It's something that affects over 90% of women (and 10% of men), so it's no surprise many want to know how to get rid of cellulite. While you can't get rid of it completely, you can take steps to reduce its appearance.
Ahhh cellulite. Much like stretch marks, hard to get rid of spots and many other common body hang-ups, it can cause many of us some very unnecessary emotional stress. But while it might be undesirable for many, it's important to remember that cellulite is totally normal, and caused by the body's individual distribution of fat cells and connective tissue.
"Cellulite is the lumpy appearance of skin most commonly found on the thighs, stomach and bottom area," Dr Ross Perry tells us, Medical Director at Cosmedics skin clinics. "Fat pushes between the connective tissue beneath the skin, making the surface of the skin pucker and look lumpy. Most women have cellulite of some description or indeed will get it at some point in their lives and having it does not mean you are unhealthy. Cellulite is just natural imperfections in the way the fat is contoured in certain areas."
Most experts agree that there is no magic remedy that will get rid of cellulite for good, and in this new age of body acceptance, we're all for loving the skin we're in and feeling no pressure to change ourselves. This being said, healthier food choices, cardio and some simple skin practices that will benefit your overall physical health can help reduce the appearance of cellulite, should you feel the need to try them.
How to get rid of cellulite?
1. Body brush
Using a body brush - or 'dry brushing' as it's known - is a top tip to get rid of cellulite. According to celebrity facialist and skincare expert Lisa Harris, it's a type of Ayurvedic medicine that's been around for centuries. And it works in the same way as a lymphatic massage, promoting the release of unwanted toxins.
"Using a body brush increases circulation and exfoliates the skin, stimulates the lymphatic system and aids the body’s natural way of getting rid of toxins," she tells us. "Plus it's also believed to help break down fatty deposits under the skin that can result in cellulite."
For best results, Lisa recommends dry brushing a few times a week. But even once a week will show a difference in your skin texture.
"It’s best to do dry brushing with a natural brush with stiff bristles," she adds. "A long handle makes it easier to manoeuvre too and the best time to do it is before a shower or bath when the skin is dry – hence the name."
Whilst advice varies, Lisa recommends the common practice of brushing upwards towards the heart:
"Start at the hands and feet and brush towards the chest or torso," she explains. "But brush in a clockwise direction on the stomach area."
It's important not to do too many strokes in one area as it can make your skin sore, and never brush on skin that is infected, cut or grazed as this will not only hurt but "can spread the infection" too.
When you've finished brushing, follow up with a shower or bath. Then after drying up, apply a body oil to nourish your skin and you'll be feeling like you've had a proper pamper at the same time.
2. Lymphatic draining massage
"Lymphatic drainage for cellulite is a massage technique that works on the lymphatic vessels to remove swelling, oedemas, and cellulite," the Cellulite Institute told Goodto. They claim it not only enhances circulation but additionally "improves the appearance and tone of the skin as well as its temperature, and also causes relaxation of the muscle fibres."
Some scientific research has in fact shown this type of massage can work in our favour when it comes to getting rid of cellulite.
Participants in one 2011 Brazilian study published in the Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology journal received 10 sessions of "manual and mechanical lymph drainage", each lasting an hour and a half for two weeks. After the trial, all patients said they "liked the results". Plus examiners agreed that in before and after photos "the cellulite improved for 13 of the 14 patients".
Dr Anton Alexandroff, a Doctify-reviewed dermatologist agrees this technique can help with those thigh dumples, "Lymphatic draining massage is non-invasive, effective but time-consuming," he tells us.
Indeed, finding the time to massage for an hour and a half five times a week may be hard to commit to. But there certainly seems no harm in trying a five-minute at-home massage a few times weekly.
When performing at home, always massage from the bottom up and aim for loose and rhythmic movements. According to the Cellulite Institute, it's also good to apply a "slight pressure on the skin", before moving up and then releasing.
At-home lymphatic massage, step-by-step:
- Start at the top of your leg.
- Place one hand on the inside of your leg and one hand on the back of your leg.
- Gently stretch and release the skin from the inside of your leg towards the side of your leg and up towards your hip.
- Repeat movement five times on the targeted area.
- Shift your hands lower on your leg and repeat.
- Keep shifting down and repeating this step until you reach your knee as shown in the pictures.
3. Retinoid skin products
Dermatologist Dr. Anton Alexandroff says that retinoid products are usually recommended when trying to get rid of cellulite.
"Topical treatments include retinoids which can help collagen production and dermal thickness," he tells us. "They also promote lipolysis - fat conversion. And topicals work better in combination with massage."
Harvard Health also credits Retinoids with stimulating the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which in turn improves circulation and skin colour.
