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Baby got back—and if you’re like most human women, that back’s got some cellulite. "By some estimates, up to 90 percent of all women have cellulite," says Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC. So you’re not alone if you’ve noticed a few dimples on your butt, thighs, or stomach, and cellulite is completely normal and harmless.
Meet our experts: Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC, Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist, chief medical officer and founder of PFRANKMD, and author of The Pro-Aging Playbook
Topical formulas can make your cellulite look less obvious — and for a lot less than pricey procedures. "There is some evidence they work by promoting lipolysis, stimulating collagen, and increasing blood flow and lymphatic drainage," says Dr. Chwalek. That being said, don’t expect a miracle in a bottle—the effects are typically temporary and fairly subtle.
Here’s what you need to know about cellulite creams, oils, and more.
Not interested in creams? Jump to: Cellulite Treatments
1. Nivea Skin Firming and Toning Body Gel Cream
There’s a lot to love about this non-greasy gel formula, from its lightweight texture to its claim to firm and tighten the skin on your stomach, thighs, and butt in just two weeks’ time with twice-daily use. Don’t expect a drastic difference—but for a find that's under $10, you can’t go wrong with this hydrating moisturizer.
2. Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Body Cream
Described as “heaven in a bottle” by one Sephora reviewer for its sweet vanilla scent, Sol de Janeiro’s cream has become something of a gold standard in cellulite-diminishing formulas for the butt and legs, thanks to its blend of coconut oil, açaí oil, and cupuaçu butter, the last of which is said to work specifically to retain moisture and improve elasticity. It even comes in a mini size, so you can pack it in a travel bag for a firmness boost on vacation.
3. Weleda Cellulite Body Oil
If you prefer to hydrate with oil-based products versus creams or lotions, consider Weleda’s Cellulite Body Oil a perfect match. Massage the vegan, citrusy oil into damp skin using circular motions, and let its birch extract and rosemary soothe and smooth the spots where you put it.
4. Biossance Squalane + Caffeine Toning Body Cream
Sugarcane-derived squalane, niacinamide, and green coffee bean-sourced caffeine combine to give this nourishing cream a subtle sculpting effect. Reviewers note how it effortlessly melts into the skin and love that it comes in an unscented formula for those sensitive to fragrance.
5. Jergens Skin Firming Toning Moisturizer Lotion
Post-shower, use this collagen-infused moisturizer to add a little fool-the-eye luminosity to your legs, trunk, arms, and backside. This bottle is so big, it’ll last you months.
6. SkinCeuticals Body Tightening Concentrate
This fragrance-free, cooling serum targets saggy skin with the aim of lifting and tightening via hydrolyzed rice protein and peptides. Derms and plastic surgeons often recommend this product to enhance and maintain in-office cellulite treatments post-procedure.
7. Versed Firm Ground Retinol Body Lotion
Try subtly tightening up skin on the neck, chest, and under arms with this fragrance-free lotion. The retinol in the formula is said to trigger cell turnover, perhaps helping with body acne, if that’s a concern.
8. Herbal Dynamics Beauty Flawlessly Firm Toning Body Butter
This tub of body butter features coffee oil, which the brand says tones and tightens, and kola nut and horse chestnut which they say may increase circulation. The avocado oil in the formula provides a nice finishing touch.
9. Body Merry Cellulite Defense Gel-Cream
Target stubborn problem areas with this tingly gel cream that's said to boost circulation with caffeine to provide a temporary tightening effect. Organic spirulina, rosemary, and lemon may work to smooth out dimples and tiny bumps, too.
10. Clarins Body Fit Anti-Cellulite Contouring Expert
Contouring has been a big trend in makeup, and now your hips and thighs can get in on the action, too. Instead of using light and shadow to sculpt, this gel’s powered by quince leaf extract, celosia extract, hazelnut, and horse chestnut. Follow Clarins self-massage application for best results.
11. The Seaweed Bath Co. Firming Detox Cellulite Cream
Organic bladderwrack seaweed teams up with green coffee bean extract, green tea extract, and hyaluronic acid for a rich, regenerative lotion. Try it as an all-over moisturizer or as a spot treatment. Choose from “Awaken,” a minty fresh scent, or “Enlighten,” a lemongrass fragrance.
12. FabGirl Firm Body Firming & Contouring Cream
You’re not going to get washboard abs from this cream, but softer, smoother skin with less noticeable dimples is a possibility. Like other toning creams, it packs caffeine and a bunch of botanical ingredients. Shiitake mushroom extract just might be the difference-maker though when it comes to improved elasticity with consistent use.
13. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Vitamin E + Q10 Firming Butter Body
Known for its use during and post-pregnancy to help with stretch marks, this cult-favorite drugstore cream has a formula featuring the coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, an antioxidant that’s said to improve skin wrinkles and elasticity. It still has that characteristic cocoa butter scent and is enriched with vitamin E for all-over softness.
14. Lure Essentials BARE Cellulite Massage Oil
Enriched with actives like antioxidants, vitamins, and omega fatty acids, this aromatic body oil has the right consistency to pair with your favorite massage technique.
15. Augustinus Bader The Body Cream
Despite its steep price tag, this luxurious cream from cult favorite brand Augustinus Bader has become a best-seller for a reason. A proprietary blend of amino acids, vitamins, and synthesized molecules that naturally occur in the skin, are said to work together to trigger the body repair process while Brazilian candeia oil purportedly softens and hydrates.
16. Geomar Cellulite Cold Slimming Gel
This tube of gel travels well, making it an excellent pick for a gym bag or a weekend trip. You’ll love the cooling effect you’ll feel from this super-light formula that packs caffeine, seaweed, and other Dead Sea-sourced nutrients said to energize and brighten body skin.
