I was at the pool a lot over the summer, and the lights and mirrors in the bathroom there were less than flattering. As the summer wore on, I was certain that the amount of cellulite that I could see on my thighs was growing. Then my young daughter pointed it out one day and asked me what it was. She was blunt about it and said that it didn’t look nice, which was frankly quite upsetting. I had spent the summer trying to make things super fun, completely occupied with work and entertaining the children, and I had slacked a bit on my own self care. At 42 I am noticing more and more visible signs of ageing appearing, and it's becoming obvious that I need to start focusing more on looking after my skin all-over and not just on my face.
Cellulite is one of those frustrating, annoying bugbears when it comes to health and beauty. I eat an organic, wholefood diet, take regular walks, go to weekly yoga and swimming. I also do daily cold therapy showers and lots of other very intentional self-care practises, but I still have cellulite and visible signs of ageing creeping in.
I know I’m not the only one either. From talking to women around me, and from research, it seems that almost every woman struggles with some level of cellulite at some point in their lives, and that struggle usually becomes greater with age, as collagen and elasticity of the skin weaken. Cellulite also appears more conspicuous in the winter, or when we have no tan to hide it.
Let’s be honest, while I know cellulite isn’t physically harmful, it’s not the look that most of us want to have, and, in this way, it can cause psychological upset and damage our self-confidence.
While it’s not exactly easy to completely rid your body of cellulite, you can formulate a plan to improve your overall skin health and greatly reduce the appearance of cellulite naturally, without having to resort to liposuction or invasive treatments.
Understanding what cellulite is, and what causes it, is vital in forming a plan to minimise or get rid of it, so this week I am diving right into this issue to break it down for you and hopefully give you some tips that will be useful to implement at home.
WHAT IS CELLULITE
Okay, so I think everyone is probably familiar with what cellulite looks like - it’s the dimpled skin that often appears on the thighs, bottom, hips, and stomach. We all know it. It kind of looks like cottage cheese or orange peel. It’s lumpy and unsightly, making skin look uneven and mottled, and can range from mild to severe in appearance.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with some fat in these areas, but when the skin layers and fascia above the fat deposits are weakened then the fat below pushes up against the fascia and connective tissue, poking through and causing the dimpled, uneven look that you can see on the outside of the skin.
Cellulite can appear at any age, and especially from middle-age onwards, and in those who are overweight or have weakened skin structure. In fact, there are a few factors that can contribute to cellulite so let’s have a look at what the main causes are so that we can figure out the best way to treat them.
CAUSES OF CELLULITE
So many of the causes of cellulite are also contributing factors to a whole spectrum of dis-ease in the body. It’s the usual suspects really:
- Poor nutrition and food choices
- Lack of exercise
- Hormonal changes
- Weak skin structure
- Dehydration and fluid retention
- Lack of circulation & sluggish lymphatic system
- Being overweight
- Environmental toxicity
Two of the main contributing factors are your overall body weight and the health of your skin structure. Poor nutrition choices and hidden food intolerances can create weight gain, hormonal imbalances in the body, leaky gut and inflammation, while breaking down collagen too. All of which will affect your skin health and can lead to cellulite.
Too much sugar and starches will break down collagen and elastin in your skin faster, as the excess sugar literally stick to amino acids in collagen and forms advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, which make it impossible for the cells to self-repair. This leads to premature skin ageing, including wrinkles and cellulite. Simply put, sugar, in all its forms, is one of the most ageing substances you can put into your body.
Food allergens, inflammatory seed oils, processed foods, refined flours, heavy starches, and dehydration will all contribute to weakening the collagen structure of the skin, further allowing the fat stored in our thighs, bottom, hips and stomach to show through more easily. Keeping a healthy weight and adequate muscle mass is key to minimising cellulite, because the more fat there is to push up against our skin structure, the more the mottled cellulite appearance will show up.
Another contributing cause is a lack of circulation and an overloaded lymphatic system. For our lymph system and circulation to work properly we have to move our bodies daily with exercise of some kind. Unfortunately, many of us are so overwhelmed with work and responsibilities that we don’t make the time for daily exercise, and so our lymphatic system is often neglected. The lymph system regulates fluid retention, metabolic waste clean-up, detoxification, inflammation and much more, so if it becomes sluggish or overburdened our body can simply not remove the accumulation of substances that it wants to – which leads to sluggish metabolism, more cellulite deposits and the appearance of health issues and symptoms.
