Cellulite Creams; At A Glance
- Best ResultsAre marginal
- Treatment RecoveryNA
- Procedure TimeNA
- Skin SpecialistNA
- Duration of ResultsVariable
- Back to WorkNA
Asian Skin Rejuvenation
Cellulite creams can be used as adjunctive therapy. There are many conflicting reports in the scientific literature regarding their true efficacy. At best they can be used as placebo treatments. More research is required to determine their true value.
FactsFacts on Cellulite Creams
- Retinol & retinoids can strengthen the dermal layer of skin
- Caffeine topically & orally has lipolytic (fat metabolising) effects
- Caffeine also has an effect on the microcirculation in cellulite areas
- Botanicals including green tea, marine algae, ginger & papaya can modulate microcirculation & marginally improve cellulite
- Creams are best utilised as adjunctive management
- Deep tissue massage coupled with topicals are better than topicals alone
- Procedures including subcision, dermal fillers, electromagnetic energy & radiofrequency work best
Do cellulite creams really work?
In short, despite the high number of treatments for cellulite reduction available on the market, only a few scientific investigations on the efficacy of these treatments have been published. To date the greatest evidence rests on retinoids & methylxanthines (caffeine, aminophylline, theophylline).
Note: It is difficult to identify the efficacy of a specific active agent, since the majority of creams contain caffeine, alone or in a more complex formulation, and therefore impossible to distinguish the role of each component. Read the rest of this page if you would like to know more about the fluffy side of cellulite creams.
What causes cellulite?
Although excessive weight gain increases the risk of cellulite, it can appear in young women with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI).
Other factors that contribute to cellulite include-
- Gender. Females >> Males
- Hormones – especially estrogen.
- Dietary & the role of nutrition.
- Lifestyle- lack of exercise.
What is the most effective ingredient in cellulite creams?
To date the most studied ingredient found in cellulite & anti-aging creams are retinoids. These are vitamin A derived topicals. The most common form is retinol (over the counter), prescription formulations include tretinoin, retinoic acid, tazarotene & adapalene.
Retinoids can increase collagen synthesis & strengthen the dermal layer. This can potentially offer more resistance to the extrusion forces of the hypodermis, in turn reducing the look of cellulite. Retinoids can also increase angiogenesis & hence modulate vascular supply in cellulite prone areas. Look for formulations containing 0.5 to 1.0% retinol.
The next group of ingredients include methylxanthines & then botanical extracts.
What are methylxanthines & how do they reduce cellulite?
Methylxanthines consisting of aminophylline, theophylline, and caffeine have been the most extensively evaluated ingredients used in topical formulations for cellulite.
Methylxanthines are hypothesized to improve cellulite by stimulating lipolysis and inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase, which increases the concentration of cyclic adenosine monophosphate.
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What is the role of caffeine for cellulite treatments?
Caffeine is one of the most popular ingredients found in cellulite creams. The concentration ranges from 1 to 3.5%. Higher concentrations are associated with irritant dermatitis, with rare cases of allergic contact dermatitis reported in the literature. Caffeine has a direct effect on the microcirculation as it promotes breakdown of cellulite & fat (lipolysis). It also inhibits phosphodiesterase & augments cyclic AMP.
Caffeine activates lipase enzymes transforming triglycerides into free fatty acids. In addition caffeine also stimulates cutaneous microcirculation.
There are countless formulations of caffeine containing cellulite creams, in addition to many DIY videos on how to make your own skincare from coffee beans. These topicals & DIY methods are beyond my expertise as a procedural dermatologist. I do not have any recommendations as to the best formulations. Given the low costs & somewhat low side effects profile of topicals, in addition to the fact that placebo accounts for over one quarter of consumer perception; a buy & try approach may be sensible. Apply with adjunctive deep tissue massage as this can facilitate microcirculation & lymphatic drainage.
Note: research has shown that one gram of caffeine found in skin care creams is equivalent to ¼ a cup of coffee.
What natural/botanical extracts have been reported to reduce cellulite?
