According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), almost 1.7 million cosmetic surgery procedures were carried out in the U.S. alone in 2015 — including over 222,000 liposuction procedures, many of which were performed to remove cellulite. (1) Cellulite removal procedures are growing in popularity as more and more people struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
But although it might sound like the perfect quick-fix, liposuction, lasering or other means of removing cellulite surgically is not a simple means of going from a size 16 to size 6 overnight. The ASPS themselves even state that “Liposuction is not an effective treatment for cellulite — the dimpled skin that typically appears on the thighs, hips, and buttocks — or loose saggy skin.” Nothing can substitute for eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. Just as with other signs of aging, cellulite is best managed by focusing on long-term weight loss and overall health first.
So do you want to burn off excess body fat while still avoiding dangerous weight loss, or cellulite removal, strategies? I am going to explain natural ways to reduce cellulite, as well as reveal information regarding recent research about the downside of liposuction. Tips for losing weight safely will be covered, as it’s been shown that losing extra body weight helps decrease the appearance of cellulite.
As stated in a 2006 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, “Reducing adipogenesis (fat storage) and increasing thermogenesis (burning fat through body heat) appear to be primary routes, while also improving the microcirculation and collagen synthesis.” (2)
At the end of this article you’ll find specific action steps — including a dietary guide and essential oil recommendations — that will help you naturally treat the appearance of cellulite.
What Is Cellulite?
Cellulite is the appearance of lumpy or dimpled “cottage cheese skin,” which predominantly develops with age on the legs, butt, stomach and back of the arms. Basically, when you have globules of fat under the skin pushing up against the connective tissue, you have this uneven, “mottled” skin appearance. Some of the factors that contribute to this condition are a lack of exercise, hormone changes and you guessed it — your diet.
The reason adults develop areas of loose skin and cellulite is due to uneven texture of fatty deposits beneath the skin. This condition is more common in women than men, with about 80 percent of women having some measure of cellulite, particularly as they age and the skin loses its elasticity. However, anyone can develop cellulite, even teenagers dealing with weight and hormonal changes.
As a skin condition, cellulite is not serious or harmful, and therefore many choose to just simply leave their cellulite alone. Meanwhile, others are very bothered by the unsightly appearance of cellulite, especially following life circumstances such as weight gain/loss or pregnancy — or in the summer when it’s common to reveal more skin.
The Main Causes of Cellulite
Several primary factors contribute to the development of cellulite, including: (3)
- Poor diet
- Fluid retention (which also causes bloating)
- Lack of circulation (blood flow)
- Weak collagen structure of the skin
- Being overweight or having increased body fat
- Hormonal changes
- Lack of physical activity (a sedentary lifestyle)
Some other factors that can cause skin changes such as cellulite, sagginess, wrinkles and formation of dark spots include: hormonal imbalances, high amounts of stress, existing medical conditions like autoimmune disease or diabetes, genetics, poor diet, allergies, smoking, too much sun exposure and other causes of toxicity.
While the connection between dealing with stress and developing cellulite may seem far-fetched, science has shown that all of the factors above increase inflammation and contribute to signs of aging. For example, according to a July 2000 research study published in the Journal of European Academy of Dermatology, cellulite can be caused by increased levels of catecholamines due to high stress and raised cortisol levels. Things like stress and a poor diet also cause your body to slow down production of collagen, which is crucial to keep skin looking young.
Considering all the lifestyle factors that affect the appearance and health of your skin, it’s understandable why popular cellulite treatments — including noninvasive devices such as massage or radio frequency, laser and light-based treatments and invasive procedures like liposuction, topical creams and carboxy therapy — aren’t long-term solutions. (4)
The Dangers of Liposuction
Many women turn to liposuction (often termed “lipo”) in order to improve areas of dimpled skin (cellulite) around trouble spots like the thighs, hips, buttocks and abdomen. According to the ASPS, “Liposuction is used to rapidly slim and reshape specific areas of the body by removing excess fat deposits and improving body contours or proportion.” (05)
Liposuction is a surgical procedure, so it carries the same risks as many other medical or cosmetic procedures. Patients should be aware of the seriousness of undergoing liposuction, including potential consequences should the procedure go wrong.
Potential Dangers of Liposuction
While most patients only suffer bruising and swelling after liposuction, which thankfully heal over time, there is always the risk of more serious side effects occurring – including those that are mentally and physically painful. Anyone undergoing anaesthesia during surgery is at risk of heart arrhythmia, adverse reaction to the drugs or even brain damage in extreme cases. I want to be clear that necessary medical procedures for health-related problems are deemed worth taking the risk, but in most instances of liposuction, this is not the case.
If you do choose to have liposuction performed, consider doing so after trying other natural means of improving your skin’s texture. For example, I recently had a friend who lost over 200 pounds from diet and lifestyle changes. She started exercising using burst training daily and ate a diet of mostly superfoods. Her body was transformed. After losing the weight, she decided to have surgery in a few areas to “tighten up loose skin.” Overall, I admired her approach because rather than jumping to surgery first, she worked hard to get her body healthy.
