due to the high amounts of multiple expensive active ingredients needed for it to be effective, in the same way a good cellulite treatment is expensive due to the expensive technology used (cheap treatments performed with low-spec machines do not help much with cellulite)
- Unfortunately, the cheap creams, and quite a few expensive ones, which only contain one or two (or even zero!) anti-cellulite active ingredients in low concentrations will not work (hence the public's correct notion that most "cellulite creams do not work").
- In summary, a cellulite cream is indispensable, as it can complement / replace treatments, but only if it is comprehensive and highly concentrated, and if it is used long enough
- Three months of continuous use is ideal for bst results, which is also the same time it takes to finish a proper course of 6-12 cellulite treatments
- Cellulite creams and topical fat reduction creams help you release fat from one specific area (spot fat reduction). However, no cream or treatment can help you burn fat. Creams and treatments just release fat from a specific "stubborn" area, in order to help you lose fat / cellulite from that area. Then, it's up to you burn the released fat yourself by being on a negative calorie balance, via diet and/or exercise.
- If you apply a cream all over your body, on stubborn and not stubborn areas alike, then there is no comparative fat release on stubborn areas - you just stimulate release of fat all over your body
- However, this fat still needs to be "burned" with diet and exercise, as mentioned above. So by applying a topical fat loss / cellulite cream all over the body, the cream application is not topical any more and the effect is the same as diet and exercise alone.
- This is why you should apply such creams only on one or two body areas
- Theoretically, cellulite creams that contain circulation enhancing or skin firming active ingredients can be applied throughout the body, to help with whole body skin firming and circulation
- However, similarly to topical fat loss creams applied throughout the body, the same effect can be achieved by taking a nutritional supplement that contains the same actives found in the cream. In that case the cellulite cream becomes a skin-specific nutritional supplement applied externally instead of being taken orally.
- Of course, in the latter case, the effectiveness of the cream depends on it's concentration of circulation / firming actives and on it's absorption capability, both of which are not guaranteed, especially with cheap creams...
- So if you are interested in a full body effect, take supplements and do diet and exercise. If you are interested in a localised effect on a stubborn area, still do diet and exercise, and in addition use a good slimming / anti-cellulite cream. Just make sure you do your research first, and pick a highly concentrated, easily absorbable cream!
- Retinol, caffeine and ruscogenin (butcher's broom extract) are well-known natural anti-cellulite chemicals, which are used, in lower or higher concentrations, in many anti-cellulite creams.
- In this study, the efficacy of a cream containing the combination of all three actives was tried on a group of 46 women for 84 days.
- Skin texture, dermal and hypodermal structures, mechanical characteristics and superficial blood circulation were assessed using several non-invasive methods.
- At the end of the study the researchers concluded that both the orange peel appearance as well as circulation were significantly improved, in relation to placebo: "The association of the three tested active ingredients was significantly active on the 'orange peel' appearance of the skin, which is the most apparent manifestation of cellulite (53.1% at T84 versus 14.1% for the placebo)"
- "This combination of different evaluation methods resulted in the demonstration of significant activity of the anti-cellulite product versus baseline and showed its superiority versus the placebo in skin macrorelief (decrease of the "orange peel" effect) and an increase in cutaneous microcirculation"
- Clearly, cellulite creams do get absorbed (contrary to the urban myth that creams do not get absorbed) and they do work, especially if multiple natural actives are combined - especially in high concentrations.
- Source: A double-blind evaluation of the activity of an anti-cellulite product containing retinol, caffeine, and ruscogenin by a combination of several non-invasive methods.
- Abstract: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was conducted with 46 healthy female volunteers in order to test an anti-cellulite product containing retinol, caffeine and ruscogenine. An evaluation of different parameters related to cellulite appearance, i.e. the skin macrorelief, the dermal and hypodermal structures, the skin mechanical characteristics, and the cutaneous flowmetry was assessed using several non-invasive methods. This combination of different evaluation methods resulted in the demonstration of significant activity of the anti-cellulite product versus baseline and showed its superiority versus the placebo in skin macrorelief (decrease of the "orange peel" effect) and an increase in cutaneous microcirculation. By using a combination of methods, it was possible to detail the activity of an anti-cellulite product and to show superiority of the product in comparison with the placebo.
- Several herbs have an an anti-cellulite action, due to their lipolytic (fat-releasing), adipolytic (fat cell-inhibiting), circulation enhancing, connective tissue repairing, skin firming, anti-inflammatory, anti-glycation or antioxidant action.
