“‘Cellulite’ is a word first coined in France sometime around 1920 to describe the dimpled, uneven appearance of skin caused by the distribution of subcutaneous fat, particularly around the hips, thighs, and posterior of women. Primed by unrelenting pressure to appear youthful and attractive, women have been presented with “anti-cellulite” products in recent years.
Marketers of anti-cellulite products promote the false idea that the normal human imperfection of cellulite can be fixed by applying consumer goods.
For example, one in-store display claims, “You’re only 2 weeks from a firmer, smoother body.”
Is the premise that there are slimming or cellulite-banishing effects available through the application of any cream, ointment, supported by credible scientific evidence?
There is a long line of peer-reviewed scholarly articles, and credible medical opinions revealing the ineffective and useless nature of anti-cellulite creams.
Molly Wanner, MD, MBA, and Mathew Avram, MD, JD, both of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, after carefully studying cellulite, its causes, and attempts at stopping it, have published their conclusion that cellulite is a normal condition affecting virtually all women, for which there is no effective remedy to be found on the shelves of a drug store:
“Cellulite is the characteristic, nonpathologic appearance of dimpled, ‘cottage cheese-like’ skin surface change typically seen in women on the thighs and buttocks. It is commonly seen on the abdomen, breasts, and arms. Given that the occurrence of cellulite is nearly universal in post-pubertal females, it is thought of as a female secondary sex characteristic. Nevertheless, it can be a distressing condition and patients spend billions of dollars on treatments that are largely ineffective.”
The Scientific Community’s Rejection of Anti-Cellulite Claims
According to the first scholarly paper written on the topic of cellulite, “[I]t is an important obligation of physicians to teach the fact that so-called cellulite is not a disease, but is the result of the sex-typical structure of the skin of women and a natural consequence of aging,” and “there is up to now no other cosmetic or medical (short of surgical) treatment to improve so-called cellulite, certainly none at all to cause complete disappearance of it.” Nürnberger, F. and Müller, G. “So-Called Cellulite: An Invented Disease.” The Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology (1978) 4:3 221-9.
Medical practitioners still soundly reject the notion that any topical product can effectively treat the condition of cellulite:
- “At this point, there is no outstanding treatment for cellulite.” (Dr. Molly Wanner, dermatology instructor at Harvard Medical School. See St. Louis, Catherine. “Treating Cellulite? It’s Still There.” The New York Times (June 24, 2009). See also Wanner, Molly. “An evidence-based review of existing cellulite-reduction treatments.” Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (2008) April 7(4):341-5.
- “It’s a Madison Avenue term. It’s a normal variant of fat that shows as dimples. There’s no way a cream or pounding will change that fat.” (Dr. Samuel J. Stegman, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California at San Francisco). See Wells, Linda. “Beauty; Battle of the Bulge.” The New York Times, July 3, 1988.
- “It’s not a happy situation for women who want to get rid of it because we don’t know how to treat it.” (Dr. Arthur Shipp, clinical professor of plastic surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York who conducted an extensive cellulite study. See Carr, Amy. “Erasing Cellulite.” Daily Herald (Arlington Heights) June 7, 1998.
- “[A]ccording to 27 years of medical literature recently reviewed in The Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, scientific proof that creams make a real, lasting difference does not exist. ‘There is no evidence to show that any topical medications improve cellulite.’” (Dr. Mathew Avram, Harvard Medical School). See Siegel, Jessica. “Fat Chance.” The New York Times, August 15, 2005.
- “According to [UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine Dr. Jenny] Kim, no studies have convincingly shown that cellulite creams do any good on actual bodies.” Woolston, Chris. “Little proof of cellulite cream success.” Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2008.
- “I don’t think the evidence is there to recommend spending money on a cellulite cream,” says Dr. Molly Wanner, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Id.
In January 2014, The Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement enjoining a cosmetics company from making deceptive cellulite cream claims. See “FTC Approves Final Consent Settling Charges that L’Occitane, Inc. Misled Consumers to Believe that Creams Could Slim Their Bodies. In that case, the FTC alleged that L’Occitane violated the Federal Trade Commission Act because it advertised a cream that “helps to visibly reduce the appearance of cellulite,” and “reduces cellulite.” See Complaint, In re L’Occitane, Inc. a corporation, FTC file No. 122 3115.
 Wanner M, Avram M. “An evidence-based assessment of treatments for cellulite.” J Drugs Dermatol. 2008 Apr;7(4):341-5.
 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/fashion/25skinintro.html?_r=0, last accessed November 19, 2015.
 http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/03/magazine/beauty-battle-of-the-bulge.html, last accessed November 19, 2015.
 https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-68783688.html, last accessed November 19, 2015.
 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/15/opinion/fat-chance.html, last accessed 11/19/15.
 http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-skeptic3-2008nov03-story.html, last accessed November 19, 2015.
 https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/04/ftc-approves-final-consent-settling-charges-loccitane-inc-misled, last accessed November 19, 2015
 https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/140408loccitanecmpt.pdf, last accessed November 19, 2015