Dr Alexandroff recommends retinoid products by Clarins, Shiseido and Glytone. And this Clarins Extra-Firming Body Cream contains retinol and boasts good reviews. Use it to moisturise before bed, or even better, after a quick lymphatic draining massage to see visible results.
4. Collagen peptides
Collagen is your skin's best friend, so it makes sense to boost your collagen count to help with the appearance of cellulite.
As we age, our body produces less collagen, which one Michigan Medical School study found leads to us developing wrinkles and dry skin.
"Cellulite breaks collagen bands in your skin’s connective tissue and collagen works to strengthen the skin’s elasticity and repair damaged tissue," explains Dr. Ioannis Liakas, Medical Director at Vie Aesthetics. "Taking Collagen Shots like those from ProtoCol, help to boost your dermal metabolism, strengthen and repair damaged tissue while improving your skin’s elasticity."
Dermatologist Dr. Anton Alexandroff agrees: "Cellulite improved with collagen peptides intake after six months. But it works better in normal-weight women and less so in overweight women."
Rejuvenated is another brand that offers collagen shots. They recommend taking their shots daily for 12 weeks to see the full benefits. "These findings fit with results from clinical studies regarding our product," they explain.
5. Cellulite creams
Cellulite creams are widely available online and stores. But do they deliver results?
It's important to remember that creams will only really help the appearance of cellulite if combined with a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regime. They can help superficially in the looks department, but they're not miracle workers, so save your pennies and don't fork out expensive creams that promise to melt the fat away.
- Best budget cellulite cream: Nivea Q10 Plus Firming Cellulite Serum, £11.99 from Superdrug.
- Best mid-range cellulite cream: Weleda Birch Cellulite Oil, £19.20 from Amazon.
- Best rated high-end cellulite cream: Clarins High Definition Body Lift, £31.65 from AllBeauty.
Our top three chosen creams to get rid of cellulite have received praise for their smoothing abilities, and we've based our selection on online reviews, while taking different budgets into account, to help you choose the cream that suits you.
For better results, why not apply the cream after you've dry brushed and showered to help lock in the moisture.
6. Drink plenty of water
Keeping cellulite at bay is one of the many benefits of drinking water.
"Dehydration may make cellulite worse," explains wellness and nutrition expert Penny Weston. "This is because water flushes the toxins out of your body. However, if your body is lacking in water these toxins will be left to gather in certain places."
This equates to around 1.5 litres a day which is plenty, as you don't want to drink too much water either - this could lead to swelling underneath the cellulite.
If you find plain water boring, flavour it naturally with slices of citrus fruit or berries. Or consider getting more H20 from your meals.
"One great way of staying hydrated is to eat more foods with a higher water content, such as fruits, vegetables and soups," says nutrition expert Linsey Doyle. "Not only are these foods great for keeping us hydrated but they're also packed with vital vitamins and nutrients that will repair cells and keep the skin looking fresher and more radiant.
7. Focus on HIIT workouts
Exercise is important when it comes to tackling cellulite. The premise is that the harder you work and the higher you get your heart rate, the more you'll burn fat, which in turn will help with the exterior appearance of said fat cells.
"This is because strength training not only improves the tone of muscle tissue, but it also helps maintain and slowly increase the amount of lean muscle tissue in your body over time, which can help to create a smoother look," he explains.
"This combined with regular HIIT will help your body burn maximum calories in a short space of time. As well as keep your metabolism elevated for hours after exercise which is beneficial in the fight against cellulite."
Running is the most obvious choice for interval exercise. As are circuits, swimming and cycling, or any form of exercise which alternates intense periods of work, with short periods of rest.
Need help with where to start? There are plenty of great free fitness apps that provide a choice of tailored hit workouts.
- Freeletics Fitness: Apple, Google Play
- Nike Training Club: Apple, Google Play
- Workout Trainer: Apple, Google Play
- 7 Minute Workout: Apple, Google Play
8. Eat foods that provide lecithin
Lecithin is a substance that you might not be familiar with, but nutritionists swear by it when it comes to beating cellulite.
It's best explained as a substance that's made up of fatty acids and is naturally found in body tissue. And the reason it helps get rid of cellulite is that it repairs tissue cells in the skin, particularly preventing fat deposits rising to the surface.
"Eating foods that are high in Lecithin is also an excellent way to help manage cellulite," says nutrition expert Linsey Doyle. "Cauliflower, spinach and peanuts are all great sources of this powerful substance."
Lecithin rich foods:
You can also take Lecithin tablets if that's more your style. Dr James Farthing, author of Beat Cellulite Forever suggests taking "1,200mg per day as a supplement, or buy it in health food stores and sprinkle it on cereal."
You can buy Lecithin tablets at health food shops such as Holland & Barrett.
