The best cellulite creams for smoother and firmer skin (no orange peel, thank you)

Try a targeted cellulite cream to reduce dimpled skin and smooth everything from legs and bum to stomach and arms...

The best cellulite creams for smoother and firmer skin (no orange peel, thank you)
(Image credit: Getty)

Like many women, I spend a few minutes every morning in front of the mirror moisturising every square inch of skin – and yes, looking for cellulite. Like the grow-out phase of a fringe, it’s annoying. But, spoiler alert: cellulite is completely normal. You don’t have to love it – because I certainly don’t love my dimply thighs and bum – but it is natural. And in the same way that you may not be able to slay wrinkles completely, you can significantly improve the appearance with the best cellulite creams and know-how.

What is cellulite?

Cellulite is, at the most basic level, fat that is sandwiched between your skin and muscles.

'The fibres connecting your skin to your muscles pull the fat cells down as they continue to push up on your skin, which causes an uneven distribution of pressure,' explains Dr. Galyna Selezneva, a leading aesthetic doctor. 'So, you're left with the bumpy fat.' Imagine skin poking through the tiny holes in a pair of fishnet tights and you get the picture.

It's also pretty indiscriminate as it targets anyone, including Olympic athletes.

‘Between 80 and 90 per cent of women will experience cellulite at some point in their lives,’ says aesthetic doctor, founder and Medical Director of Illuminate Skin and Wellness Clinics, Dr Sophie Shotter.

What causes cellulite?

That’s a little trickier to answer.

'Cellulite is one of the most common aesthetic concerns and with good reason,' says Dr. Selezneva. 'There are many different causes that we may not always be aware of. These are multi factorial, but some are:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Lifestyle – lack of movement, staying in one position for too long
  • Diets too rich in fat, salt, carbohydrates
  • Diets with too little fibre
  • Weight gain
  • Wearing tight underwear and trousers
  • Oestrogen levels (hormones)

‘Hormones play a part, in particular oestrogen, the primary female sex hormone, although we don’t yet know why,’ says Shotter.

One theory is that oestrogen can encourage your body to produce more fat. So an imbalance between oestrogen and testosterone levels often causes cellulite. Taking the pill also increases your chances of getting it.

Another thought is that cellulite gets worse as women approach menopause because oestrogen levels decline. ‘Declining oestrogen levels cause fat cells to become larger, therefore making cellulite more visible,’ says Shotter.

As we said, it’s still a grey area. However, the reason more women get cellulite than men is the structure of our collagen - the main protein that makes up connective tissue. ‘In women the connective tissue bands are arranged vertically, allowing for fat to become compartmentalised in the pockets in between,' explains Shotter. 'In men, they follow a criss-cross pattern, which makes this less likely.'

Genetics also play a part, as your vulnerability to cellulite seems to be at least partly inherited. ‘This can come from genetic factors linked to the speed of metabolism, distribution of fat under the skin and ethnicity,’ she adds.

How to prevent cellulite from getting worse?

'Having more fat on your body makes cellulite more likely,' says Dr Selezneva simply. 'However as everybody has fat on their bodies, no-one is immune to cellulite. There are plenty of techniques to help stimulate blood flow, aid lymphatic drainage and therefore optimise the function of the lymphatic, vascular and muscle systems.'

She recommends:

  • Consistent massage in the desired area can help reduce cellulite
  • Drinking water – improves blood circulation and lymphatic drainage
  • Exercise such as squats, steps, lunges etc. help target the thigh and abdomen area where cellulite is often found
  • Lifestyle and dietary changes – avoid sitting in the same position for too long, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle or have an office job try to increase your movement, consider a standing desk or take walks throughout the working day

There are of course a few different treatments, from body brushes to our pick of the best cellulite creams and serums, that go some way to helping you work out how to get rid of cellulite. In our experience, a combination of a few tends to make the most difference.

1. Body brushing

Use a body brush at least three times a week and then rub one of the best cellulite creams into your skin afterwards.

‘Dry brushing can help to boost circulation, helping with oxygen delivery to affected areas and encouraging collagen production,’ says Shotter. ‘It also helps to improve lymphatic drainage.’

Toxins, which can build up in your layers of fat, and excess fluid are then eliminated in your waste.

Elemis Body Detox Skin Brush, £21 | Lookfantastic

Elemis Body Detox Skin Brush, £21 | Lookfantastic
This sturdy brush made from natural cactus bristles not only helps improve your circulation but it exfoliates your skin simultaneously. Win-win situation.

2. Massage

When you apply your cellulite cream, be sure to massage it in to increase blood circulation and reduce excessive amounts of fluid in areas that contain cellulite.

It's also thought that by rubbing the skin, you cause it to temporarily swell for a more even-looking canvas.

If you are particularly concerned about cellulite and are struggling to treat it at home on yourself, Dr Selezneva recommends the in-clinic Endospheres treatment. The involves using a device that produces a vibration and pressure combination that performs ‘vascular gymnastics’ on the body. This ‘workout’ generates the drainage of fluids, re-compacting of skin tissues and removal of the cellulite effect from under the skin’s surface.

'Non-surgical aesthetic treatments have taken the world by storm and the results achieved are phenomenal,' says Dr Selezneva. 'I’ve been so impressed with the proven results of Endospheres technology and how it helps my clients reach their desired goals in clinic, I find a lot of my patients are keen to combat those tricky areas of the body such as the stomach, thighs, and upper arms and Endospheres offers the ultimate targeted approach. Combined with a healthy lifestyle the results are amazing. Not only is it wonderful for those with concerns around their body, but it can also be used on the face as an to help tone those muscles, combat sagging and wrinkles and generally lift the face.'

Ingredients to look for

Be on the lookout for caffeine or retinol.

'Caffeine increases circulation to the affected area,' says Shotter. 'It is also thought to aid lipolysis, a process where the body sheds fat cells and skin appears temporarily smoother. Retinol, meanwhile, helps boost collagen production over time.'

And the thicker the skin is, the less visible cellulite bumps poking through will be. Expert thinking currently suggests applying a cream with retinol first, followed by one with caffeine.

Other key ingredients are L carnitine, an amino acid that aids with fat burning, and antioxidants to protect collagen. 'Additionally, centella asiatica increases blood flow and allows for better nutrient absorption,' says Shotter.

But don't expect miracles right away. Stick at it and combine your cream application with a low-salt diet, exercises to build lean muscle and drink plenty of water to flush out toxins. You should start to notice a marked difference in a matter of weeks.

Best cellulite creams 2022

The beauty team were more than happy to test products that promise to tone, tighten and smooth skin. However, they were careful to pay close attention to what was being promised by a brand, the formulas ingredients, the price and, of course, the results.

Katie Thomas

Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.