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Do Anti-Cellulite Treatments Work?

By Amalah

Hi Amy!
I don’t have a very serious or personal question, but I was wondering about the new cellulite cream from Nivea. Does it work? Are the pills better? I have some mild thigh cellulite and it’s not worth the expensive brands, but I like Nivea’s other products and was curious. So I turn to you, goddess of google for the answers.

Nope, nope and more nope. Cellulite treatments — creams, pills, fancy vibrating devices, even laser treatments — do not work.
No, I obviously haven’t tried all of the above, in fact, I’ve only tried two personally. (Something by Bliss and a long-since-discontinued drugstore brand, something that supposedly harness the AWESOME FAT-BURNING POWER OF GREEN TEA, back when green tea was the new aloe, or whatever.)
Neither worked. At all. The Bliss treatment came with a wooden brushy torture device thing (similar to this one) that you were supposed to brush/smooth/flog yourself with in the shower — I used it until my skin turned red and other than an extremely temporary decrease in the appearance of my cellulite (which very likely could have just been caused from SWELLING, because seriously, that brushy thing could hurt if you did it for as long as the instructions told you to), I saw zero actual reduction in the dimply portions of my thighs and butt. The cream, at least, didn’t require any physical PAIN…but the “results” were probably even more of a joke.
bliss%20cellulite.jpgNew anti-cellulite treatments hit the market almost daily, but there’s just one little tiny insurmountable problem: They don’t work. Check out this article from the Wall Street Journal. This quote in particular: “There’s nothing that has been shown in any objective way to create improvement for cellulite,” says Robert A. Weiss, president-elect of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
Even expensive laser treatments are falling short, with cellulite returning within days or even HOURS after the procedure. Think about it: if sharks with friggin’ laser beams attached to their heads can’t effectively smooth out some thigh dimples, what are the odds a $13 bottle of moisturizer will do anything at all?
Going back to the WSJ article, it’s interesting to read the FDA’s take on the anti-cellulite product market (which is expected to grow to $200 million a year by 2012, up from $80 million last year). Mostly, if you want to waste your money, they’re not going to stop you with dissenting “opinions” and “science.” The devices and creams and miracle salves aren’t dangerous, so…fine. Whatever. Knock yourself out. And I think this is where they get even the most skeptical of us. It’s $12, it can’t hurt, it MIGHT help, so…we figure what the hell and toss the cream into our shopping cart.
But just remember that all the “clinical studies” that the products talk about are very small, company-sponsored studies. Like 25 people, all of whom may be employees of the product’s manufacturer. And no, they don’t really have to disclose this to you. It was a clinical study! They wore white lab coats and EVERYTHING.
Women get cellulite. We just do! I’ve had it for years, pre-pregnancies even, when I was skinny and active and everything. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. Staying (mostly sort-of) fit, moisturized and subtly self-tanned seems to downplay its appearance somewhat, and when surveying all the many costly options out there, I think “somewhat” is actually pretty darn good. Chalk the never-ending quest for super-smooth little-girl thighs up to yet ANOTHER example of society/media/cosmetic industry trying to make us feel guilty for daring to age past puberty.

Published August 22, 2008. Last updated August 22, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Liz C

    August 22, 2008 at 11:34 am

    And a lot of it is determined by genetics. Look at the older women in your family and you’ll get an idea of what might happen down the road. I didn’t stand a chance, but my 25yo daughter is taking much better care of herself than I did at that age, plus she’s got genes from her dad’s side (they have the good legs) to help balance it out.
    The media certainly doesn’t help our expectations of what we’re ‘supposed’ to look like.

  • Jess

    August 22, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I am 26, very fit, eat very healthily and am quite thin….and still have cellulite. Supermodels have cellulite. It’s horrible, but true…I’ve also noticed that those fabulous “get rid of spider/varicose veins” creams don’t work either. Self tanner is my personal best option on all fronts.

  • Suzy Q

    August 22, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Also, never believe the “testimonials” you read about diet pills. I worked for a company, which shall remain nameless, for which I wrote all 32 testimonials expounding on the fantastic benefits of this pill. As far as I could tell, it didn’t work very well. It also had ma huang in it, so I wouldn’t take it. What can I say? I needed to pay the bills.
    Caveat Emptor!

  • jennifer

    August 23, 2008 at 3:54 am

    I used to have pretty bad stretch marks and red scars around my belly region ever since I gave birth to my three kids.I had tried Vitamin E oil and cocoa butter which a number of people had recommended but unfortunately it didn’t seem to work too well. My Doctor had even suggested that I go for a Tummy Tuck. I then recently read an article about a lady who supposedly got rid of her stretch marks using a particular cream. I tried it and it worked really well. It took a number of weeks but my stretch marks soon faded away. You can read the lady’s article at the link below.

  • Wallydraigle

    August 24, 2008 at 2:11 am

    I have had cellulite since 8th grade. Yeah, 8th grade. I even swam competitively and had barely enough body fat to be considered healthy. And still with the cellulite. It has nothing to do with the amount of fat you have and everything to do with how it lies under your skin. No cream is gonna do anything for that except possibly do tricks with the light and fool the eyes a little. But it won’t do anything to the actual cellulite.

  • Colleen

    September 1, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    The only crazy-claim lotion that actually worked for me was the Strivectin-SD for my stretchmarks after having my kids. All the others were a waste of my money (incl. cellulite creams).

  • BOB

    December 3, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Greetings to all of you from a guy who is plagued with cellulite. I am 66,have had loose skin problems since puberty,addressed some of these problems through surgery,but cellulite on my legs has become a real issue. I exercise like a hound dog,eat well,and I don’t smoke(though I was once a light smoker), nor do I drink except on a rare occasion. True,my age is causing skin laxity,but it’s more than this. It’s just the way my skin is. Few guys at the gym show evidence of cellulite.
    I have tried creams to no avail. I get massages twice per week. My skin appears better afterwards,but the laxity and cellulite seem to reappear,some days moreso than others. My skin behaves differently on different days. Does this sound crazy?
    I will continue the massages;I will also take a blogger’s suggestion and use tanning cream. The reason is that light is a terrible detriment to my cellulite appearance. Generally,the darker the atmosphere,the less the cellulite is noticed. Tanning might just help. I will continue to exercise,though all my squats,bicycling,the elliptical machine,and adductor and abductor and leg press machines seem to help as I’m working out,but then my skin reverts to a sagging posture hours later.
    My problem is incredibly obvious when I stand erect,and almost nonexistent when I am prone or seated.
    The condition of cellulite and skin laxity is so frustrating to one as ambitious and determined and body conscious as I am.
    I feel for the women who express concerns about cellulite at such young ages. My cellulite became most apparent in my sixties,but skin laxity,as I said previously,has been an issue with me for the greater part of my life.
    I’ve even researched and considered different laser/heat/lymphatic drainage treatments,but the costs are high and the results,if even somewhat successful,are apparently quite temporary—for what length of time,I am not sure.
    Good luck to all with this frustrating body appearance problem or should I say “condition”?
    I thought you all might appreciate some input from a guy who shares a typically female problem.