Visnadine is a pure molecule extracted from the seeds of Ammi visnaga, a plant widely used in Egyptian traditional medicine as an antispastic and vasodilator.
Ginkgo biloba is a Dimeric Flavonoids Phytosome. It is used worldwide as an herbal medicine for various circulatory disorders
Green tea is frequently added as an antioxidant. This banal botanical extract can potentially reduce collagen damage to the dermis.
Escin. Escin is a natural mixture of triterpene saponins obtained from the seeds of Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut). Horse chestnut seed and leaf were traditionally used to treat varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and phlebitis, due to the activity of escin, which was shown to modulate vascular exchanges at a peripheral level. This strengthens the wall of capillaries, reducing leakage.
Bladderwrack is a form of marine algae that contains polysaccharides, iodine & alginic acid. This compound can, in theory, increase collagen in the dermis, reducing the out pocketing of adipose tissue.
Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is a plant found in Europe. It is notorious for its ability to cause phototoxic reactions as it is part of the Liliaceae family. This shrub is also a vasoconstrictor & can modulate peripheral blood flow; hence its role in treating cellulite.
Papaya & pineapple. The fruits & leaves of these plants have anti-inflammatory and antiedema effects. They contain proteolytic enzymes, papain and bromelain, respectively. The recommended concentration is 2 to 5%
Ginger extract can theoretically facilitate microcirculation of fat cells. Combined with metabolism accelerators such as L-carnitine & caffeine, ginger, in theory can improve lymphatic drainage within cellulite areas.
How are creams best utilized?
You may not be ready to commit to proven methods to treat cellulite, hence creams may be a stepping- stone for some. Give it a go if you are curious. For others, it may be adjunctive therapy to complement proven methods including subcision, radiofrequency, electromagnetic field therapy, shock wave treatments & lymphatic massage.
As deep tissue massage has been shown to be effective in the management of cellulite, a simple routine may involve application 3 to 4 nights a week with adjunctive massage for 10-20 minutes. Massage itself opens up lymphatic channels, improves circulation, & facilitates adipose tissue metabolism.
What brands do I recommend?
Really hard question. I do think if you are after a cream with the most potency, find yourself a cheap retinol cream (cheap & nasty like The Ordinary Retinol formulations) coupled with a DIY caffeine / ground coffee / used coffee grounds. This combination may be your best, cheapest & most potent formulation. Hear me out. Let us break it down logically.
- Areas of cellulite have thicker overlying skin compared to facial areas, hence irritation will be less. Thus a high concentration of a cheap retinol will be better tolerated compared to facial skin.
- Coffee grounds. You can not get cheaper than this. If you make coffee via beans, it’s free. Mix with retinol. It’s cheap, it’s nasty, it’s gritty. It may work. To date there are no studies on this method. Note; caffeine in 2-3% concentration is optimal for cellulite.
- Rub on a test patch (buttock, abdomen, flanks). Leave on for 2 hours, wash off. Increase as tolerated. Give it 6 -8 weeks before making a decision. Make sure you take baseline photos.
For the less adventurous – Eaoron Slim Shapes Anticellulite Cream. Bioten Cellufight Anti Cellulite Cream. Available at most pharmacies. Apply with adjunctive deep tissue massage.
How common is cellulite?
Over 90% of women suffer from cellulite. Thus, it can be debated that the presence of cellulite is considered a normal finding in the evolutionary process of humans.
Davin’s Viewpoint on Cellulite Creams
There are many white papers in the literature outlining the benefits of cellulite creams however placebo controlled double blinded studies are lacking.
Whilst there is evidence that caffeine can modulate adipose tissue metabolism, the majority of topical contain a plethora of other active ingredients including niacinamide, green tea, botanical extracts including marine algae, papaya, & ginkgo.
Retinol & retinoids can improve dermal thickness, namely increasing collagen production. With the event of powerful & cost effective topicals, this may be a sensible starting point. For a powerful DIY brew, mix with OTC cellulite creams, apply with adjunctive deep tissue massage 3 to 4 times a week.
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