New study suggests a way to get rid of cellulite without surgery or creams

The search for a true cure for cellulite never seems to end, but according to a new study, there may be a way to treat it without taking drastic measures or spending a ton of money on creams. 

The study, published in the medical journal Cogent Medicine, looked specifically at the effects of fascia manipulation on cellulite in adult women. Fascial manipulation is a type of manual massage treatment typically employed for pain relief, according to Northern Edge Physical Therapy. In the study, the subjects used a specific fascial massage tool called the FasciaBlaster; it features rounded plastic massage claws placed in a line along a rod that you rub over the areas you want to treat. Similar products on the market also claim to treat fascia and help with the appearance of cellulite.

Fascia “are vertical bands of connective tissue that attach to the underside of the skin,” Dr. Manish Shah, a Denver-based plastic surgeon told HuffPost. The facia bands encase pockets of fat and as the bands stretch, you’re left with the bumpy appearance of cellulite on the surface of the skin, Shah said. 

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8 things you didn't know about cellulite
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8 things you didn't know about cellulite

In the social media world we live in today, we're always seeing airbrushed, skinny, flawless models. But cellulite is actually common -- right?

Very common in women, about 90 percent of all women develop cellulite. For men it is less common, only 10 percent of men report having cellulite.

What actually causes cellulite? 

The ideology is still not very clear but there seems to be a solid correlation between cellulite and genetics, race and gender. In 1978, surgeons Nurnberger and Muller first defined cellulite as a result of differences in the structure of skin and subcutaneous tissue in men and women.

RELATED: Take down cellulite with this DIY coffee bean body scrub

Does having cellulite mean anything for your health? Or is it just aesthetics? 

Mostly aesthetics, there isn’t much scientific backing to connect cellulite with health issues. Studies on cellulite just conclude that it is most likely due to the differences in muscular build up between men and women.

Is cellulite just on your thighs or are there other places people can get it? 

Cellulite is more common on the thighs but can also develop on [the] buttocks and stomach area.

RELATED: 10 exercises to slim thighs just in time for shorts season

Do genetics, diet and exercise actually have an impact on cellulite? 

Genetics seem to be more correlated to cellulite than diet and exercise. However, maintaining a good BMI will keep fat from distributing itself around muscle.

What are some of the ways that people can get rid of cellulite?

Here in the office we offer two procedures that can help with the appearance of cellulite. The less invasive route would be a procedure called ThermiSmooth, which uses radiofrequency to stimulate collagen over the course of several treatments. The more aggressive approach would be a laser treatment called CelluSmooth: This also targets skin irregularities and laxity, and will lead to an overall smoothness of the skin.  

Anything patients can do at home to get rid of it cellulite themselves? 

Making sure to hydrate correctly could benefit cellulite appearance, as well as maintaining a good BMI for your age.

RELATED: 10 genius ways to trick yourself into drinking more water

What are some ways people can prevent cellulite?

Not much can be done to prevent cellulite. Unfortunately, it’s more related to genetics, race and gender than anything else. A good exercise regimen and healthy eating will not guarantee anything but could help the chances of not developing fat.

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The study concluded that regular use of a personal fascial manipulation massage tool, which is a low-cost alternative to invasive surgeries and luxury creams, can be effective in reducing the appearance of cellulite. But do the effects last? HuffPost spoke to doctors to get some answers. 

First, a little primer on cellulite. 

Countless articles have been written on cellulite and whether there’s anything out there that can actually erase it. As we’ve noted in the past, it’s believed that between 80% to 90% percent of women have cellulite, which is the dimpled appearance of the skin that often appears on the thighs, butt and hips. Men can have cellulite as well, though it’s not nearly as common because the structure of their connective tissue is different from women’s. 

Cellulite “is caused by bulging of fat pockets through the fascial connections under the skin. It leads to a cobblestone or cottage cheese appearance on the skin,” Shah said.

“There are a number of hormonal, genetic and lifestyle factors that contribute to the development of cellulite,” he added. “Lower estrogen and tissue blood supply with aging cause decreases in collagen in the connective tissue fibers. They weaken and the bulging worsens. The skin also thins, making the fat pockets more visible. A diet rich in fats, carbs and salt also leads to more cellulite formation.” 

Other factors that can contribute to cellulite include the way women store fat in their bodies ― in columns, versus in a lattice, like in men’s bodies ― and hormone levels. Poor circulation is also thought to be a contributor.

To put it plainly, there isn’t really a “magic cure” for cellulite, Dr. Anne Chapas told HuffPost in 2018. 

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Quick Tips for Cellulite
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Quick Tips for Cellulite

Mix Brown Sugar, Coffee and Olive Oil. Place the olive oil on your skin first, then combine the coffee grounds and brown sugar together to apply on top of the olive oil, then rinse the mixture off your skin. The coffee and brown sugar act as exfoliants and the olive oil moisturizes.

Drink More Water. Increase your daily intake of water. Not only will you see a difference internally in the way you feel by flushing more of the toxins out of your body, but you will also see a much better result in the quality of your skin.

