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They say death and taxes are the only things certain in life, but we’d like to add cellulite to that list. It’s estimated that upwards of 90% of women have it (as compared to only about 10% of men, more on why that is in a minute). Basically, it has very little to do with weight. We know that's not the way it's been drilled into our brains all these years—we've all been led to believe cellulite is a "problem" that needs "fixing"—but it's entirely common. You can try to minimize it if you want to, or you can leave it alone entirely. There's no shame either way.
Before we get to how to treat it, let’s talk about what causes it via a quick anatomy lesson. There are fibrous bands that run from the skin to your muscles; when they start to pull downward, the fat cells in between start to bulge up, creating a dimpled appearance. As the skin’s elasticity and collagen weakens, the fat can also start to protrude, adds Dr. Manish Shah, a board-certified plastic surgeon and anti-aging skin expert. Hence why cellulite often becomes more noticeable with age. Estrogen also plays a role (to our point about this being a largely female-centric issue), because the hormone creates fat. This is also why cellulite most often pops up in areas where we have more fat reserves, such as the hips, thighs, butt, and stomach.
Meet the Expert
Manish Shah, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and anti-aging skin expert based in Denver, CO. He regularly performs body contouring procedures and is well-versed in body issues such as cellulite.
The thing is, though, there really is no magic cure or cream for cellulite, and we're not going to tell you otherwise. "Cellulite is a complex structural process that happens deep within the skin's tissue, and it's difficult to treat topically," explains Dr. Shah. That being said, what cellulite creams and lotions can do is improve the look of your skin and somewhat minimize the appearance of cellulite, particularly if you use them regularly and religiously.
Again, cellulite is natural and affects everyone, but if you'd like to slather on some of the best cellulite creams to help diminish the look of dimples, we can help. We tried a few of the most highly-rated creams out there, our testers rating how well they improved their skin's hydration, texture, and appearance. We then combined these results with expert recommendations from Dr. Shah as well as our own research to compile our list.
Keep reading to check out the best cellulite creams.
Best Overall: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
Rich and hydrating
Multiple sizes available
Scent is strong
There’s a good reason why people—Byrdie editors included—go ga-ga over this firming formula. Inspired by Brazilians’ confidence to rock those itty-bitty bikinis, this relies on traditional Brazilian ingredients. Most noteworthy is guaraná, an Amazonian plant whose fruit is packed with caffeine. And we mean packed— it contains four times the amount of caffeine in coffee.
The caffeine-cellulite connection is important because caffeine is choice for stimulating circulation, an important component for promoting the look of smoother skin. Couple that with hydrating cupuaçu butter and coconut oil, plus antioxidant-rich acai, and you’ve got yourself a cream that’s ideal to use all-over, not just on your derriere. But quite possibly the best part? The addicting and delectable pistachio-caramel fragrance.
Main Ingredient: Caffeine | Application Area: Butt, legs, stomach, arms | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 2.5 / 8.1 / 17 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Splurge: Augustinus Bader The Body Cream
Rich and hydrating
Makes skin look radiant
Everyone from Kim K. to Victoria Beckham to pretty much every beauty editor we know is a fan of the face creams created by German physician/researcher Augustinus Bader. It only made sense for the brand to launch a body cream, which they did earlier this year.
It touts the same proprietary ingredient as the beloved face creams, a complex known as TFC8, loaded with amino acids, vitamins, and other molecules naturally found in the skin that help promote cellular regeneration. This particular formula took a whopping 30 years to develop, time we think was well spent; a clinical trial conducted by the brand showed anywhere from 64 to 75% reduction in the appearance of cellulite after 12 weeks. Not to mention that it feels extraordinarily delightful going on, truly worth every penny.
Main Ingredient: TFC8 | Application Area: All over | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 6.7 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Arms: Revision Skincare BodiFirm
Firms and tightens
Contains fruit extracts
The star of the show here is the brand’s iFirm technology, a powerful combo of peptides, antioxidants, botanical extracts, and prebiotics. The result is a lightweight lotion that yes, firms and tightens for more toned skin, but also improves the look of crepiness, sagging, sun damage, and dehydration. Go ahead and use it on any trouble spots, but given the litany of benefits it delivers, we especially like using it on more-often exposed areas, like the upper arms.
Main Ingredient: Blend of peptides, antioxidants, botanical extracts, and prebiotics | Application Area: All over | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 3.8 / 8 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Legs: Body Merry Cellulite Defense Gel-Cream
Firms and tightens
Contains organic ingredients
“This product mixes some of the best ingredients out there for improving circulation and firmness and smoothening the skin,” says Dr. Shah. “Seaweed, cayenne, and retinol are all included in the formulation, which is paired with caffeine to address the problem areas around the thighs or buttocks,” he adds. We also appreciate that it contains peppermint oil for a pleasingly refreshing sensation, and soaks in lightning fast. So fast, that you can eve slip on your skinny jeans right after using it.
Main Ingredient: Caffeine | Application Area: Legs | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Mature Skin: Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
Irritating when used with exfoliants
While it’s more commonly found in products for the face rather than the body, Dr. Shah says seeking out retinol in a cellulite cream is a good move, noting that a study published back in 2000 showed it improved skin elasticity by 10.5% when used topically to address cellulite. Along with boosting firmness, it also helps stimulate cell turnover to improve the overall look of skin, he says. Here, it’s paired with protective antioxidants, plus hydrating plant butters and oils.
