Do cellulite treatments work?

Are the results really worth the money?
Are the results really worth the money?

If you're a woman, you probably have cellulite somewhere on your body. Although it's considered an unsightly affliction, cellulite isn't a medical condition. It occurs in about 90 percent of women. [source: Harmon]

Here's how cellulite works: At puberty and sometimes in middle age, hormone changes cause women to start storing more fat in their lower bodies. As fat begins to accumulate in key areas, it puts stress on adjacent connective tissues that tug on the skin like rubber bands, causing dimpling. If there's a lot of fat accumulation involved, or the skin is thin, the dimpling is somewhat more noticeable.

Cellulite is an inherited trait, so if your mother or an aunt has it, you're likely to have problems with it too. For the most part, cellulite isn't a symptom of overindulgence. You aren't being punished for a brownie eating marathon back when you were still in braces. It isn't necessarily weight related, either. Thin women have cellulite. Dimpling is common on the thighs of cellulite sufferers, but it can also occur on the buttocks, lower abdomen, hips and arms. It can be exacerbated by factors like fluid retention, poor circulation and lack of exercise, and may become more noticeable after menopause.

From minor dimpling only when the skin is pinched to obvious dimpling even when lying down, the more pronounced the skin distortions from cellulite are, the harder they are to eliminate. Even a minor distribution of cellulite can be difficult to treat successfully, though. Sometimes the cottage cheese texture will diminish somewhat using one therapy or another only to come back a few months after treatment is discontinued.

Some potential therapies are still being evaluated for safety and effectiveness, while others haven't been seriously evaluated at all. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently fine tuning its guidelines for cosmeceuticals, products marketed as cosmetic-pharmaceuticals. Some cellulite preparations and treatments fall into this category. That's one reason the effectiveness claims for cellulite preparations and technologies, especially those offering spectacular results, should be approached with caution and some healthy skepticism. [source: Edney]

On the next page, let's take a look at the most popular cellulite treatments on the market. Some aren't worth your money, while others may promise - or at least hint at -- the bump battling results you're looking for.