Murad Firm and Tone Serum. Different than a normal serum that solely contains caffeine to wake-up the skin and improve circulation, this one has cayenne pepper, horse chestnut tree extract and more to firm and stimulate. (Murad Firm and Tone Serum, $78, Murad.com)

L'Occtaine Almond Milk Concentrate. Because lotions and creams can get a bit heavy, we appreciate a nice light formula for the summertime. With almonds and shea butter, this silky smooth product helps moisturize and tone problem areas as well as rest of your body. (L'Occitane Almond Milk Concentrate, $46, Loccitane.com)

BUY IT
Nip+Fab Cellulite Fix. This product is cool for summer and great to treat cellulite you may already have. With its key ingredient being caffeine, apply the gel to skin (arms and legs) twice per day. Pro tip: Exfoliating before hand never hurts! (Nip+Fab Cellulite Fix, $17.95, Nipandfab.com)
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Coconut Oil. While you may already use coconut oil on your skin as a moisturizer or in some kind of scrub or mask, applying it to the skin in problem areas where cellulite appears and dry brushing it can work wonders. As the coconut oil moisturizes, the dry brush exfoliates and clears dead skin cells for smooth, clean and more even skin.

Clarins Body Life Cellulite Control. Try a product like this one that can help diminish the cellulite on your skin. With ingredients like water, coconut and sunflower oil and menthol, the product will moisturize, smooth and treat cellulite-laden skin in areas like thighs, hips and your butt. (Clarins Body Life Cellulite Control, $68, Sephora.com)

Soap & Glory Sit Tight. With no sulfates, this is a serum that is targeted for the lower body. Also different from a conventional cellulite treatment, more caffeine is unleashed as you sit down. The product is also good for boosting oxygen circulation. (Soap & Glory Sit Tight Intense XS Special Super-Strength Body Firming Serum, $38, Sephora.com)

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That brings us to this new study.

Forty-three adult women participated in the recent study, which took place over 12 weeks. Thirty-three of them were shown how to properly employ fascia manipulation techniques using devices in the FasciaBlaster family and instructed to use the tools five days a week throughout the study period. The other 10 did not do any fascial manipulation. 

When you use the tool with the “appropriate amount of pressure and oil lubrication,” it essentially grips the skin and stretches and pulls on the fascia beneath the skin, releasing the adhesions or scar tissue under the skin that can lead to the appearance of cellulite, said Dr. Swet Chaudhari, a plastic surgeon and one of the study’s authors. When you release that scar tissue or allow it to remodel, he added, “you’re effectively improving the appearance of cellulite.” 

Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York, noted that massage techniques have long been used as a treatment for cellulite. She referred to the 1950s “fat jiggling” machines people used as an example. 

“The massage factor is meant to address lymphatic and blood circulation,” Nazarian said. “There were some studies done a while ago that perhaps showed there was an element of hypoxia or low oxygen in those areas of tissue, which was triggering some of the changes we were seeing in the tissue as a response to poor blood circulation.”

The lymphatic system is also thought to have a role when it comes to the formation of cellulite, Nazarian said, adding, “when you’re doing massage, you’re effectively addressing both.” She also said that applying manual pressure over the skin can help stimulate collagen production, which is a benefit. 

It should be noted that the study looked at the effects of one specific brand of personal massaging tools and the test group was quite small. Still, as Nazarian explained, “The study potentially may open the door for a slightly increased understanding about some of the other minutia behind what’s happening when you have cellulite.”

According to the study’s findings, fascia manipulation techniques proved to be successful in decreasing the “subcutaneous adipose tissue” and reducing the appearance of cellulite over the 12-week period. The study also found that the subjects who used the massage device saw an increase in their metabolism. 

There’s a bit of a catch though.  

While the doctors we spoke to agreed that certain massaging techniques and tools, including items like the FasciaBlaster, can help reduce the look of cellulite, they don’t believe they’re a permanent solution for curing it. Once you stop using the tool, your connective tissue will tighten back up, enhancing the appearance of cellulite.

“Cure is a strong word, because it implies that once you do it, it’s over and it’s gone and it’s done,” Chaudhari said. With the fascia manipulation, he said, “You have to continue to do it” to see continued results. In terms of the FasciaBlaster tool, Chaudhari said, “Its effects are limited to the time you’re using it.” 

Related: Foods for clearer skin 

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Foods for clearer skin
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Foods for clearer skin

Almonds

(Photo: Getty Images)

Spinach 

(Photo: Getty Images)

Salmon 

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sweet Potatoes 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Olive oil

(Photo by Aopostolos Mastoris/Getty)

Tomatoes

(Photo via Getty)

Dark chocolate

(Photo by Leszek Kobusinski/Getty)

Oatmeal

(Photo by John Shepherd/Getty)

Sardines

(Photo via Getty)

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Shah said he recommends some of his patients use the FasciaBlaster after undergoing non-invasive fat reduction treatments. 

“I do believe that deep tissue restructuring with a tool like the FasciaBlaster helps to reduce the appearance of cellulite, but I don’t believe it reduces cellulite,” he said.

For what it’s worth, Nazarian said the study’s results weren’t totally surprising, especially given that massage techniques have been used for cellulite treatment before. She said that even a good massage or a technique like dry-brushing or foam rolling could also provide some benefits in treating cellulite, “but that doesn’t mean it helps long term.”

At present, Nazarian said that laser treatments that actually go in and snip the fibrous bands that contribute to the dimpling associated with cellulite are most effective. (One such treatment is called Cellulaze.)

But as Shah cautioned: “The problem of cellulite is one that doctors have been trying to fix for a very long time. It is clear that more research needs to be done in developing better treatments for cellulite.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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