Lastly, stress will also break down collagen in the skin, as well as creating high levels of cortisol in the body, which leads to hormonal changes and inevitably further weight gain and systems breakdowns.
Crikey! No wonder cellulite is so prevalent. It's impossible to avoid all stress, and the natural process of ageing is of course inevitable. Not to mention all the environmental toxicity we all experience that impacts our hormones and our lymphatic system. These factors all contribute to the orange peel skin. The good news is that there’s lots of things we can do to improve the appearance of cellulite, so now that we’ve identified the problem areas let’s move on and get stuck into the solutions.
HOW TO TREAT CELLULITE
Okay, just to be very clear there is no absolute, long-lasting treatment for cellulite. No magic bullets. But it's not hopeless either, and there are many ways to strengthen and improve the skin to lessen its appearance, and I have outlined them below.
- Exercise & Lymphatic Drainage
This is ultimately number one on the list. An essential factor in controlling cellulite. You can stimulate and improve your lymphatic system with daily movement, dry brushing and massage.
When it comes to exercise, if you don’t feel you have time or money to take a class or two at the gym, why not take 20 minutes to do a YouTube yoga video at home, or go for a walk after work, or just aim to climb more stairs or cycle a bike when you can. In fact, stair climbing is brilliant for cellulite as it targets the key areas where cellulite builds up. Getting a small rebounder for your home, doing leg lifts and squats, or using a foam roller will also target these key areas and can be achieved at little to no cost. I dug out my foam roller recently and find it is helping to smooth out the fascia and improve circulation and skin smoothness in key areas. Just 10-20 minutes a day of any one of these will help to release your fascia, stimulate your lymphatic system, and improve the appearance of cellulite.
Dry brushing and Gua Sha will also do this, and these can take less than 5 minutes per day. With dry brushing, start at your toes and work your way up towards the heart in brisk upward sweeps, or circular movements. Intentionally focus on areas affected by cellulite and visualise it breaking down. The HigherDose Copper Body Brush is amazing for this, with ion-charged copper bristles and natural horsehair to encourage accelerated lymphatic drainage. With Gua Sha (I use the Ere Perez Quartz Facial massager), use a firm pressure to lovingly get your lymph and circulation going in your face and all over your body. Don’t be afraid to use your Gua Sha tool on your thighs, hips and buttocks! There are so many YouTube tutorials now on Gua Sha that are super helpful, and you can play them on your phone in the bathroom while you do a loving, nurturing ritual to help improve your lymph, circulation and the strength, tone and texture of your skin.
I neglected both my dry brushing and Gua Sha earlier this year, as I focused on more meditation and breathing in the morning. Having added them back in recently I have seen an almost immediate improvement in the look of the cellulite on my thighs. In fact, I think neglecting this aspect of my routine, along with allowing stress to get the better of me, were the key contributing factors in the increase in cellulite that I saw this year. I now realise how vital these rituals are to help stimulate collagen, enhance lymph and energy flow, decrease cellulite and shed stress. I find myself much calmer and more relaxed after doing these in the morning, and other than the investment in a dry brush and a Gua Sha tool it takes little time or money to do these practices.
Massage also helps and can be incorporated along with dry brushing and Gua Sha, so get a beautiful face oil and body oil and use them to lovingly massage your whole body to help break down those fatty deposits. Regular deep tissue massage at a spa or clinic can also help (if budget allows).
- Eating a skin-healthy diet
We all know by now that we are what we eat, and that eating a local, organic and wholefood diet that is anti-inflammatory is going to be best for our bodies. We are absolutely all different when it comes to which foods are going to suit us, and you need to play around with different combinations to find your perfect balance, but for cellulite management it’s best to avoid the usual suspects in terms of refined sugar, refined flours, processed food, cheap meat, soy and inflammatory seed oils.
Add in foods that will improve skin health and reduce inflammation, such as wild caught salmon, omega 3’s, leafy greens, pigment-rich berries, turmeric, ginger, healthy fats like avocado, olive oil and coconut oil etc. I have found that enzymes such as bromelain, serrapeptase and nattokwinase are anti-inflammatory and help to break down deposits, including fatty deposits. I have also added some high quality MSM to my morning routine, which is helping.
