I'm a fan of my backside. It's an asset that makes me feel confident in hip-hugging clothing, which has been a really helpful step in my (long) journey toward loving my body and accepting every curve. As expected, that hasn't always been the case. But after years of resenting, struggling, and quietly stewing over my figure, I've grown into a woman who can handle a larger-than-sample-size number on the tag of my jeans—jeans that look pretty fantastic on a girl with a butt, I might add.
So, I embarked on a journey to best tighten, tone, and show off my bum. A celebration of my body, more like. I researched butt treatments, lotions, and potions, and I tried out the ones that sounded the most intriguing. At the end of three months, I'm giving my bum a resounding A+. Below, I singled out the few things from my “better butt quest” that seemed to make the biggest differences.
Keep reading to find out the eight things I found most effective at giving my butt the firm, toned, perky look and feel I was after.
Tending to Cellulite
Park Avenue plastic surgeon Scott Wells offers Cellulaze, a treatment that aims to provide an effective and permanent solution for unwanted cellulite. As you probably know, cellulite is the dimpling and irregularity that inevitably develops in the thighs and bum of most women (90 percent, to be exact).
During a consultation, Wells explained the procedure: "Cellulaze is a fantastic treatment designed for the correction of cellulite based on its causative anatomy. Through tiny openings in the skin, a laser fiber the size of a spaghetti strand is introduced into the area of cellulite to reverse the three causes. First, laser energy is used to melt some of the expanded fat layers. Next, the laser is used like a high-tech scissor to cut and release the fibrous bands under the skin. Finally, and most importantly, laser energy is directed right at the skin to safely heat the skin to a very specific temperature, resulting in the remodeling and strengthening of the skin's elasticity.”
Wells explained that the previous methods used to eliminate cellulite did not address all of the causes as effectively or as permanently. If you’re nearly gripping your backside in anticipation or imagined pain, fear not: the procedure is performed using local anesthesia, so there is no discomfort. Plus, in most cases, only a single session is needed. “The price varies from $3000 to over $5000, depending on the size of the areas treated and a number of areas,” notes Wells. “Results take a few weeks to months to develop because this is a permanent restructuring of the skin and requires time for the body to form new collagen.”
I debated giving the butt treatment a go—why not? It's totally safe and only minimally invasive. The thing is, I'm very squeamish. Like, "will faint just thinking about a shot at the doctor's office"–level squeamish. So I decided to think about it for a while and use a fellow editor's go-to cellulite-busting treatments instead.
The magic ingredient in this fast-absorbing, deliciously-scented cream (seriously, it’s a mix of caramel and pistachio, and I feel the urge to eat it each time I apply) is guaraná—a native Amazonian plant whose fruit contains one of the most potent forms of caffeine on the planet. Caffeine equals tighter, smoother skin. The product also includes moisture heavy-hitters cupuaçu butter, açaí, and coconut oil for a truly hydrating experience. I've noticed a visible difference in ripples and dimples since I began using it just a few months ago.
Cupuaçu butter is extracted from the seeds of the cupuaçu fruit, which contains 45 percent butter. It possesses a high capacity to absorb water and works at the cellular level to regulate water levels and the activity of lipids on the skin.
Learning to Contour
I love a good spray tan. And there's no better (or quicker) way to boost confidence than a glowy bronze and a little subsequent contouring. St. Tropez finishing expert Sophie Evans contours your abs, arms, legs, and butt during each session, and the results are pretty remarkable.
After a fresh coat of self-tanner, Evans goes in with a smaller air-brush to get the proper contour—she darkens the curves underneath each cheek and shapes the right and left side. By the end of the tanning butt treatment, my butt looks lifted and nicely rounded, and the rest of me looks decidedly slimmer. You can DIY the process with a makeup sponge, or brush, and your favorite self-tanner. I'm partial to St. Tropez's Gradual Tan Classic Everyday Body Lotion in Medium/Dark ($25).
Avoid using oil-based body products to extend the life of your spray tan.
With absolutely zero self-tan scent (a deal-breaker, I must admit), this moisturizing lotion can be applied daily to build a gradual, sun-kissed color on your entire body. It's never sticky, and it always looks natural.
Building More Muscle
Since I'm not the most avid gym-goer (read: never), I thought it would be wise to get into squats. While my yoga practice has been helpful in the toning department, I wanted to try something more targeted. Mike Alexander, an L.A.-based professional trainer and the owner of Madfit on Melrose, explains why squats are the holy grail of a great butt: "Squats work most of the muscles in your lower body—the motion of knee extension works your quadriceps (front of thighs), and the hip extension works your glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back of thighs)." Using correct form, I made sure to keep my chest lifted, my heels down, and never to squat with a round back or let my legs and knees bow outward. I even added in weight for an extra challenge with dumbbells.
