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Save Your Thighs: The Unstretched Truth About Cellulite Creams

Dimples in your cheeks? Not so cute if we’re talking about your other ones. Blotchy self-tanners, expensive lipo, invasive lasers... women try all sorts of treatments and potions to smooth out their cellulite. The most accessible treatment, though, is cellulite cream. Many of these products promise to melt away inches from your thighs and hips, firm and contour your skin into a taut expanse, and refine and minimize your imperfections. There are high-end brands and drugstore brands; gels, lotions, and crèmes; and botanical ingredients that range from white tea to black pepper. Which of these brews should you try? How do you know that a certain ingredient will work? How the heck does a cream get rid of cellulite?

Cellulite creams work on the surface of your skin. There is no miracle cream that you can put on your thighs to eat away the cellulite, but creams work by lifting and smoothing the surface of your skin to reduce the appearance of the wretched skin puckering. Cellulite is the accumulation of fat, fluid, and toxins trapped into a network of collagen and elastin fibers in the deeper levels of your skin. It forms because blood vessels under your skin get damaged, weakening the outer layers of your skin. Fat travels directly to these spots and settles in, creating a hill and valley effect. The dense fat also decreases circulation to the outermost layer of dermis, which gives you white, ripply, cold fish skin. Ew! Women are more prone to cellulite because they carry a higher percentage of body fat than men do, but even skinny women have cellulite. Actually, doctors say that 90% of women past puberty have it, so it doesn’t matter if you’re overweight, average, or even super thin. Your genes play more of a part in orange peel thighs than anything else, although a nutrition-deficient diet and high stress levels also factor in.

So bring on the fix! Doctors say that the two most important and effective ingredients in a cellulite cream are caffeine and retinol. These ingredients help the outer layer of your skin firm up to help relieve the bumps. The other ingredients in cellulite creams are there to improve the look of your skin. They smooth the surface, decrease any stretch marks, and give you that overall “baby’s butt” softness. When searching through the various creams, you will find ingredients like Par Elastyl and collagen, which are firming agents, ginkgo, green tea, soy, horse chestnut tree extract, all which tone the skin, and various pepper extracts to give your skin that “get up and glow.”

The formulation of your cellulite cream should be a personal decision. There are creams that contain ingredients that will make your skin tingle, like cinnamon, mint, cucumber, and other plant extracts. This tingle is supposed to help increase circulation to the area and give your cheeks a flush. You will find that most of these creams have a light, refreshing, and energizing scent meant to give you a pick-me-up.

Cellulite creams also come in different textures. The gels absorb quickly into the skin and often make your skin feel tighter very quickly. There are lightweight lotions that go on like regular body lotion and don’t feel greasy. Then there are the rich emollient crèmes that must be rubbed into skin very well to prevent oil slicks on your clothes. This formulation is best before bedtime. There are even creams that come with paraphernalia to help aid in absorption. Some bring a special mitt to rub the cream into your skin and there is even a brand that includes a special pair of neoprene shorts to put on over your cellulite cream.

Cellulite creams can be incredibly expensive, but there are brands that are sold in drugstores that are just as effective. How much you spend depends on what formulations, scents, accessories, and extra ingredients work best for you. Many doctors say that expensive brands do not necessarily work better because the creams contain the same ingredients, but if you like a particular scent or texture of a cream, go for it! No matter what type of cellulite cream you buy, use your cream according to the directions on the bottle or tube. Most treatments instruct you to rub on at least once everyday. As with most skin treatments, you won’t notice a transformation immediately. It is the cumulative effect of the treatments that will create the most dramatic change, so do use the cream at least once a day, and be consistent! It's the massaging action that will make the difference between an effective cellulite fighter and a useless tube of body lotion.

Remember, cellulite cream is not a miracle cure. There are people that never see any more positive effect from their treatments than they would from rubbing cocoa butter on their skin. Creams cannot increase your metabolism or seep into the deepest layers of your skin to change your cellulite; but they can help your bottom appear tighter and banish the lumpy mattress look forever. Often, the texture of your skin will improve dramatically before your cellulite will--the lush ingredients in cellulite treatments are great for skin even if they don't work for your cellulite. And even though it is possible to see a big difference, rarely will cellulite 100% disappear. Your cream should give you the boost to improve your diet and exercise habits, a tingle that can be the kick in the pants that you need.

Burke Jones is a frequent contributor to the Cellulite Free Zone, writing on the topic of cellulite.

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