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 its 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.
It’s thought that this fat pushes on the tissue bands that connect your skin to your muscles, making the skin dimple. 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.
‘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 theory 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.
Like 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?
There are a few different treatments, from body brushes to our pick of the best cellulite creams and serums, that go some way to helping you 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.
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.
Which 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’ll notice a marked difference in a matter of weeks.
Here are a few of our other favourites. Just let them get to work while you sit… well, tight.
Quince leaf is the hero skin-smoother in this tingly gel. The product comes with a wealth of scientific research, too. Its USP is that it helps break down both early and stubborn cellulite. Best of all, it absorbs super fast so you can get dressed minutes after applying it.
Technically an oil rather than a cream but phwoar the essential oils it contains deserve a special mention. Sea buckthorn, sea fennel, lemon and juniper all work to boost your circulation and leave skin smelling like a spa in the process.
Caffeine combined with hawthorne extract helps to break down fat. Skin feels velvety and hydrated in the process – although the icy-cold feeling as soon as it hits the skin can take some getting used to.
Marie Claire's Senior Beauty Editor swears that this cream vastly imrpoved the lumps and bumps on the side of her thighs. She says that using it morning and night improved skin texture and appearance. It doesn't have retinol or caffeine inside, but it does have the brand's patented TFC8®, whihc encourages the skin renewal process.
Hailing from the country where bums are a nationwide obsession, this Instagram-hero is powered by guarana, a native Amazonian plant that is one of the most potent forms of caffeine on the planet.