17. ZO Cellulite Control
With plankton extract, caffeine, coenzyme A, and carnitine, this multifaceted formula attempts to go to work on the visible signs of cellulite on the butt, legs, and thighs.
18. Paula’s Choice Skin-Smoothing Retinol Body Treatment
Designated as an Amazon’s Choice product, reviewers can’t get enough of this skin-smoothing lotion that you can use really anywhere from the neck down. The key ingredient here again is retinol, which encourages cell turnover for firmer, more supple skin.
19. Honeydew Luxury Butt Nourishing Cream
Specifically targeting your posterior, this wallet-friendly find positions itself as a butt lift in a jar. It won’t have a profound effect like that, but reviewers loved the sweet scent and do say consistent use yields a little bit of tightness and smoothness.
20. Elemis Cellutox Active Oil
For another oil option, consider Elemis’ blend of active ingredients. Lemon essential oil provides a nice, citrusy scent while also purportedly promoting lymphatic decongestion, which may lead to a leaner look for the buttocks, abs, and thighs.
21. Typology Toning Body Cream
The French line Typology focuses on well-priced, fairly straightforward formulas that make skincare just a bit simpler. Take this toning cream, for example. It rings in at under $25 and packs many of the same ingredients for firming as other pricier options, including caffeine and guarana extract.
22. Juice Beauty GREEN APPLE Firming Body Moisturizer
This essential oil-packed lotion features a mild apple melon fragrance and is a good match for more mature skin.
23. Origins LEG LIFTS To Rev Up Tired Legs
Put some pep in your step, literally, with this invigorating peppermint and menthol cooling leg cream. Apply in upstrokes from your ankles to your thighs for a bit of tingling and temporary tightening.
If you’re looking for more high-impact results, you might want to consider one of these derm- and aesthetician-administered treatments, or even give dry brushing a try.
You have to go to your physician's office to get this treatment (which can cost around $4,000), but Cellfina is said to be the first and only FDA-cleared minimally invasive treatment that is clinically proven to improve the appearance of cellulite for at least three years.
The treatment uses a needle-sized device to cut some of the fibrous tissues to smooth out dimpling. You’ll also have some temporary bruising but will start to see results in about a week, says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska.
If you have a few specific spots that you'd like to treat, this might be for you. "It's designed to target individual dimples in the skin," says Dr. Chwalek.
This handheld device uses infrared light, radiofrequency, and massage with suction to increase lymphatic drainage (making the area less puffy), while purportedly reducing the actual size of the fat cells and fat chambers.
It's FDA-cleared and considered a non-invasive treatment (meaning it doesn't require injections or cuts). Results start to appear after about four treatments, they say. It's effective on the thighs, back of the thighs, butt, abdomen, and love handles, says Dr. Schlessinger.
At around $1,000, it's cheaper than Cellfina, but you have to keep going back about every three months in order to see a real difference. “This is perfect for those with slight dimpling and who want a slimmer silhouette in the treated areas,” adds Dr. Schlessinger.
QWO is a prescription medication used for candidates that have stubborn cellulite with a dimpling or cottage cheese-like appearance.
When injected into the treatment area, QWO is said to destroy those fibrous septae which cause skin dimpling. The enzyme injected purportedly specifically targets Types 1 and 3 collagen, which is said to break down old collagen particles and help make new ones where the cellulite dimples are. This breakdown mechanism is said to result in smoothing of the skin and an improved appearance of cellulite.
Cleared by the FDA for the treatment of cellulite and loss of skin tone, EMTONE combines two technologies from the worlds of aesthetic and rehabilitation medicine. Thermal radiofrequency purportedly tightens skin by stimulating collagen and elastin production while mechanical shockwave therapy is said to break fibrous bands to improve circulation and fat deposition. EMTONE is performed in four to five procedures over a two-week period.
EMTONE can be combined with proprietary BIOSTIM injectable treatments for removing cellulite and tightening dimpled skin anywhere on the body. The treatment is performed with topical anesthesia, and patients can return to their daily activities immediately. This works best for moderate to severe cases of cellulite on the buttocks, thighs, knees, inner arms, and chest.
"This skin-tightening treatment uses radiofrequency, which heats up your dermis [skin] to stimulate collagen production and improve blood flow," says Dr. Chwalek. This is said to result in a smoother skin surface.
Thermage is non-invasive, and takes between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on the body part you're treating. But don't be surprised if you leave the treatment looking like you did when you walked in. These tightening results should slowly develop over a six-month period.
"It uses a combination of ultrasound, which warms up the tissue, and vacuum-assisted lymphatic massage to promote metabolism and drainage of toxins and fats," explains Dr. Chwalek. Basically, it's said to suck out fat and tighten your skin at the same time, and it's much more gentle than traditional liposuction.
7. Dry Brushing
This natural approach involves scrubbing a stiff-bristled brush against skin. The technique focuses on brushing cellulite-ridden areas with upward strokes. This movement is said to stimulate the lymphatic system and boost circulation, which may temporarily result in the appearance of smoother skin, says Dr. Chwalek.
The downside: When it comes to treating cellulite, you'll need to do this every day. "It can help, but they will not yield effective long-term results," says Dr. Frank.
What causes cellulite?
While these dimples don't discriminate based on size or weight, hormones, like estrogen, play a role in the development of cellulite, which may be why cellulite often worsens during pregnancy, says Dr. Chwalek. This is also why it's uncommon to see it in men (except men in an androgen-deficient state, adds Dr. Chwalek).
Essentially, cellulite results from the connective tissue beneath the surface of skin, which can create the puckering effect of cellulite dimples, explains Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist, chief medical officer and founder of PFRANKMD, and author of The Pro-Aging Playbook.
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