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Cellulite refers to the bumpy, uneven skin typically found on the hips, thighs, buttocks, and abdomen.

This superficial fat that lies just underneath the skin is commonly held in place by fibrous bands that give the skin a dimpled appearance, according to Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board certified dermatologist.

The exact causes of cellulite remain unknown. That said, a number of factors can play a role in how much cellulite you have and how noticeable it is, including:

  • age
  • body fat percentage
  • skin thickness
  • genes
  • nutrition
  • pregnancy

Cellulite is incredibly common. According to research from 2015, between 80 and 90 percent of women past puberty have some degree of cellulite.

While people of any gender can have cellulite, it’s far more common in people assigned female at birth, thanks to distribution differences in fat, muscle, and connective tissues.

Cellulite isn’t harmful, but you might find its appearance distressing, all the same. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get rid of cellulite, either, no matter how common it might be.

If you’ve considered trying an anti-cellulite cream, you might wonder whether they really yield the results they promise.

Here’s the short answer: You might notice some short-term improvement, but these creams won’t actually get rid of cellulite.

Read on to get the details on how these creams work, plus what results you can realistically expect.

Anti-cellulite creams are a topical product you apply directly to cellulite.

These creams typically feature specific ingredients that help reduce the visibility of cellulite, such as:

  • methylxanthines, like caffeine
  • retinol, a vitamin A derivative
  • alpha-tocopherol, or vitamin E
  • ascorbic acid, or vitamin C
  • aminophylline
  • botanical extracts, including gingko, centella, pineapple, quinoa, and yuzu

Keep in mind that, while these ingredients may help improve the appearance of cellulite, they don’t remove it.

In other words, even if you apply an anti-cellulite cream diligently every day, you won’t alter the fat cells beneath the skin. Zeichner also notes that any benefits you do experience will usually be modest and temporary.

Still, regular application can temporarily help. “You can’t completely get rid of it, but there are ways to improve its appearance,” says Macrene Alexiades, MD.

To see and maintain results, you need to apply your anti-cellulite cream every day.

“You have to maintain regular levels of the active ingredients in your skin,” Alexiades says. “And if you stop, unfortunately the results dissipate.”

You’ll need to be patient, too.

“To see real results with most cellulite products, they should be applied at least twice a day for 3 months,” Alexiades says.

A few small studies suggest that topical products can help improve the appearance of cellulite.

In a small 2018 study involving 44 women between the ages of 18 and 59, participants who applied a botanical anti-cellulite cream twice daily to the target area for 8 weeks reported:

  • improved skin firmness, elasticity, and hydration
  • improved appearance of cellulite

An older small study from 2000 considered the effects of a topical retinol product on mild to moderate cellulite in 15 women between the ages of 26 and 44.

After 6 months of treatment, participants noticed some improvement in appearance, leading researchers to conclude that retinol may help address cellulite.

You’ll find plenty of creams on the market promising to improve the appearance of cellulite.

A few highly rated options with expert-recommended ingredients include:

  • Bliss Fabgirl Firm Body Firming & Contouring Cream. Zeichner says that caffeine, used in this all-over body cream, is a popular ingredient in anti-cellulite creams, because it has a dehydrating effect. Alexiades agrees, calling caffeine “an oldie but a goodie.” She says when caffeine is applied topically, “the blood vessels constrict and the fat cells actually temporarily shrink.”
  • Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. This cream uses caffeine-rich guarana extract and other botanicals for a firming effect. Reviewers rave about the scent.
  • Jan Marini CelluliTx. Alexiades notes this cream, made with caffeine, aminophylline, retinol, and other active ingredients, “will probably work better than most, though scientific proof is weak on all topical cellulite agents.”

No matter which cream you choose, make sure to follow the product’s directions for use.

“Do not use cellulite creams anywhere except the indicated areas,” Alexiades warns. “They have high concentrations of caffeine, and this can dehydrate skin on the face.”

She also recommends scanning the ingredient label, so you can avoid ingredients like parabens.

“When you apply anti-cellulite creams, you are applying to large body surface areas and getting good penetration, so any toxic ingredients will get into your body along with the actives,” she explains.

Prefer to make your own products at home?

Perhaps you’ve already done a quick search online and found a number of recipes for DIY anti-cellulite creams that include ingredients, like:

Very little scientific evidence supports these recipes.

Still, Alexiades said if you’re really motivated, you could brew black tea to make compresses to place on the target area.

Some 2018 research suggested that modified herbal compresses can improve the appearance of cellulite, and the caffeine in the tea may have a temporary firming effect.

You can also try this recipe from Sips by:

  1. Combine 4 tablespoons of black tea with 4 cups of boiling water in a large glass or metal bowl.
  2. Allow it to steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Strain (use a tea ball or tea bags for easy straining), then pour the strained tea into bathwater.
  4. Soak for 20 minutes.
  5. Repeat up to twice weekly.

Cellulite doesn’t pose a risk to your physical health, but it can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, or dissatisfaction with your appearance.

If cellulite causes you distress and anti-cellulite creams don’t seem to have much benefit, a dermatologist can be a good resource.

Dermatologists help treat skin conditions, so they can offer guidance on a wider array of treatments that may help make cellulite less noticeable, including:

  • Laser treatments. Lasers use energy to break up septae, the tough bands that make cellulite visible and thicken skin. This can help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
  • Subcision. A dermatologist will insert a needle beneath your skin to help break up the bands contributing to cellulite.
  • Vacuum-assisted precise tissue release. This procedure also cuts bands under skin to allow tissues to fill out, which can help eliminate dimpling in your skin.
  • Carboxytherapy. This procedure involves the insertion of carbon dioxide gas beneath your skin. The gas can help increase blood flow to the area, reducing the appearance of cellulite.
  • QWO. This injectable treatment may help reduce the appearance of cellulite in the buttocks. Experts believe it works by chemically dissolving the bands making cellulite visible, helping redistribute your fat cells, and promoting collagen growth. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this treatment for moderate to severe cellulite in 2020.

Keep in mind that the results of these procedures can vary. They can have more of an effect than over-the-counter creams, but they generally still won’t make cellulite disappear completely.

If you’re interested in learning more about your options, a dermatologist can offer more information.

Cellulite is incredibly common, but you aren’t alone if you find it frustrating.

While anti-cellulite creams might not get rid of cellulite completely, these products can sometimes help minimize its appearance. Just know you’ll need to apply them consistently.

If you aren’t noticing much success with anti-cellulite creams, a good next step involves asking a dermatologist about other options for reducing cellulite.

Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at