The other exercise I added was step ups—reps of stepping up onto an elevated box or bench usually with added weight (like holding dumbbells). Of all the standard gym exercises, step ups are the exercise scientifically proven to require your gluteus maximus muscle the most. And, I must say, after three months of near-daily squats and step ups, I can definitely tell the difference in tone and muscle definition. My butt feels firmer, sits higher, and looks shapelier.
A weighted vest can be used to add resistance and increase the difficulty of squats and step ups.
Getting a "Butt Facial"
Perhaps the most bizarre bum treatment I scheduled for myself was a butt facial. Yes, you read that correctly. The one I got was called "Tip Top Tush," so the humor is not lost on me. Developed by a New York-based plastic surgeon who often performs Brazilian butt lifts, Dr. Matthew Schulman, the procedure is exactly as it sounds: a facial for your butt.
It's a customized treatment, so each one is unique and tends to your concerns, and they cost anywhere from $350 to $450. Before we got down to business, I chatted with the aesthetician about my trouble spots and what I was hoping to achieve with the treatment. I wanted to smooth out the texture of the skin, even the skin tone throughout, and tone the shape.
We did a quick cellulite laser and an IPL photo-facial meant to clear up any discoloration, followed by an exfoliating chemical peel. It took a little less than an hour, and, afterward, I was pretty psyched when I saw the results. The aesthetician left the room for me to dress, and I stared at my backside in the mirror for longer than I care to admit. It was somehow younger looking—is that a thing? The skin was smooth, supple, and completely even in tone. It felt so soft, and I even noticed a difference in the tightness of the skin on my butt and along my thighs.
Ditching My Chair
I’m the first to admit that I rolled my eyes when standing desks started infiltrating the office. It seemed like something made for fitness enthusiasts to just cram more activity into their day. But in hindsight, I admit that I was probably just envious of those with seemingly boundless energy. What can I say—I’m a girl who loves her relaxation time and the path of least resistance energy-wise. But, as I watched various coworkers move from sitting to standing and rave about how much better their butts and backs felt, I knew it was time to jump on board. After all, in my quest for a firmer, perkier bottom, it seemed pretty obvious that ditching my chair—where I literally flatten my butt for nine hours—would be a good call.
To be honest, the first hour was great, and then my feet started hurting. But after a few days, I adjusted, and I started to feel my glutes engage. I even upgraded my setup with a wobble board to get a double dose of butt-toning bang for my buck. Because the platform is unbalanced, you have to use your glutes, hip muscles, quads, and inner and outer thighs to stabilize your body. Plus, I’ve secretly always wanted to be a surfer, and this board might be the closest I’ll come.
By standing up much of the day now, I think my butt reaps a bit of a workout, and I’ve also sidestepped that pancake-butt appearance that sitting all day gave me.
Eating More Protein and Healthy Fats
Getting a firmer, more toned butt requires building up the glute muscles. I wanted my butt to actually benefit from all the squats and step ups I was tackling, and that comes down to eating right. To build muscle, the body needs protein, and research has also found that certain foods, like the healthy omega-3 fats in salmon, are particularly effective at causing healthy turnover and metabolism of skeletal muscle cells. Translation: they help build and repair your muscles after those butt-busting workouts.
Reducing Stretch Marks and Acne
Okay, so maybe this part of my new routine didn't specifically firm up my backside, but like contouring, it made my bum look much smoother and healthier. It restored a youthful vibrancy by shrinking down the massive stretch marks I had, eliminating dark spots, hydrating dry areas, and clearing up my butt acne (color me embarrassed, but hey, I know I'm not alone on this one). Anese's Booty Trio contains a cruelty-free scrub, mask, and oil all specifically designed to pamper and perfect your skin. But of course, we aren't suggesting more products to your arsenal of face skincare; these products cleanse, tone, and rejuvenate your butt. I like the scrub most. It's packed with essential fatty acids to hydrate your skin and reduce stretch marks, giving your bum a more healthy, radiant, youthful glow. It also has finely-ground walnut shells, which gently exfoliate dry and dead skin. The mask not only clears the dreaded acne I mentioned but because it has collagen, it does double duty by shrinking stretch marks. The caffeinated oil softens and tones, all while smelling amazing. I use this cocktail at home on my own because, in all honesty, I can’t afford super frequent professional butt facials, even if they are amazing. And fortunately, this seems like a worthy second choice.
Taking Bioactive Collagen Peptides
A trainer at my gym recommended I start taking a collagen supplement, specifically bioactive college peptides (BCP). Collagen is a type of protein found in a variety of tissues in the body including tendons, ligaments, nails, hair, fascia, and skin. And, research has found that supplementation with BCP can reduce cellulite and increase dermal density in women, regardless of their body mass index. I’ve always been taking vitamins since my parents gave me Flintstones multivitamins as a kid, so it’s easy for me to pop a pill with breakfast, and they aren’t particularly expensive. More importantly, I’m noticing all sorts of benefits. My nails and hair are much smoother and stronger, and I do think my derrière looks less dimpled and more even and smooth. Win.
Scientific American. Is cellulite forever? Updated May 4, 2009.
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