Pearl calcium is also amazing for ageing skin, as is bone broth which is naturally high in collagen. I like to make bone broth each week either from organic chicken or beef bones simmered with water, vegetables, and other seasonings for 6-8 hours, or longer. Cooking the bones over a long period releases beneficial nutrients that are easy for your body to absorb and use, including collagen, amino acids and gelatine. I use it to make soups and meals for the whole family throughout the week, as it benefits everyone. Drinking bone broth is super healing for the gut, anti-inflammatory, can aid joint pain, boost immune resilience, and improve skin health.
If you are vegan and don’t want to drink bone broth than go for a quality plant-based collagen powder, like Your Super’s Plant Collagen.
- The right kind of hydration
Drinking plenty of well-structured, hydrating mineral, spring or distilled water essential to prevent and treat cellulite, as well as overall health. Getting the right kind of water is even more vital than getting the right foods in, as so much of our body is made up of water.
It's not about drinking more and more water either, but drinking the best quality water that you can find. Please don’t ever drink tap water as it’s loaded with everything from deuterium to heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, microplastics and more from the public water system. Try to avoid drinking water in plastic bottles too, as the microplastics and toxins leaching from those containers can cause hormone imbalances and a spectrum of health issues.
At home, when I can’t get fresh spring water, my preference is for distilled water, restructured with high quality sea salt and crystals, and mineral water in glass bottles when out and about. I also love adding fresh lemon, apple cider vinegar and a squirt of Nutrimedix Stevia to my water to turn each glass into a functional tonic that hydrates, energises, alkalises and balances blood sugar.
If you want to research water and its miraculous, rejuvenating and healing effects on the body be sure to check out Veda Austin’s work, which is absolutely mind-blowing and incredible.
- Sweating and saunas
Sweating and saunas can really help to break down fat cells. Infrared heat will deeply penetrate right through the skin, muscles, and tissues, heating up the body’s core at a cellular level and helping to break down fatty deposits, move the lymph, oxygenate the tissues, improve circulation, ease aches and pains, detoxifies and helps skin to glow.
Infrared heat is also deeply relaxing, and as stress is a huge contributing factor to the breakdown of your skin (and overall) health, it’s crucial to have some de-stress rituals in your day. Infrared heat will also boost the body’s production of collagen, helping skin to stay tight and firm, helping with the cellulite and wrinkles that come with age.
I use HigherDose’s PEMF Go mat every day at home for infrared heat, grounding, and de-stressing, and then their Sauna Blanket once or twice a week too for a deeper sweat. I also have access to a full sauna at my local pool, which is amazing, so I am working in regular sweat sessions. If you don’t have access to a sauna, just ensuring you build up a good sweat with an exercise session, as that too will be wonderfully detoxifying, and stimulate your body in all the right ways while helping to break up those fatty deposits.
- Topical products
Finally, topical products truly help to strengthen the skin, stimulate collagen production, and improve cell turnover, elasticity, tone and firmness. Along with daily dry brushing and Gua Sha, I have to admit that I pretty much neglected using skincare on my body for for several months. I only scantily applied minimal body creams and oils, in favour of shortening my morning routine, and that hasn’t done my skin any favours. I find that using a body oil each day, along with re-incorporating dry brushing and Gua Sha, and a skin scrub one or twice a week, has really helped to improve the look of the skin all over the body in a short space of time.
I love The Organic Pharmacy’s Detox Body Oil and Evolve Beauty’s Timeless Renew Body Oil, as they both smell amazing and feel really good on the skin, leaving it soft, glowing and hydrated after my morning shower.
When it comes to body care ingredients to look out for, it's pretty much the same key ingredients that are beneficial in our facial skin care; retinols, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, rosehip and argan oil appear to have the greatest anti-cellulite effect. These all help to stimulate collagen production, while hydrating, firming, tightening, and smoothing the skin.
One traditional remedy for cellulite, which can be created in bulk at a minimal cost, is to add a few drops of Grapefruit essential oil to coconut oil and use that to massage affected areas of the skin, to stimulate circulation and cell turnover.
All it takes is a few minutes after your shower or bath to intentional care for every inch of skin on your beautiful body, massaging it to boost circulation and nourish the skin all over.
I hope the tips above are helpful if cellulite is something that has been bothering you. While there is no magic cure, there is plenty that you can do to strengthen your skin health and reduce its appearance, all while invigorating your overall health and showing yourself loving self-care.
When you incorporate some or all these things into your beauty routine your body will naturally feel more aligned, and your will look and feel younger and more vibrant.