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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, too. 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). While yes, fat is a factor, cellulite plagues women of all shapes and sizes—even the thinnest of supermodels aren’t immune.
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.
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 at least somewhat minimize the appearance of cellulite, particularly if you use them regularly and religiously.
So take comfort in knowing that cellulite is natural and affects everyone, then slather on any of these best cellulite creams if you do want to diminish the look of dimples.
Best Overall: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
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 five 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.
Best Splurge: Augustinus Bader The Body Cream
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 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.
Best for Arms: Revision BodiFirm
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.
Best for Legs: Body Merry’s Cellulite Defense Cream
“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.
Best for Stomach: Glytone Slim Design Cellulite Day Cream
Dimples happen in places other than your derriere. To knock out cellulite on your mid-section, try this guy. It’s super lightweight and fast-absorbing, a boon since we don’t know anyone who wants to apply any type of really rich creams to their belly. It touts not only caffeine but also ivy and salacia, two ingredients that work in tandem to improve firmness and smoothness. FYI, a little goes a long way.
Best for Mature Skin: Paula’s Choice Skin-Smoothing Retinol Body Treatment
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 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.
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.
Best Firming: InstaNatural Crepe Firming Cream
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.
Best Drugstore: Nivea Skin Firming and Toning Gel Cream
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.
Best Serum: Kayo Bodycare Concentrated Firming Serum
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.
Best for Post-Procedure: Skinceuticals Body Tightening Concentrate
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.
Best Budget: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Firming Butter
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.
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.
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.