- Some herbs have multiple actions on different aspects of cellulite - for example caffeine boosts both circulation and lipolysis (fat release) and centella (gotu kola) boosts circulation, skin repair & skin firming.
- Anti-cellulite herbs should ideally be applied on the skin in the form of anti-cellulite creams but only if they are contained in high enough concentrations and the extracts used are of high quality. Low concentration or low purity ingredients represent a waste of money and time.
- Herbal dietary supplements can also be helpful, but you should make sure they are safe for internal use and not to exceed the recommended dosage. All herbs below are safe for external topical use, but some are not safe for internal / oral use.
- The most well-researched and established anti-cellulite herbal extracts are: Forskolin (Coleus forskholii extract), Escin (Horse chestnut / Aesculus hippocastanum extract), Esculoside (Horse chestnut / Aesculus hippocastanum extract), Ruscogenin (Butcher's broom / Ruscus aculeatus extract), Dihydromyricetin (Southern wax berry / Myrica cerifera extract), Caffeine (Coffea arabica/robusta extract), Raspberry Ketone, Resveratrol (found in several herbs and especially in red grape skin), Epigallocatechin gallate / EGCG (Green tea / Camellia Sinensis extract), Hesperidin (flavonoid found in several herbs), Sericoside (Terminalia sericea extract), Ximenynic acid (Sandalwood / Santalum album extract), Asiatic acid / Madecassic Acid / Asiaticoside (Gotu kola / Centella asiatica extracts), Genistein (Isoflavone from soya), Red Pine Bark Extract Polyphenols (Pinus maritima / pinus pinaster extract), Cocoa Polyphenols (Theobroma cacao extract), Green Coffee Bean Extract (Coffea arabica extract), Curcumin (Turmeric / Curcuma longa extract), Proanthocyanidin A2 (Flavanol / Polyphenol), Pterostilbene (Resveratrol analog), 18-beta Glycyrrhetinic Acid (Liquorice / Glycyrrhiza glabra extract), Chrysanthellum Indicum Extract (Golden chamomile), Sclareolide (Clary sage / Salvia sclarea extract), Rutin (flavonoid found in several herbs), Fucoxanthin (Wakame / Undaria Pinnatifida extract) and Gingko biloba extract - among many others.
- Furthermore, all culinary herbs, spices, vegetables and berry fruits are ideal natural sources of anti-cellulite agents and should form the basis of any anti-cellulite diet.
Caffeine + diet/exercise = results
Caffeine on it's own = just moving fat from one fat cell to another
Caffeine is the most widely known lipolytic chemical (lipolytic is a chemical that "break down" fat). However, as everybody knows coffee or caffeine itself does not help you lose weight. Why is that?
The answer is simple: caffeine does indeed break down triglycerides (fat) inside fat cells and stimulates the fat cell to release those triglycerides into the circulation. However, if fat is not oxidised (burned) for energy in muscles or other organs, it will inevitably be absorbed by another fat cell and stored there.
So unless you burn the fat with exercise or diet, that fat will end up back into a fat cell somewhere in the body. In this case, all that caffeine will help you achieve, is to move fat from one fat cell to another.
On the other hand, if you do eat less and exercise more, the fat released due to caffeine, exercise, diet or all of the above, will be oxidised into carbon dioxide and water and expelled from the body via the lungs and urine & sweat, respectively. This is why most diet pills contain caffeine: it stimulates the expulsion of fat from fat cells. But the rest (i.e. burning the expelled fat) is your job.
So in summary: caffeine + diet + exercise = results. Caffeine on it's own = just nerves ;)
Caffeine cream + exercise / diet = spot fat reduction
Caffeine cream on it's own = reduced effectiveness
On the other hand, caffeine applied locally, as in anti-cellulite creams that contain caffeine, is effective in reducing local fat, because it does help expell the fat from fat cells in that SPECIFIC area where it is applied, and thereby reduces local fat and cellulite.
Of course, if you don't exercise / diet when you apply the caffeine-containing cellulite cream, the released fat will end up in the blood circulation and it will be redeposited somewhere else in the body(as we explained above). In fact, some of it will actually be redeposited on the same area.
That's why you need to exercise / diet when you use a cellulite cream. If you don't, you just reduce the effectiveness of the cream and waste some of your money down the drain.