Is it True that Liposuction Fat Comes Back?
Recent research suggests that patients who have undergone liposuction may find that their cellulite or body fat reappears within one year. Even more shocking? This fat reappears in a different place from which it was removed!
Researchers at the University of Colorado studied 32 patients: 14 had liposuction and 18 did not (acting as the control group). None of the patients changed their diet or exercise routines, and those who had liposuction found that while body fat decreased at first, it returned at a later time — especially around the abdomen and upper body. It was not subcutaneous fat that returned either (the kind located just under the skin), but rather deeper, dangerous visceral fat. (6) The type of body fat that came back in the post-liposuction patients is associated with many chronic diseases, including heart disease and early death.
How could this be? Noticing that the liposuction did not produce lasting results, researchers from the study explained that the fat returned after the liposuction procedure because the patients did not make any lasting lifestyle changes. For example, if you have fat removed from the hip area but continue to eat in a way that puts on extra body weight, the body continues to make and store new fat cells. As they put it, “We think the brain somehow knows how much fat is on board and responds [to liposuction] in a manner to regulate that weight. That’s why preventing obesity is so important”.
The bottom line on using liposuction for removing cellulite? Even if you have this procedure, you also have to make permanent changes to your diet and/or physical activity level. Otherwise, more fat cells and cellulite are created and stored elsewhere on the body.
Natural Treatments for Cellulite
Here are the top five all-natural tips for ridding your body of cellulite.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
It’s been shown that reducing extra body fat through means like eating a healthy diet and increasing activity helps reduce cellulite. Losing weight, and then maintaining a healthy body fat percentage, may all help reduce the appearance of cellulite for those who do not wish to resort to liposuction.
Some of the top foods for decreasing or preventing cellulite are:
- Flaxseeds. Flax is great for skin health and losing weight as it modulates estrogen levels and may also increase collagen production. You can sprinkle flaxseed on your breakfast, in your smoothies or simply eat the seeds by themselves.
- Hydrating foods. Because dehydration can lead to bloating and dry skin, try to eat more naturally hydrating foods. These include fresh veggies and fruit, especially melon, berries, cucumber, celery, citrus fruits and fresh herbs. Making Cellulite Slim Down Juice at home is one of the best ways to consume a bunch of these at once.
- High-fiber foods. These include vegetables, nuts, seeds and berries. Fiber helps cleanse the colon, curb hunger, support your metabolism and balance hormones. High-fiber foods containing lots of antioxidants, such as leafy greens or berries, are also beneficial because of their ability to decrease free radical damage (which ages skin).
- Clean protein sources. High-quality protein foods like grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, pastured eggs, wild-caught fish and organic protein powder can increase metabolism and aid in cellulite reduction. Ideally, aim to consume at least 3–4 ounces with every meal.
- Potassium-rich foods. Flushing excess fluids and waste out of cells can help reduce cellulite. Green leafy vegetables, avocados, bananas, coconut water and cultured dairy are all high in potassium.
- Healthy fats (EFAs and MCFAs). Coconut and wild-caught fish contain fatty acids that promote healthy tissue. Consume 1 tablespoon daily of extra virgin coconut oil and 1 serving of wild-caught fish (or 1,000 mg of fish oil daily) for the best results.
- Kelp. Kelp has many benefits and is a very low cost nutrient. It contains a compound called “fucoxanthin,” which is found in chlorophyll bearing green plants. It can help the body burn fat, thus reducing the appearance of cellulite. Add kelp to your diet by sprinkling a small amount onto your savory meals. If you prefer a supplement version, check out Fuco Thin by Garden of Life.
- Water. Wondering if drinking lots of water is really that important for reducing cellulite? Yes! Water keeps skin hydrated and helps flush out toxic compounds from your body. These fatty globules under the skin harbor toxins and make cellulite more visible. Clean them out by drinking 8–10 glasses of fresh water daily. Well hydrated skin will look more even, with less of a lumpy, dry or aged look.
Try to avoid or reduce these foods, which may cause or worsen cellulite:
- Sugar and salt. If you think your diet has no effect on cellulite, think again! Here’s why: Sugar causes fluid retention, inflammation and storage of body fat — all of which can increase the appearance of cellulite. Read labels and aim to reduce or remove added sugar from your diet. Limit your sodium intake as well, because salt is one of the main causes of water retention, which can worsen cellulite and bloating. Stick to my healing foods diet for best results, which is low in both sugar and salt.
- Refined flour and refined grain products. These break down quickly into sugar and are high in calories that can be stored as extra fat.
- Food Allergens. Foods like gluten, A1 casein found in most dairy, shellfish and peanuts can cause allergies or inflammation in some. This has negative effects on skin health like potentially decreasing circulation and interfering with normal nutrient absorption.
