Cellulite: why it really happens

Sure, we all have it, but what exactly is it? Cellulite is subcutaneous fat in the skin’s second layer that protrudes to the surface, producing a puckered texture. The severity of cellulite comes down to how fat is packaged in the septae (fibrous threads that bind fat cells together). “In men, fat cells are smaller and tighter, so they’re unable to penetrate the skin’s surface.

In women, however, fat is packaged loosely and their cells are a different shape—protrusion of their fatty tissue makes them more prone to cellulite,” says Dr Phillip Artemi, from the Australasian College of Dermatologists. Cellulite can stem from genetics (if your mum or sisters have it, chances are you’ll have it too), rapid weight gain or a high-carb diet “which raises insulin levels and promotes the formation of fat,” explains dermatologist Dr Cathy Reid. It worsens with age, “although we don’t really know why fatty deposits increase as women get older,” says dermatologist Dr Stephen Shumack. Pregnancy can also be a factor, he adds: “Women gain weight around their abdomen, hips and thighs, which makes cellulite more obvious. Although it’s difficult to eliminate completely, you can diminish the appearance of subcutaneous fat—exercise and a good diet certainly help.”

The food and fitness link

Yes, what you eat can help! Tone skin by tucking into plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein, carbs (such as wholegrains or legumes) and cut alcohol intake. “There’s no one food that increases cellulite,” says nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan. “It’s down to genetics, how much fat you have and the connective tissue or the dimpled look of the area. Eating fresh foods and exercising to reduce your body fat levels can improve the shape of your body and the appearance of cellulite.”

Make sure you include lots of foods that are rich in vitamin C (think broccoli, blackcurrants, guava, citrus and kiwi fruits) in your diet, as research from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition revealed it can help you blast up to 30% more fat during exercise!

High-tech treatments that target cellulite

PRODUCT: HYPOXI Hypoxidermology and Hypoxi L250 machine
Tester: Beauty editor, Aimée Leabon

How it works: I’ve always been naturally slim, but I wish my hips, butt and thighs were smaller and more toned. The Hypoxidermology (HD) and L250 machines are used in conjunction to promote weight loss, reduce the appearance of cellulite and improve skin tone and texture, all top of my list in the lead-up to summer.

The experience: I’m zipped into the HD suit, which contains a network of 400 integrated pressure chambers around the stomach, hip, buttock and thigh region. The air is sucked out, which feels strange at first, but I’m told the machine boosts circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage so I relax and soon I’m in a state of bliss. After my 20-minute ‘massage’, I’m transferred to the L250—a reclining bike encased in an airtight capsule that uses vacuum technology to increase circulation and blood flow, accelerating fat burn and the breakdown of cellulite. After 30 minutes, I’m just breaking into a sweat.

The verdict: It’s a huge commitment—three times a week for four weeks. You’re encouraged to exercise on your ‘off’ days, too. But the results were well worth it.

Cost: The HD and L250 are $690 each, for 12 sessions. Visit hypoxi.com.au to find your nearest HYPOXI studio.

PRODUCT: Pevonia Botanica Green Coffee Wrap
Tester: Editor, Jacqueline Mooney

How it works: Like most women, I tend to carry any extra weight around the hips and thighs, and having a few less dimples has long been on my wishlist. Pevonia’s Green Coffee Wrap is a multi-step treatment designed to detoxify, refine and smooth. It works in two stages, causing an immediate reduction in measurements due to a diuretic effect and a progressive stimulation of lyposis (fat breakdown). I’m used to drinking coffee, rather than wearing it, but I’m told the 19 minerals, 17 amino acids and three vitamins in green coffee will do wonders for my skin.

The experience: First, I’m treated to an all-over body scrub to get rid of dead skin cells and boost circulation. Next, anti-cellulite gel is massaged in. And yes, it was cold! Finally, my lower half is covered in crushed green coffee (which smells pleasantly earthy), then wrapped in plastic and layers of blankets. After 20 minutes it’s washed off and a moisturising massage is applied.

The verdict: While a minimum of six treatments is recommended to see the full effects, my skin definitely looked better and felt smoother after one session.

Cost: Treatment starts from $120 per session. Visit pevonia.com.au to find your nearest Pevonia salon.

PRODUCT: VelaSmooth
Tester: Editor-in-chief, Sue Wheeler

How it works: I’ve loved my lower half so much over the last few years that a pair of thigh-hiding board shorts have become my beach look of choice! VelaSmooth is the first non-invasive medical solution for the reduction of cellulite to be cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration. The Body Applicator is a vacuum with special rollers that manipulate, suck and smooth skin, while infra-red light and conducted radio frequency trigger the release of stored energy and shrink the fat chamber. It also improves lymphatic drainage.

The experience: A photo is taken of my legs so that I can compare ‘before’ and ‘after’. I lay on a bed and they roll the applicator over my thighs. It feels like someone’s giving me a good iron. I’d been warned it could be uncomfortable, but it wasn’t at all. There was an occasional prickle, but it was actually quite relaxing.

The verdict: I didn’t expect to see a difference after the first treatment, but I did. My thighs looked smoother: the larger lumps looked smaller, which made the cellulite less noticeable. After four weeks my legs were significantly smoother and felt harder and firmer to touch.

Cost: A course of 8 treatments (two per week) for one area is around $1250. Visit velasmooth.com.au for more details. Sue was treated at The Clear Skin Clinic, Sydney.

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