On the other hand, if you exercise / diet and use an anti-cellulite cream (with or without caffeine) on a specific area, you can reduce cellulite and local fat from that specific area. This is called spot fat reduction and it is impossible by just exercising a specific muscle on that area.
If you are going to bathe on caffeine cream, just drink coffee instead
Finally, it does not really make sense to apply a caffeine / cellulite cream all over your body, because then you do not achieve a localised effect and the result of the whole body application is equivalent to... just drinking coffee, i.e. pointless, as we described on the first paragraph of this article. So be smart and use an anti-cellulite cream locally - on one or two body areas max - don't waste money on slapping it all over your body!
- First of all it is important to note that, due to the multi-faceted nature of cellulite, most cellulite creams do not work, usually due to low concentration of actives in most creams. Likewise most cellulite treatments are not very effective due to low equipment specification / therapist knowledge of cellulite. However, a small number of treatments and creams are effective and the differences are as follows.
- A good cellulite treatment will provide more impressive results and much faster than a good cellulite cream, but it also tends to be much more expensive. A typical quality cellulite treatment costs £150-£250 per session (price is not the best indicator, but these are the average prices for the few good treatments that exist) and a course of 6x sessions is typically recommended, bringing the total to £900-£1500 for satisfactory results. With treatments once to twice a week, good, long-term results will be seen in about 4-5 weeks.
- A good cellulite cream takes more time to produce results but it much more economical. A typical quality cellulite cream costs £100-£150 per one month supply and for good results 3-month use is recommended, bringing the total to £300-£450.
- Of course, some immediate, short-term results may be seen in as little as a few hours, with either treatments or creams, and the first long-term results may appear in as little as 2 weeks in both cases, but for long-lasting, good results these numbers of sessions or creams are typically recommended.
- Mild cases may need less treatments (even as little as 3x) and severe cases may need more treatments (even as many as 24x). The same applies to creams: mild cases may require just one month's use of cream, while the very severe cases may need up to 6 months' use. It is important to note here that, contrary to misinformation in the press and on the web, cellulite cannot be completely eliminated with ANY method, so here we are talking about improvement according to severity of cellulite - not complete removal.
- So in summary it can be said that a quality cellulite cream offers more value for money but acts more slowly, while a quality cellulite treatment is more expensive but acts much faster.
- Naturally, the combination of both, i.e. a quality treatment and a quality cream, will offer the fastest and more impressive results and will provide a good balance between value for money, speed of results and effectiveness.
- In all cases, healthy diet and regular exercise are essential for maximum results and also to get the best value for money out of treatments and creams. There is no point spending £300 or £3000 for treatments and creams and undermine the whole process with poor diet, alcohol and inactivity.
- Gotu kola / centella asiatica extract acts at multiple levels to fight cellulite: it has connective tissue repair, skin firming, lipolytic, anti-glycation and blood vessel-supporting properties, thereby acting in five out of seven aspects of cellulite.
- Of course, not all centella extracts are the same, with some containing as little as .1% of the plant's main active chemicals, asiatic acid and madecassic acids, while others contain as much as 100% of those two actives.
- This means that the difference between a cheap and a high quality cellulite cream, each containing 1% centella extract but of different qualities, can be 1000-fold. Or, in other words, if you buy the wrong cellulite cream you may need 1000 of those creams to have the same results as a good cellulite cream!
- So before buying a cellulite cream it makes sense to do your research and look for quality, highly concentrated creams
- Furthermore, because of the many different facets of cellulite, one ingredient is never enough, so it is a good idea to use a cream with multiple actives, not the usual 1-2 actives, ideally including centella asiatica of course!
- As cellulite is very stubborn to treat, drastic diet and exercise interventions, beyond the basics of generic exercise and “a balanced diet” are necessary to make a difference
- At our clinic we suggest to our clients 20’ of interval training thrice/week for a strong metabolic boost, twice daily vegetable / berry fruit juicing for a strong biochemical boost and 20’ vibration plate thrice/week for a strong mechanical stimulation, necessary for circulation and skin firmness
- This lifestyle intervention, together with a highly concentrated cellulite cream that contains multiple actives, can work wonders!
- A good anti-cellulite treatment, such as high power radiofrequency, high power ultrasound cavitation, strong cellulite-specific massage or a good electro-mesotherapy treatment with highly concentrated anti-cellulite formulations can yield impressive results in a short period of time, but are difficult to find and are more costly than creams or lifestyle changes.