- Trans and hydrogenated fats. Unhealthy fats promote inflammation and can lead to weight gain.
2. Consume More Collagen
Connective tissue – including the layers of the skin – is comprised of collagen. So when the skin is strong, cellulite appearance is diminished. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and needed for skin’s elasticity, youthful texture and strength. One of the best ways to get more collagen is from consuming bone broth. Bone broth contains the amino acids called proline and glycine that make up collagen, along with important trace minerals and even antioxidant compounds. The collagen in bone broth can strengthen skin tissue and help reverse the underlying the causes of cellulite.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that patients taking 2.5 grams of Bioactive Collagen Peptides (BCP) experienced reduced “significant decreases in the degree of cellulite and a reduced skin waviness on thighs….BCP taken for 6 months led to a clear improvement of the skin appearance in women suffering from moderate cellulite.” And as expected, the results were most impressive in women who were overweight. (07)
3. Take Anti-Cellulite Supplements
For help reaching a healthier weight safely, while also improving the health of your skin and entire body, I recommend consuming the following anti-cellulite supplements and nutrients:
- Bromelain and proteolytic enzymes. Systemic enzymes have been used with great success to fight inflammation and to dissolve gatherings of cellular tissue. According to findings published in Biotech Research Journal, “studies demonstrate that bromelain exhibits various fibrinolytic, antiedematous, antithrombotic, and anti-inflammatory activities.” (09) Uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, gallstones and cellulite may all be broken down more easily and eliminated by the body with help from enzymes. I recommend enzymes such as bromelain, serrapeptase and nattokwinase, all of which have the ability to dissolve fibrinogen (the tissue that holds these unwanted formations together).
- Kola. This extract has been the subject of many cellulite studies, and has shown some positive results. This is a caffeine-free herb that has relaxing properties and can be taken before bedtime. It works by helping to improve the elasticity of the skin, while also making it thicker. It will help minimize the appearance of the cellulite bumps.
- And more. Green coffee extract, African mango and fucoxanthin are additional supplements that offer similar benefits.
4. Exercise Regularly
Along with improving your diet and trying natural supplements, exercise can be your best ally when it comes to shedding extra body fat and getting rid of cellulite. Although long distance cardio can be of value in boosting your metabolism and helping you reach a healthy weight, doing interval training (also known as burst training) will likely be much more effective. In 2011 a report published in the Journal of Obesity stated that “Emerging research examining high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) indicates that it may be more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal body fat than other types of exercise.” (010)
Here are some quick facts and tips to keep in mind:
- Interval or Burst training is known to increase metabolism and burn calories long after (24-48 hours) your workout is over (known as the Afterburn effect).
- Interval training incorporates short intense exercises, such as sprinting, and then returns you to a cool-down period briefly (this concept is also called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT).
- Look for a program that ideally combines burst cardio and resistance training to optimize your body’s ability to burn fat fast by exercising for only about 20 minutes a day.
- Two more effective strategies I recommend are weight training and isometric training – such as Barre, BarreAmped and Pilates. BarreAmped is an effective workout based on Pilates, dance, yoga and deep stretching. Together, these are helpful for lowering your weight, improving cellulite and toning the body. And here’s another perk: These come without the possible risks and only short-term benefits of liposuction.
5. Use Skin-Healing Essential Oils
Commercial or prescription cellulite creams can be ineffective or expensive (or both!), plus the majority are full of chemicals that can aggravate your skin. Instead, try making your own natural homemade Grapefruit Cellulite Cream. The recipe uses fat-reducing grapefruit essential oil along with coconut oil to help hydrate the skin. How does grapefruit oil help? Studies show that grapefruit essential oil contains large amounts of the anti-inflammatory enzymes, such as bromelain, which helps break down cellulite and prevent the formation of new fat cells (inhibits adipogenesis) below the skin in mammals. (011)
Precautions When Treating Cellulite
In some cases, cellulite isn’t overall harmful and is more of a concern for vanity reasons. However, sometimes cellulite may be due to underlying issues like narrowing blood vessels and forcing water from the skin. If your cellulite does not respond to the treatments above and suddenly gets worse, have a dermatologist review your symptoms and risk factors. They can help rule out problems like lack of blood flow, which can be dangerous for people with heart or circulatory problems.
Final Thoughts On Getting Rid of Cellulite Naturally
- Cellulite is the appearance of lumpiness on the skin, usually due to sagging and an accumulation of fat under the skin’s surface. Factors that contribute to the development of cellulite include: being overweight, eating a poor diet, fluid retention or dehydration, lack of circulation (blood flow) and weak collagen structure of the skin.
- Losing extra body weight helps decrease the appearance of cellulite. Eating an unprocessed diet and trying HIIT workouts (interval training) can help you reach a healthy weight in a healthier way.
- Other ways to reduce the appearance of cellulite include: applying grapefruit essential oil to skin, staying hydrated, consuming more collagen and taking natural supplements that support a healthy body mass/appetite.