Beauty doesn't come in a bottle: peeling back the myths about cellulite cream
"OK," she confesses. "I have had really bad cellulite since I was a teenager."
The slender Oxford-born woman is now 35 and has overcome the orange peel effect. But several years ago she was in despair.
"The root of my problem was water retention. I tried every cream on the market and none helped. I had given up," Kate says. "I thought that's just how people are made. Cope."
She finally discovered an intensive and expensive cure, but most women aren't so lucky. A recent scientific study claims that cellulite creams and massage treatments are ineffective. Similar critiques have been issued in America, where the products are dismissed as "dream creams".
Oxford University alumnus Dr David Sharpe helped conduct the study, thought to be the first clinical trial of cellulite treatments in the UK. He is a consultant plastic surgeon at the private Yorkshire Clinic in Bradford.
He saw the £14,000 Endermologie machine at a conference and thought the idea of crushing and moulding fat seemed logical. The intense mechanical massage improves the appearance of liposuctioned skin, so why not cellulite?
The machine was compared with a commercial cream and a 'dummy' cream. Dr Sharpe and his colleagues were disappointed to find nothing worked. He is not surprised, however, that some women report success with these treatments.
"Sometimes when you invest a lot of time and money, you kid yourself," he says. "It's like the emperor's new clothes.
"Also, if you concentrate on something, you can will it to be better. But the changes women experience are more likely to be from simultaneously changing their diet, exercising and drinking more water."
Local doctors and professors agree, urging women to abandon miracle cures and take up healthy living instead. Terence Ryan, professor emeritus of dermatology at Green College, Oxford and the Churchill Hospital, studied cellulite for years and says its cause and cure are still not known.
is unclear, although exercising and paying attention to your weight makes
Massage is helpful, but don't overdo it. "Tormenting your body with over-stimulation could backfire," the professor warns.
"Go easy on the smoking," he continues, "as it changes the fibre content of your skin and can cause more wrinkles. It's not good for your health anyway."
Whatever the cellulite solution, he doesn't expect it to be a simple, over-the-counter £30 miracle. "I wouldn't exclude the possibility of influencing cellulite by chemical means, but I am not aware of any product that works yet."
France Boden, owner of Cannelle Beaute in Summertown, Oxford, insists that the creams do play a part. "They make the skin softer and effect the superficial texture. Of course, they are not a miracle," her French accent intensifies as she speaks more forcefully. "You must exercise, avoid toxins like caffeine."
She recommends another method which "melts fat", electrolypolysis. The tongue-twister name suits a treatment during which electrodes are stuck across the body. This Frankenstein arrangement then tightens and relax the muscles. Combined with a high-protein diet, electrolypolysis aims to eliminate fat without wasting away muscle as well.
Julie Talbot, owner of Junction Hair and Beauty Salons, prefers a more natural approach. She declares: "We don't have anti-cellulite cream. We don't believe there is such a thing." Her three beauty salons in Witney, Carterton and Faringdon concentrate instead on vigorous massage.
"We treat the under-layer so circulation improves and toxins are flushed. It is important to treat the whole body too, not just the problem spots."
She steers customers away from tea, coffee, smoking and hot baths, which damage the skin's elasticity. "I've seen teenage girls with cellulite from hot baths, which are very damaging to the skin. Crash dieting doesn't help either.
"You need lots of fresh vegetables, fruit and lots of water two or three litres a day."
Julie's approach is so sensible that her endorsement of Clarins creams is surprising. But she claims that well-moisturised skin looks better and does a better job of masking the dreaded orange peel. Fair enough. It's a system she herself uses.
"I have cellulite because I drink too much coffee and not enough water," she admits. "The treatments really do make you look better. Cellulite can't be avoided, but it can be minimised and restrained. We can delay it."
Shame and secrets
"Cellulite affects women, beginning in their twenties. It is mostly in the buttock region and produces a mattress-type dimpling. The skin is no longer smooth," explains Terence Ryan, professor emeritus of dermatology at Green College, Oxford and the Churchill Hospital.
"It can be aggravated by an increase in fat and ageing, as the skin loses its elasticity. Women's hormones may play a part, causing water to accumulate in the tissues.
"There is a debate that as fat ages it turns to a different consistency. This may be true. I believe it's mostly changes in the tone or resilience of skin allowing fat underneath to protrude."
I'm happy with
my body now
"The only thing that works is the toughest massage I could possibly bear. It's almost body sculpting. I also learnt how to watch my diet and eat at the right times. I hadn't been eating enough during the day and was relying on a big dinner, which is completely wrong.
"The treatment is fantastic. My body really changed without much effort."
Except enduring three-hour massages, but most of us could stretch to that. Kate's beauty adviser is the strong, silent type unfortunately. She doesn't advertise her services or publicise her methods, and is now based in Paris to boot.
Her mysterious benefactor encouraged Kate to eat a high-protein organic diet and avoid chemicals. But she doesn't preach complete self-denial.
"She has no problem with coffee, as long as it's pure, good quality and fresh. Instant coffee, which so many of us have to drink, should be avoided. I even get away with smoking, but she had me switch to roll-ups, which have less chemicals.
"I don't suffer terribly. In fact, for the first time in my life, I'm eating properly three meals a day. It's astonishing. As long as I avoid wheat and too much dairy, I can maintain my shape."
Yet the price-tag for this exclusive treatment could daunt someone with casual cellulite concerns. "I began with four or five treatments in a month, which easily cost £1,000. The cost is not that different from that of plastic surgery," Kate says. "The treatment made me feel so different about myself.
"I can buy clothes I always wanted to wear and couldn't. I'm happy with my body now."
Kate recommends a compromise between her extreme cure and the £10-50 'dream creams' on the shelf. "Invest in a full-body massage, not just the legs. An hour usually costs about £40-50 and it feels lovely too.
"Yoga is supposed to stretch the muscles and limbs as well. I'm told that irons out cellulite. You have to be careful with exercise though. It can make the situation worse because fat clings harder to muscle.
"I have always wondered that if the creams worked, why do we still have cellulite? Sure, it helps soften the skin but I'm sceptical that it gets rid of the problem."
wondered that if
the creams worked,
why do we still
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