This should not be confused with Cellulitis which is an inflammation of cellular tissue, generally as a result of infection from a septic wound. Beauticians, women's magazines and many alternative practitioners understand Cellulite as an infiltration of the subcutaneous fat cells by fluids and toxic wastes. Many doctors also state quite simply that this condition does not exist, and is just a fancy name for fat!
Cellulite affects women, almost exclusively, and there seems to be a definite connection with the hormonal balance. It is found most often on the outer side of the thighs, sometimes extending to the hips and buttocks and gives rise to the nickname 'jodhpurthighs' on account of the noticeable thickening. It is also nicknamed 'orangepeel skin' due to the characteristic puckering which distinguishes celluiite from plain fat. This puckering is due lo the fact that ihe walls of the subcutaneous fat cells gradually grow thicker, with deposits of fibrous collagen, so locking in the fluid and toxins. Some women with cellulite are overweight, but it can equally affect thin women, and there are cases of cellulile associated with anorexia.
Here are a few misconceptions regarding Cellulite and a few truths too:
1. Cellulite is simply fat. False. Cellulite is mostly fat that has been damaged and is the result of poor circulation and drainage. Dr Elizabeth Dancey, a London cosmetic medicine practitioner and author of The Cellulite Solution, says women's fat cells are held in supporting fibres that are not as closely interconnected as men's. An inactive lifestyle results in the fibres tightening their hold on the fat cells which then leads to that stubborn, ugly dimpling we call cellulite. So do watch your weight and don't be a slave to your desk or sofa!
2. Cellulite is hereditary. True. Just as some families are susceptible to certain diseases, the possibility of extreme cellulite being present is no different. But hormones, diet and lifestyle play an important role too, so if your mum and grandmother have or had cellulite, it doesn't mean to say that you can't influence it. Therefore, the sooner you take care of yourself, the better.
3. Having cellulite means you are overweight. False.
This is one of the most common myths and can be very frustrating for those people who are not overweight. Over 80 per cent of women in the western world have cellulite to some degree and that includes skinny people and even supermodels.
Try to keep on top of your weight to avoid 'yo-yoing', which stretches the connective tissue in your skin and makes cellulite worse. And if your weight's fine, don't try to lose more in a bid to reduce cellulite. The chances are it won't make much difference.
4. It gets worse as you get older.
Unfortunately, for the majority of us, this is true, says Dr Dancey. Cellulite starts to form as soon as oestrogen levels increase at puberty, and it should be remembered that it is a degenerative condition. As the years pass, we tend to be less active, put on weight and the skin thins.
As a result, fat cells get bigger, supporting fibres stretch, circulation decreases, more fluid gets trapped and the puckering effect makes cellulite more obvious. To stop unnecessary amounts of toxins building up in trapped fluid, try to cut down on the worst offenders: caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
5. Drinking water will improve cellulite.
False. It won't fix the condition. Most of us are more dehydrated than we think and it's the outer organ, the skin, that goes without, as the water you do have is used by the vital internal organs first. However, aim to drink 1.5 litres of water a day to maintain a healthy lymphatic system to remove waste products and keep water levels in your skin at an optimum level. Don't drink too much as swelling under the skin can make cellulite look worse.
On the subject of water, start body brushing three times a week in your shower and massage towards the heart to boost lymph drainage and your general circulation.
6. Exercise will smooth out cellulite. True. Although it won't get rid of it, as even athletes can have cellulite. The fact that working out improves circulation, removes excess fluid and tones muscles, means that skin will look smoother, regardless of the cellulite.
To stimulate your circulation and boost lymphatic drainage you need to think of your diaphragm and stomach muscles as a piston, so you need to aerobically exercise your whole body for around half an hour up to five times a week for best results. Include dancing, cycling, sit-ups, squats and leg curls and finish with long stretches.
7. A healthy diet will prevent cellulite. Not really. Of course, a healthy diet is always a good idea, but it doesn't mean that you won't get cellulite at all.
'We do know that anti-oxidants neutralise free radicals, which are implicated in the cause of cellulite and improve micro-circulation,' says Dr Dancey. 'Essential fatty acids, like Omega 3 and Omega 6, are also anti-inflamatory and reduce cells sticking together.'
She advises lots of coloured fruit and vegetables, especially broccoli and blueberries, along with fish oil in your diet, while steering clear of junk food and artificial sweeteners.
8. Liposuction is the only answer. Not so. Even if you can afford the price tag, it's your last port of call for shifting areas of stubborn fat deposits and it may not even remove that cottage cheese-like cellulite. In fact, it's a traumatic procedure that could impair your circulatory and lymphatic system, and has left many women with fewer inches but more lumps and bumps than before.
Lifestyle, diet, exercise, body brushing and massage with Essential Oils and contouring products that contain marine extracts, caffeine or Juniper oil take priority on your anti-cellulite list.
Luckily, aromatherapy is one of the most successful forms of treatment for this condition - even more so if it is allied to advice about nutrition and gentle exercise, since the condition is most often found in women with sedentary jobs. A woman consulting with this condition may often see it as a cosmetic problem, but the holistic practitioner will recognise cellulite not only as a distressing condition in itself, but a sign of a more serious toxic state of the body, and an indication that the lymphatic system is sluggish and elimination in general less than efficient.
To help with this overall situation, we need to select essential oils with a number of different properties: detoxifying, stimulating to the lymphatic system, hormone balancing and possibly mildly diuretic. As treatment needs to be continued over some weeks, or months, depending on the severity of the cellulite, how long it has existed and how much the client helps herself with a cleansing diet, etc., it is also very important to vary the combination of oils used. Begin by using a blend of Geranium and Rosemary, and vary this by incorporating Black Pepper in small amounts, Fennel and Juniper.
You can use these oils with a specialised form of massage to drain and stimulate the lymphatic system, and also give some to be used in baths. It speeds the treatment if the client will use a loofah, brush or proprietary brand of massage glove on the affected areas between treatments. Fennel tea several times a day, and possibly a cleansing diet of nothing but fresh fruit and spring water for 3 to 5 days, followed by a general wholefood diet with plenty of raw foods will help tremendously.
Stress is often a factor in cellulite, because the body accumulates toxins much more when stressed, and elimination may become less efficient. If this seems to be the case, it is a good idea to alternate the lymphatic massage with more general aromatherapy massage to help with the stress and its causes.
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