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We've all seen the claims sometimes too compelling to ignore:

"Smoothes the skin as it firms, tones, trims and energizes."
"Active ingredients to help reduce the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks"
"Melt away cellulite with our innovative serum!"

Often containing intriguing ingredients such as cayenne pepper and chocolate, it's easy to buy into the hype. But can we really tone, firm, energize and get rid of cellulite by slathering ourselves with the latest potion?

What is cellulite?

Often referred to as orange peel or cottage cheese skin, cellulite is a skin condition that shows up on the body in areas including your thighs, stomach or behind.

Fat accumulating under the skin causes it. As we age, dropping hormone levels may cause the fibers that connect muscles to our skin to contract (shorten), which results in fat getting trapped between them. This trapped fat puffs out around the fibers and appears as dimples or cellulite. Poor circulation is thought to make cellulite look worse by causing the accumulation of fluid in the pockets of fat.

Though you'd think cellulite was related to weight, it is in fact attributed to genetics and aging. Cellulite is found on skinny and overweight women alike. In fact, 80 to 90% of women will develop cellulite in adulthood, primarily because our bodies and fat distribution change after puberty. Men tend to escape cellulite because their bodies store fat differently to women and their skin is thicker making the pockets less visible. Smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise are thought to worsen the condition - no surprise there!

So should you spend your money on cellulite creams?

Manufacturers often claim that cellulite creams work by 'firming' the skin thereby diminishing the appearance of the cellulite. Some typical ingredients include caffeine - purported to drain water from fat cells and retinol - for firming and toning. Although these are active ingredients when applied to the superficial layers of skin, they would need to penetrate very, very deeply to work on cellulite at the subcutaneous layer of fat below the skin. Most ingredients simply can't get to where they need to go. The plumping and firming action of some ingredients will decrease the appearance of cellulite, but certainly won't get rid of it. And you will need to keep reapplying to continue receiving the benefits. Despite what any one product claims, none have been shown to drain fat cells, get rid of cellulite or redistribute the fat.

Last word

If you still think that it might be a good idea to try out a cellulite cream, you should keep this in mind. The New York Times reported on a study by Harvard Medical School faculty member Dr. Avram in August 2005. After reviewing 27 years of medical literature looking for scientific proof that creams make a real, lasting difference, he concluded "there is no evidence to show that any topical medications improve cellulite," in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy.

Though nothing will get rid of cellulite permanently, your best bet is also the least expensive one - exercises such as squats and lunges to build muscle.  Muscle creates a firm base that makes fat lie flat. It also boosts your metabolism, helping to shed fat that may increase the appearance of cellulite. And though it won't get rid of cellulite, it will certainly diminish its appearance while also boosting your spirits.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti-aging skin care and wellness issues facing women through perimenpause. She operates an online beauty store at [Link Removed] 

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