When the cream "doesn't work"
Most women know that most cellulite creams do NOT work, hence the very common Google request for a cellulite cream that actually does work
Most creams do not work because companies prefer to spend a ton of money on advertising, PR, celebrity endorsements and fancy packaging, as well as another ton of money on distributors and middle-men, and very little on actual ingredients. So for profitability, marketing and distribution reasons, most cellulite creams contain just 1-2 actives in low concentrations, and as a result they simply “don’t work”.
Cellulite is a multi-faceted aesthetic condition, comprising excessive fat accumulation, water retention, inflammation, oxidative damage, skin looseness, glycation and fibrosis
As such, it can only be treated effectively by a cellulite cream that contains multiple active ingredients (not just one or two), in high concentrations and of high purity. Only such a cream can offer visible, long-term results with cellulite. Given that most women need to apply a cream on large areas (e.g. thighs, butt & waist), creams must be bought in larger packages.
However, high concentration of actives, large number of actives, high quality of actives and larger cellulite cream packages, i.e. more quality AND more quantity, mean higher prices. Unfortunately, a £30, 185ml tube will not offer anything more than a bit of very temporary improvement in skin feel and texture, effected by gimmicks such as silicones and other chemicals which do nothing to really improve cellulite.
What creams work
When doing your research you must look for a cream that contains skin firming and lipolytic and circulation-enhancing and skin repair and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and anti-glycation and anti-fibrotic active ingredients, to work on all seven aspects of cellulite. Some examples of such ingredients are hydroxyproline, forskolin, escin, centella asiatica, curcumin, pine bark extract, carnosine and green tea extract, respectively.
The creams must also contain those ingredients in high concentrations to make maximum impact. Low concentrations of actives, a small number of ingredients or targeting just one aspect of cellulite (typically water retention, for faster but not very long-lasting results) will mean less effectiveness or even zero results.
When you "don't work"
After explaining why some creams work or don't work, depending on their active ingredients, lets examine why creams work or don't work, depending on how you sue those creams and live your life. No cellulite cream or treatment will ever work if you:
- Keep eating the same foods that caused the cellulite in the first place (especially sugar, excessive cards and fried food); keep drinking and smoking excessively; and are very inactive / avoid exercise for months on end
- Using the creams for just a couple of weeks and then expecting permanent results after that. It took years to develop cellulite, it won't "go" in two weeks, regardless of what the tabloid newspaper says. Ideally you should use a quality cellulite cream for 3 months, with one month being the absolute minimum, to see some good results.
- Forgetting to use the cream 50% of the time: many women simply don't use the cream and then expect it to "work". No cream works if you don't use it.
It takes two to tango
In summary, most cellulite creams do not work either because they are not concentrated / comprehensive enough and/or because you do not take the necessary responsibility to make positive changes in your lifestyle. It takes two to tango!
So please do your research on what to buy, and after you buy a cream be diligent with it's application and responsible with your lifestyle.
- A good cellulite cream should contain multiple high-quality active ingredients in high concentrations - unfortunately, for profit maximisation reasons, most don’t...
- These actives penetrate the skin and fight cellulite from different angles: some stimulate adipocytes (fat cells) to release fat or to die off early (a process called apoptosis) while others: stimulate collagen production; help repair collagen tissue; stimulate blood circulation and lymph drainage; reduce inflammation; prevent free radical damage; inhibit glycation.
- The sum of these actions results in cellulite reduction.
- A good anti-cellulite cream should contain actives that work on all seven aspects of cellulite.
- Retinol is a common active ingredient in anti-cellulite creams, because of it's anti-adipogenic (fat-fighting) action.
- However, retinol by itself is not enough to effectively reduce cellulite, because cellulite is a multi-faceted aesthetic problem. Water retention, connective tissue injury/deformity, inflammation and skin looseness are all aspects of cellulite that retinol can address.
- Therefore, if you suffer from cellulite you should be looking for a proper cellulite cream, i.e. one that contains multiple active ingredients in high concentrations.
- Furthermore, as high quantities of retinol can be toxic, the latest EU regulations restrict body creams with high concentrations of retinol. This practically means that retinol has to be just one of several - even ten or twenty - actives contained in one cream. And it might as well be, as in this way cellulite can be fought on many different fronts, for better and faster results.
- So if you are looking for a retinol cream for cellulite, don't bother with a single-ingredient, retinol-only solution: for all the reasons outlined above, it is not going to work. Look instead for a real anti-cellulite cream with multiple actives in high concentrations, including retinol but not only.