Main Ingredient: Retinol | Application Area: Face and body | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"I am happy to report that my skin feels just as soft as a baby’s—from head to toe. The best part? My skin felt hydrated all day. I even asked my mother to feel my arms, and she confirmed that my skin felt much softer and smoother." — Olivia Hancock, Product Tester
Best Set: Elemis Body Toning Cellulite Program
Lotions aside, daily dry brushing can also be super beneficial in your quest to minimize dimpling. It’s one of the best things you can do to stimulate circulation, which in turn flushes out excess fluid and swelling that can exacerbate the look of cellulite. In other words, pair dry brushing with a topical cream for a one-two punch, exactly what you get with this duo. Dry brush pre-shower, then apply the cream (which transforms into a lightweight oil) post-shower.
Main Ingredient: Nigari salt | Application Area: Feet, thighs, stomach, arms | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Firming: InstaNatural Crepe Skin Firming Cream
Firms and tightens
Shouldn't be used on the face
Dr. Shah likes this option, lauding it for the inclusion of collagen and caffeine to help deliver a firming effect. But along with that, it also touts hydrating hyaluronic acid and gently exfoliating glycolic acid to improve the texture and tone of your skin. It’s why we say go ahead and use it for all the skin below your chin.
Main Ingredient: Glycolic acid | Application Area: Body | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 8 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Drugstore: Nivea Skin Firming & Toning Gel Cream
Firms and tightens
An oldie-but-goodie, this remains our go-to drugstore cellulite cream year after year. It obviously gets major points for the affordable price tag (so you really can slather it on daily with reckless abandon), but also for the fact that it really does work, thanks to ingredients such as Q10 and L-Carnitine that help firm up skin. The lightweight, refreshing, and fast-absorbing gel texture is an added bonus.
Main Ingredient: Ubiquinone | Application Area: Butt, thighs, stomach | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 6.7 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Serum: Kayo Bodycare Concentrated Firming Serum
Firms and tightens
Could be more hydrating
By definition, serums are lighter and more concentrated with active ingredients than lotions or creams. In other words, if you’re really trying to combat cellulite, it may be worth trying a serum. This one takes the cake, with plenty of caffeine to help tone, along with hydrating hyaluronic acid and coconut oil. It’s moisturizing enough on its own, though if you’re craving a little more moisture, you can always let it dry and top it with another cream of your choice. Also nice: It’s fragrance-free.
Main Ingredient: Caffeine | Application Area: Butt, thighs, arms, neck | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Post-Procedure: SkinCeuticals Body Tightening Concentrate
Firms and tightens
Contains mineral oil
We’re not going to beat around the bush—in-office, body tightening and contouring treatments are always going to work faster and be more effective at addressing cellulite than any topical product out there. That being said, if you do opt to take the in-office route, using the right products afterward, like this option, can maximize the results. Peptides and hydrolyzed rice protein help tighten, lift, and firm, and the formula is also innately cooling and refreshing. While it’s ideal to use post-procedure, it also works well on its own.
Main Ingredient: Tri-peptide | Application Area: Butt, legs, stomach, arms | Free of: Parabens | Size: 5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Budget: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Firming Butter Skin Lotion
Not Byrdie Clean
Despite its ultra-affordable price, this formula boasts many of the same star ingredients as much pricier counterparts. Think collagen and elastin to help firm and tone, along with antioxidant-rich CoQ10 and vitamin E to soften and smooth skin. Plus, a lot of happy reviewers also note that it’s effective for reducing the look of stretch marks, too.
Main Ingredient: Vitamin E | Application Area: All over | Free of: Parabens | Size: 10.6 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Natural: Nubian Heritage Patchouli & Buriti Infused Shea Butter
Firms and plumps skin
Clean, hydrating formula
Forms a barrier on skin
Texture can be a little grainy
This all natural body cream might not be advertised as a cellulite fix, but it definitely has the ingredients to help get the job done. Shea butter has plenty of vitamin A, which repairs damaged collagen fibers for plumper, firmer skin. It's also rich in an acid called cinnimac, which helps with proper blood flow to the skin.
Use this naturally fragrant cream all over to revive, lift, and tone your skin.
Main Ingredient: Shea butter | Application Area: All over | Free of: Parabens, mineral oil | Size: 4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
We’re giving top honors to Byrdie-favorite Sol de Janeiro’s Brazilian Bum Bum Body Cream. The caffeine-packed formula is choice for boosting circulation and promoting a smoother skin appearance, plus it’s rich in nourishing plant butters and oils for a delectable feel. The addictive scent is just the icing on the cake. Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment is a derm-recommended option due to its retinol-infused formula, which can help promote skin elasticity and firmness. And, if you’re able to commit to the high price tag, Augustinus Bader’s The Body Cream is another top choice (and a celebrity favorite). Not only is it formulated with a proprietary cell-regenerating complex with proven anti-aging effects, but it has the clinical trials to back up its efficacy in reducing the appearance of cellulite.
What to Look For in a Cellulite Cream
Dr. Shah says there are three key ingredients to look for in a cellulite cream that contribute to skin health and can help reduce the appearance of dimples and bumps when used long-term. Number one? Retinol. “Retinols are vitamin A derivatives that have been shown to thicken the dermis of the skin and rejuvenate the epidermal layer,” he explains. “This process results in tighter, thicker skin that lays down more smoothly and is less likely to buckle or create outpocketings.”
Another must, according to Dr. Shah, is caffeine, which is lauded for its circulation-boosting benefits. “Caffeine in cellulite creams acts to reduce local tissue swelling that creates the cobblestone appearance of classic cellulite,” he says, adding that this, too, helps contribute to smoother-looking skin.
Finally, Dr. Shah credits vitamin C as the most important vitamin in terms of collagen production. “Vitamin C deficiency leads to the creation of weak collagen, which in turn leads to looser connections between the skin and underlying structures,” he says. “These loose connections create the septae that give cellulite its cobblestone appearance.”
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Yes, she does, in fact, have cellulite, and has either slathered—or is currently slathering—many of these picks all over her booty.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough cellulite creams from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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