Does Tanning Minimize Cellulite?

by Sue Chung Patient Expert

Reader's Question: I've heard that tanning can get rid of cellulite. Is this true? If not, how do I get rid of it?

Sue's Response: Cellulite is, to put it simply, just plain fat. More than 85% of women all over the world can claim ownership of at least a few cells of cellulite. Men, on the other hand, don't often seem to be affected by it.

The difference between regular fat cells and cellulite fat cells lies in their appearance below the skin. Cellulite is thought to be caused by a combination of hormones (namely, estrogen) and physiology (connective tissues over cellulite do not form a smooth surface). Cellulite is not a sign of physical disease. In terms of our health, it's harmless. But its dimpled, uneven texture can cause a great deal of emotional upset for women, especially given the anti-cellulite beauty war that continues to build speed.

Since cellulite is mostly a matter of genetics, there is no method by which we can eliminate cellulite completely. However, a few things can help to reduce its appearance.

One of those things happens to be tanned skin. But before you toss your sunscreen and head to the beach, understand that it's the darker hue of tanned skin that reduces the appearance of cellulite, not the act of tanning itself. Darker skin tends to mask surface texture more than lighter skin. In addition, sun damage reduces the elasticity of skin, which can actually exacerbate the appearance of cellulite.

If you want a tanned appearance in order to camouflage cellulite, stick with spray-on or rub-on tanning products. These methods will give you tanned skin without risking the damaging effects of prolonged sun exposure. Neutrogena and Coppertone sell many variations of self-tanners that produce natural-looking (not orange) tans. Remember to test a small patch of skin with the product before using it all over your body in order to ensure that you get the color you want.

In addition to using self-tanners, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Unfortunately, losing weight does not necessarily mean you'll lose all your cellulite since your body doesn't target specific fat cells when you diet. For example, you can't start an exercise routine and choose to lose three pounds specifically off of your hips. It's the same thing with cellulite. Even very thin women struggle to get rid of cellulite.

However, losing weight overall will help reduce overall amounts of fat and this, in turn, reduces some of the cellulite that appears just beneath your skin. Staying well-hydrated, sticking to healthy, wholesome foods and starting a regular exercise regimen can all help lessen the appearance of cellulite.

As for commonly touted anti-cellulite creams and procedures such as liposuction and endermologie, save your money. Despite the wealth of ingredients that are advertised for reducing or eliminating cellulite, there are no widespread independent clinical studies that prove their efficacy and many of these products are pricey. Liposuction can also worsen the appearance of cellulite because it damages and distorts the connective tissue that surrounds cellulite.

Sue Chung
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Sue Chung

Sue wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Healthy Skin.