Cellulite is the dimpled, orange-peel like skin that results when fat cells break free from the sub dermal layer and push up into the dermis, the layer of tissue just beneath your skin’s surface. Hormones and genetics drive cellulite formation, but the good news is that there is still a lot that you can do to reduce the appearance of cellulite by using DIY methods that focus on: 1. Repairing cell damage 2. Regenerating collagen 3. Improving circulation 4. Releasing the ‘tethering’ of fibrous cords 5. Reducing body fat.
Let’s begin at the cellular level. In his book, “The Cellulite Solution,” Dr. Howard Murad (one of America’s best dermatologists according to Vogue) details how damage to cell walls causes the water inside to leak out, causing cell dehydration. Dehydrated cells cannot create the strong, flexible skin needed to hold fat cells in place, so if we want to minimize cellulite, we first need to repair our cell walls, and you can start with an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) supplement. Dr. Murad recommends 1000 mg of fish oil 2x/day. You can also add lecithin to your diet to further strengthen your cell walls. Food sources of lecithin include: eggs, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, apples and oranges. In addition to how to repair your cell walls, another key takeaway from Dr. Murad’s book is that cellulite, wrinkles and stretch marks are all caused by the same thing: collagen breakdown.
Repairing + regenerating damaged collagen will significantly reduce the appearance of cellulite, as this study shows. Adding more antioxidants to your diet will help prevent collagen breakdown by “…reducing the concentration of free radicals…” (Anderson). Some key antioxidants to add are: Vitamin A, found in carrots + other yellow/orange veggies + fruits, Vitamin C found in citrus and goji berries and green tea and pomegranates, which both contain polyphenols that give them phenomenal antioxidant potency within your skin. And adding bone broth to your diet builds strong connective tissue according to Dr. Kaayla Daniel, nutritionist (“Cellulite: The Bottom Line”, dr.kaayladaniel.com, Nov 2016). If you don’t like bone broth, she suggests adding collagen peptides to whatever you are consuming, whether its tea, coffee, soup or stew.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled independent collagen peptide study (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2013) revealed that women who took 2.5 grams of hydrolyzed peptides once/day for 8 weeks increased their pro-collagen I levels by 65%, and had greater skin elasticity for 4 weeks after stopping supplementation. This means that “…these bioactive peptides are activating the body’s own…processes by signalling fibroblasts to make more collagen” says study lead Steffen Oesser, PhD, Collagen Research Institute, Kiel, Germany. To choose the best supplement, he advises us to seek those with studies supporting them, and we also need to look for hydrolyzed collagen to ensure better absorption. Some brands to consider (according to Elle) are: Reserveage, Beauty Scoop (backed by 10 yrs of clinical tests) and Biocyte, a popular French brand. Lastly, in order to metabolize the EFAs, lecithin and collagen into healthy connective tissue, we need a daily multivitamin B complex with “…at least 100% of the daily value (DV) for all 8 of the B vitamins (Murad, p. 48) and a multimineral supplement that has 100% of the DV of minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and iodine (Murad, p.49).
In addition to changing your diet + supplementation, exfoliation also helps to regenerate collagen as “…creating mild irritation for your skin triggers…healing” and “fibroblasts…begin to synthesize collagen fibers.” (Dr. JoDee Anderson, “Understanding + Healing Cellulite,” freshfacesrx.com, Nov 2017). Dry brushing is an excellent way to not only exfoliate, but also to encourage lymphatic drainage and improve circulation, which also happens to be the 3rd major part of our cellulite treatment plan.
The first step to improving circulation is to repair damaged blood vessels so that they can carry nutrients all the way to the top layers of our skin so that we can rebuild the healthy dermis needed to keep fat cells in place. Our blood vessels are comprised of collagen + elastin, so in order to fix them we need to provide our bodies with amino acids, as they are the building blocks of collagen + elastin (Murad, p.43). The best way to do this is through a diet including a variety of direct sources of amino acids such as: beans, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruits (Murad, p. 47).
Once we’ve added more amino acids to our diet we can further improve circulation through exercise, and one form of exercise in particular is great for increasing blood flow and ‘ironing out’ cellulite: rolling. There are 2 main schools of rolling: body rolling and foam rolling. Body rolling was created by yogini Yamuna Zake in NYC 30+ years ago. Yamuna Body Rolling, (YBR) uses balls in different sizes + densities to roll out the muscles + fascia to create a healthy, well-aligned body. Foam rolling uses a cylindrical roller to roll out the body, and one of its most popular practitioners is Lauren Roxburgh, called the ‘body whisperer’ by Goop. Roxburgh, who suggests pairing rollouts with dry brushing, says that foam rolling can “help reduce cellulite…by addressing the connective tissue and bringing in fresh oxygenated blood…you’re bringing in circulation, you’re smoothing out that density…” (“Foam Rolling Can Help Reduce the Appearance of Cellulite,”people.com, Jan 2017). And in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, physiotherapist Satoshi Suzuki states that “YBR can also be used clinically to improve …circulatory…system functions.”(The Theory & Technique of Yamuna Body Rolling,” Sept 2013). While Yamuna Zake makes no claims that YBR improves cellulite, many YBR devotees say that it does. So which system is better? While both involve myofascial release, the argument can be made that YBR is superior as the ball allows one to roll in a deep 3 dimensional way into + around muscle and fascia, whereas movement with foam rollers is limited by their linear design. Ultimately, it’s really all about what works for you. For more info, check out: yamunausa.com and laurenroxburgh.com.
YBR + foam rolling also help with the 4th part of our cellulite healing plan: releasing the tethering of fibrous cords. These fibrous bands are called septae, and they connect the skin above the top fat layer to parallel tissues in the lower layers of fat. “MRIs show that the vertical fibers correspond to depressions in the skin’s surface” (“The Cellulite Cure?” Laurie Drake, prevention.com, Nov 2011). Rolling helps by providing a “…low-load, gentle pressure applied slowly over an area…to elongate the fascia and connective tissue.” (“What is Cellulite + Can It Go Away?”, Dr.Mercola, fitness.mercola.com, Feb 2017).) The key with rolling is to do it consistently and to be realistic – it is not likely to eliminate cellulite, but it can significantly reduce its appearance.
The last part of our plan is to reduce fat. While diet + exercise alone cannot reduce cellulite significantly, it’s still important to get rid of fat as “…analysis suggests that fat globules retract out of the dermis with weight loss” (Rawlings AV, International Journal of Cosmetic Science, June 2006). Exercise and diet are the best ways to reduce body fat, and strength training could be the key. Leslie Baumann, MD, a dermatology professor at University of Miami, says that she never wore shorts due to her cellulite. But then she started working out with “…an hour of weights on the machines and 30 to 45 minutes of cardio 3-4 times per week for 2 years,” she is now 2 sizes smaller and wears shorts (prevention.com, Nov 2011). What I find interesting about Baumann’s anecdote is that she spent much more time on weights than on cardio. It suggests that building muscle could be more important than cardio when it comes to cellulite reduction, though I do not want to draw any conclusions without scientific data.
In conclusion, both scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that DIY natural methods are not only practical, (especially compared to expensive clinical treatments) but also effective, especially when executed together as a holistic plan. Through a proper diet focusing on collagen, lecithin, antioxidants and amino acids, exercise involving body or foam rolling paired with dry brushing + strength training, and supplementation with EFAs, hydrolyzed collagen peptides and a B complex + multimineral supplement, one really can significantly reduce the appearance of cellulite.