Share on Pinterest
Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

Cellulite is the dimpled-looking skin that commonly occurs in the thigh region. It forms when fatty tissue deep in the skin pushes up against connective tissue.

It’s estimated that more than 85 percent of all women 21 years and older have cellulite. It’s not as common in men.

Cellulite can develop on the thighs because the area naturally has more fatty tissue. Other factors that increase the chances for cellulite include:

  • age
  • estrogen
  • family history
  • tissue inflammation
  • increased fatty tissue caused by weight gain
  • loss of collagen
  • poor circulation (a common issue in the legs)
  • poor lymphatic drainage
  • thinning epidermis (outer layer of skin)

In terms of your overall health, there’s nothing wrong with having cellulite. However, many people wish to reduce its appearance.

There are a number of home remedies and exercises that promise to do just that, but the key is to determine whether these solutions really live up to the hype.

There are three grades of cellulite. This grading system allows healthcare professionals to assess the severity of the condition, explains Michele Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist.

They three grades are:

  • Grade 1 (mild). Superficial dimpling with an “orange peel” appearance and one to four slight depressions in the skin.
  • Grade 2 (moderate). Deeper rippling of the skin with a “cottage cheese-like” appearance and five to nine medium depressions in the skin.
  • Grade 3 (severe). Deep skin rippling with a “mattress-like” appearance and 10 or more deep depressions.

Some home remedies may help reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Massage

One promising remedy is massage. This can be done at home or with the help of a professional massage therapist.

Massage may reduce cellulite by improving lymphatic drainage. It can also help stretch your skin tissue. This may help stretch out cellulite dimples too.

Massage creams offer the same benefits, but the key component is the massaging process. You can’t apply a cream and expect the cellulite to go away by itself.

Also, know that just one massage won’t help when it comes to cellulite. You need to repeat the process consistently to achieve and maintain your desired results.

Bioactive collagen peptides

You may already be wary of the promises that supplement manufacturers make about changing your body via quick fixes.

However, a 2015 study found an improvement in cellulite in women who took bioactive collagen peptides.

Participants took the daily oral supplement for 6 months. Overall, there was a noted decrease in cellulite on their thighs. Improvement was seen in both women with a moderate and higher weight, but those with a moderate weight saw the most improvement.

While the results are interesting, more studies are needed to back up any supplement’s role in cellulite improvement.

Drink more water

Drinking water is another low cost option that may help with cellulite. Not only does it keep you hydrated, but water also helps encourage circulation and lymphatic flow.

Weight loss

Weight loss might also help some people with overweight and obesity reduce cellulite. Losing excess body fat may naturally reduce the appearance of cellulite.

But keep in mind anyone at any weight can have cellulite. It’s not restricted to just those who have overweight or obesity.

If you do want to lose weight or tone your muscles, you may find that eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help reduce cellulite on your thighs. Consider some of the exercises below.

Certain leg and glute exercises may help tighten the skin around the thigh region. In turn, you may also see a reduction in cellulite.

While exercise isn’t a foolproof way to get rid of cellulite on the thighs, stronger muscles and tighter skin may reduce its appearance.

Here are some exercises you might want to try.

Squats

To perform a squat:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your toes are pointed forward.
  2. Lower your glutes as if you were sitting in a chair, ensuring your knees don’t go over your toes.
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you rise to the starting position, and then repeat.

Jump squats

This is a step beyond the regular squat with the added challenge of a jump at the end:

  1. Perform a regular squat.
  2. As you stand back up to the starting position, speed up slightly and jump.
  3. Try to land as softly as you can on your feet. Repeat.

Step-ups

  1. Stand in front of a bench or sturdy exercise box.
  2. Step up on the box, one foot at a time.
  3. Step back down in the same pattern.
  4. Repeat.

Glute/leg kickbacks

  1. Get in an all-fours position in the floor.
  2. Kick one leg back behind you, engaging your glutes and upper thighs.
  3. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
  4. Lower your leg and repeat on the other leg.

Side lunges

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a wide step out to one side. Bend your right knee as you push your hips back while keeping the left leg straight.
  3. Keep both feet flat on the floor throughout the lunge.
  4. Push off with the same leg to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat with the other side, bending the left knee and straightening the right.

Add progressions

Each of the exercises above allows you to use your body weight to your advantage. You can also incorporate handheld weights and barbells as you see fit.

Do 12 to 15 repetitions at a time. You can increase the weights or repetitions as you get stronger.

Be sure to warm up before exercise to prevent muscle strains.

Aim for 2 to 3 sessions per week, 30 minutes at a time.

Rather than focus on one single exercise, aim for a regular workout routine that combines aerobic exercises and strength training. Aerobic activities help you burn fat, while strength exercises build muscle and help with overall skin elasticity.

Combined, all these factors may help improve thigh cellulite.

Some aerobic exercises that can help burn fat include:

  • cycling
  • dancing
  • hiking
  • running
  • swimming
  • walking

The key here is to find an activity you enjoy and stick with it.

If you’re new to exercising, be sure to double-check with your doctor first before getting started.

“There are no medications which can be prescribed for treating cellulite,” Green says.

In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did approve an injectable treatment called QWO, also called collagenase clostridium histolyticum-aaes (CCH), for cellulite treatment on the buttocks.

While Green says it’s safe to use on the thighs, too, speak with your doctor first.

A 2020 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 259 participants suggested CCH was safe and effective at treating moderate to severe buttock and thigh cellulite.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says some creams may effectively aid in cellulite treatment. The AAD notes daily use of a product with caffeine may reduce the appearance of cellulite by dehydrating cells.

Still, creams alone won’t remove cellulite, and lifestyle changes are best.

The AAD also indicates that creams with 0.3 percent retinol may also reduce visible cellulite and make skin appear thicker. The AAD notes that it may take 6 months or longer to notice results.

There’s no way to prevent cellulite. It’s a very common condition. The chances of cellulite developing increase with age and certain lifestyle factors.

Although you can’t control your age, you can make some changes to your lifestyle that may help reduce the amount of cellulite on your thighs. These changes can include things like regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Talk with a dermatologist if you’re interested in professional procedures to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Some treatments, such as laser therapy, may help but won’t fully erase cellulite on your thighs.

If you don’t already have a dermatologist, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find one in your area.

Also important: Know that results from any remedy or procedure aren’t permanent. You’ll likely have to repeat the process to continually reduce the appearance of thigh cellulite.