9. Eat oily fish
As Linsey puts it: "If it swims it slims!". Oily fish helps the fight against cellulite by smoothing skin, improving circulation and encouraging the burning of fat cells.
"Mackerel, salmon, tuna, trout... all of these foods are excellent sources of Omega 3," she tells us. "These help enrich the skin - but are also super high in protein too. But cod-liver oil capsules are great options for those who don't eat fish."
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to lower cholesterol. This has a knock-on effect on cellulite, because by lowering your cholesterol you'll be boosting your circulation, which has an anti-inflammatory effect. This in turn prevents fat cells from swelling and appearing aesthetically worse.
Oily fish has also been proven to boost your metabolism and encourage it to burn fats, with one 2010 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition finding that 6 weeks of fish oil supplements "increased lean mass and decreased fat mass".
An easy way to remember your oily fish is the acronym SMASH - salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring. All these fish varieties contain around 30% oil in their skin - hence the name.
10. Take the stairs
It can be as simple as switching the lift for stairs when combating cellulite because this activity will raise your heart rate whilst targeting your lower body muscles.
"Stair climbing is particularly effective because it is a form of cardiovascular exercise with the added benefit of targeting your lower body," says training specialist David Weiner. "Therefore working all the main muscle groups in the area where cellulite tends to accumulate."
This short but simple will exercise will put pressure on underlying fat stores and replace lost muscle tissue to give the area a toned appearance. Indeed, British actress Liz Hurley swears by always taking the stairs to keep off the pounds and to get rid of cellulite as it stimulates circulation and keeps your skin dimple-free. So if it's good enough for her...
11. Up your protein intake
"Getting enough protein is key when it comes to providing the cells in our body with all the tools they need to grow, repair and thrive," says nutrition expert Linsey Doyle.
Put simply, high-protein food stimulates and strengthens the production of collagen and elastin, which keeps cellulite at bay. It also helps to firm up muscles that can keep fat stores in place, and reduces the dimpled effect of cellulite.
Science confirms this as one Japanese study found that it's the amino acids in proteins that help develop collagen, which in turn helps maintain healthy skin and banish cellulite.
- Lean meats
- Fish and seafood
- Kidney beans
- Skimmed milk
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
12. Avoid fast food and salty meals
We know that junk food does little for our waistlines, but it can contribute to cellulite on our legs too by building up the fat cells in our body and causing inflammation.
"Eating processed foods and foods that are high in sugar and salt can lead to an accumulation of toxins and fat in the body," explains fitness and nutrition coach Penny Weston, founder of health club WelcometoMade. "So it makes sense that reducing your intake of these will help to reduce the appearance and texture of cellulite."
Swelling is another common side effect after eating a greasy takeaway, with researchers of one Harvard Medical study reporting that high salt in your diet "promotes tissue inflammation". It's no wonder then that cellulite appears worse after a big fast food blow-out.
Take extra care to only treat yourself to fast food now and again, or similarly have a go at making your own healthy homemade takeaways to get the same flavour with less of the salt, sugar and fat.
13. Get your five a day
Cellulite is caused by a build-up of toxins, so fruit and veg high in antioxidants are the best way to beat lumpy skin from the inside out - though certain types of your five a day will prove more beneficial against dimpling than others.
Green vegetables like broccoli, runner beans and kale are best, as these are packed with fibre, antioxidants and enzymes that reportedly have a cleansing effect on the bowel and remove toxins. Go one step further and eat them raw if you can - as uncooked veggies contain more nutrients.
Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are also amongst the best to help get rid of cellulite. Try celery, oranges, grapefruit, peaches and plums, as they’re low in natural sugar and high in fibre. These citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C which is additionally great for cellulite. One 2018 study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found that this particular vitamin boosts the production of type one collagen in the skin, which is essential for promoting elasticity and keeping skin firm and taut.
14. Pop a supplement
Sometimes it simpler to combine our diet with a few multivitamin tablets to ensure we're getting the good stuff into our bodies. And Sonia Khan, a Senior Pharmacist at Medicine Direct, says vitamin E, B6, calcium and fish oils are cellulite-busters.
"Vitamin E can help with blood circulation and B6 helps to reduce fluid formation in the skin, which may reduce the appearance of cellulite," she says. "Calcium also reduces fat in the body, which can reduce the appearance of cellulite too."
It's those omega-3 fatty acids again that are found in fish oil which makes it a great match for cellulite. It works to lower cholesterol and blood pressure which in turn keeps your skin's cells healthy and at less risk of cellulite.
"However, I would point out that taking supplements will not rid the body of cellulite completely," adds Sonia. "As with any medicine, you should always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start to take a course of supplements for any reason. Especially for a reason that is more cosmetic than medical like cellulite."