How to Rid Yourself of Cellulite — Really!

Cottage cheese. Orange peel.

Whatever you call the dimpled skin that shows up on the thighs, buttocks, stomach, and upper arms, it affects up to 90 percent of women. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a size 0 or size 20: Although weight gain is often blamed for unwanted lumps and bumps, cellulite is caused by a number of factors, including heredity, diet, and even medication.

These culprits—individually or combined—can result in inflammation or blocked microcirculation in fat cells, causing them to fill with fluid. But because fat cells rest between vertical strands of connective tissue called the septa, there’s little room for this expansion. It’s the crowding of these engorged cells that causes noticeable dimpling.

Unfortunately there is no permanent cure for cellulite, but that doesn’t mean you have to grin and bare your bumps. Fatty deposits can be treated with nonsurgical options, including lasers, massage, injectables, and topical ingredients. While each treatment varies, all work by shrinking fat cells, increasing circulation, drawing out water and toxins, or achieving all of the above.

Spa Services for Cellulite

Spa services that combine seaweed-based products with massage are a traditional way to address cellulite. A vigorous style of manual stimulation is performed on the body to stretch the septa and release trapped fat cells, while seaweed is applied to enhance blood and lymph flow. The increased space—coupled with improved circulation—kick-starts lipolysis, the body’s process of breaking down fat cells. Other ingredients such as arnica, green tea, ivy, and grapes can be used instead of seaweed.

High-Tech Cellulite Solutions

A number of more aggressive, high-tech options produce similar effects. Liponic sculpting was introduced in the 1980s with the Endermologie Lipomassage machine, a device that uses rollers and suction to stretch the connective tissue and promote lymphatic drainage. In more recent years, dermatological lasers inspired laser cellulite therapy, which utilizes lightwaves or radio waves to deliver heat deep into the skin, shrinking or liquefying fat cells.

Other machines, like SmoothShapes, take a multi-prong approach, combining lasers with mechanical stimulation to release fat into the lymphatic system, where it exits the body as waste. More costly than a traditional spa service, SmoothShapes feels like a deep-tissue massage and produces results that are somewhat long term. “Most people see significant improvement that lasts nine months to a year,” says Bruce E. Katz, M.D., director of Juva Skin & Laser Center, a medical spa on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Injections to Combat Cellulite

Perhaps the most controversial form of cellulite control is the use of injections. Lipodissolve therapy—a series of shots designed to melt fat—has been under investigation by the FDA due to reports of permanent scarring, hard lumps, and dark spots. Despite these isolated cases, injections remain a sought-after alternative to liposuction, with proven success. In a mesotherapy treatment offered at Allure Medical Spa, for instance, a series of lecithin injections is administered to rupture fat cells. “It’s not a miracle cure, but it’s certainly effective,” says osteopathic physician Charles Mok, medical director of the Michigan spa. “You can expect a 30 to 50 percent improvement.”

The bottom line when choosing any treatment is to weigh the expected outcome against your needs, budget, and possible risks. Also remember that results are temporary. “If you have cellulite, it’s not going to go away,” says Mok. “Treatments may help reduce it, but some degree of maintenance is required.”

Try it at a Spa: Reduce cellulite from the comfort of a massage table

California: At Spa Montage at Montage Laguna Beach, the Algae Cellulite Massage involves a contouring rubdown with an algae-based cream that removes cellular waste and improves skin tone.

Hawaii: Blue clay, fennel birch, ivy, black currant, and centella are the keys to improved circulation and cellulite reduction in Spa Grande’s Uli (Blue) Rain Massage at Grand Wailea on Maui.

Missouri: The Cellulite Reduction Treatment at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons targets problem areas with a device that uses suction and light therapy to stimulate circulation and increase collagen production.

Try it at Home: Diminish dimpling with these topical remedies

Bliss FatGirlSlim: The caffeine-infused cream boosts circulation, softens dimples, and tightens trouble zones. Massage into skin for 30 seconds twice a day for at least two months.

Murad Firm and Tone Serum: Extracts including cat’s claw and horse chestnut tree reduce lumpiness, while cayenne pepper increases circulation. Use twice a day for best results.

Guinot Double Slimming Targeted Treatment: This cream gel incorporates a blend of carnitine, hydrocitric acid, caffeine, and other active ingredients to detoxify and firm skin. Apply morning and night to problem areas.

Decléor Slim Effect Draining Massage Balm: Grapefruit and yellow poppy essential oils combine with caffeine in this detoxifying balm to hydrate and smooth skin. Rub a small amount onto the body twice a day, concentrating on affected areas.