They Key is Understanding Your Lymphatic System.
Cellulite. All women have it. Let me say that again: ALL. WOMEN. HAVE. IT. It’s not a matter of weight, body fat percentages, or even fitness level, per se.
I’m certainly stepping outside my comfort zone with this post! But I think it’s important to share information, despite being somewhat uncomfortable so that others in the same situation can have relatable content available to them. But before we jump into how to reduce cellulite on the thighs, butt, stomach, or arms, let’s take a deep look at why it forms in the first place.
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Biology 101: Why Women Get Cellulite and Men Don’t
Before you start any sort of cellulite treatment, it’s imperative that you understand your body’s personal biology. If you are a female, there is one region of your body that’s predisposed to fat collection and lymph fluid stagnation: your upper legs and bum.
For men, the connective bands found in their legs between the skin and muscle are more prominent and layer in a crisscrossed pattern. Not only are these bands layered in a way that prevents the fat layer from squeezing through, but they are also wider and allow for stronger circulation. Women, on the other hand, have a totally different band pattern that runs vertically up the legs with more gaps in between.
To complicate things further, women tend to lose lymphatic pumping vigor in the legs as they age at a rate faster than men. A slower moving lymphatic system means less fat is being flushed away, even when we’re actively burning it off.
This difference in connective tissue patterning and lymphatic pumping, plus a predisposition to fat on the hips, thighs, and bum means almost all women will develop visible cellulite at some point in their life.
What is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, ducts, and organs that moves and filters interstitial fluid throughout the body. It’s responsible for filtering out the stuff your body doesn’t need. However, it’s also to blame for fluid build-up (aka swelling or puffiness) when the lymphatic channels get backed up or damaged. You’ve probably heard of lymphatic massage treatments for the face, where the stagnant lymph fluid is flushed out to reveal a more chiseled, tighter face contour. But the same logic can be applied to your entire body! Lymphatic drainage is your ally if you want to reduce cellulite.
What is Cellulite?
Cellulite is essentially fat deposits that lay unevenly under the skin. The fat layer responsible for cellulite is located between your skin and your muscles. Your body relies on lymphatic vessels to flush discarded fat cells and other impurities from the body. Thus, when lymph stagnates and fat accumulates, cellulite becomes more prominent.
Well-developed muscles in cellulite-prone areas can help diminish cellulite dimples, although it won’t eliminate them entirely. Genetics also plays a factor. So does body type. Traits like skin thickness or strong vs weak circulation get passed down from your parents. Some people are just more prone to cellulite! These are all factors to consider when assessing your body. And it’s also why “skinny” women can still have cellulite and many “thicker” women can appear to have less.
As a traditional pear-shaped gal with poor circulation, I’m the ideal genetic candidate for lower body cellulite. My cellulite situation isn’t perfect; but I manage to keep it in check, with only minor dimpling when I flex. Curious how I do it? Keep reading!
How Can I Get Rid of Cellulite?
You can’t get rid of cellulite permanently, sorry. The underlying systems and features that cause cellulite are with you for life. (Which is a good thing, because they are critical to allow your body to function.)
But you can visually diminish the appearance of cellulite by reducing the thickness and prevalence of it using, what I call, a “breakup and flush” method.
You can also enlist the help of specialist treatments, though they can be quite expensive. If you struggle with excessive or extreme cellulite, this may be a good option for you. I will touch on those options towards the end of this article.
Proven, At-Home Treatments to Reduce Cellulite
From my personal experience, the best way to reduce cellulite is with a breakup and flush approach. Meaning, you want to soften (“break up”) the deposit of fat. And then activate the lymphatic system to “flush” the fat cells, excess collagen, and stagnant lymph fluid away.
This how-to article will focus on dry brushing to stimulate the lymphatic system and vacuum cupping to break up and flush the fat away.
It’s worth pointing out that a clean, plant-focused diet and exercise can also prevent excessive cellulite in the first place. Processed or estrogen-rich foods can exacerbate the conditions that fat thrives off of. So ditch those in favor of vitamin-rich foods. Eat as many raw fruits and veggies as you can. Targeted exercise moves not only help smooth out the appearance of dimples by creating a firmer muscle foundation for the skin to lay against. They also get your lymphatic system pumping, which will help flush fat cells away. Try to get moving for at least 15 mins every day! I’ve included my favourite leg and glute workouts at the end of this article.
The Tools You’ll Need for this Tutorial:
To reduce cellulite at home using lymphatic drainage combined with vacuum cupping, you’ll need:
- A Dry Brush made from short, coarse bristles. I prefer Vegan (non-boar bristle) brushes, which can be harder to find. Luckily, I found these three:
This handled one with a rope tie from The Detox Market | I use this long handled one and this round, hand-held one from The Body Shop.
- A slow-absorbing body oil, such as Argan, Coconut, Jojoba, or Macadamia Nut Oil.
Try any of these: Altogether Body Oil by Detox Mode | Raw Coconut Oil by Cocovit | Night Body Oil by Osmia
A slow-absorbing body butter or lotion. For an added boost, look for formulas with stimulators, especially caffeine, to activate the lymphatic system.
I adore the Brazillian Bum Bum Cream by Sol Janeiro for the summertime! | Anti-Aging Body Balm by OSEA | Creme Corps Hydrating Body Cream by Karite
- Glass Vacuum Cup / Glass Cupping Set
I use the LURE Glass Face and Body Cupping Set (option to purchase single cups or the set) | Similar 1 (pink, full set only) | Similar 2 (white, full set only)
Optional, but recommended:
- 4 – 8-pound (total) ankle weights – Great for targetting the inner thigh and back of thighs, plus building firm, rounded glutes muscles.
Aim to have at least 2 pounds per ankle for results. Many companies will advertise total weight and not individual weight per strap, so doublecheck that before you purchase!
I use the Virtee Ankle Weights (various weights/colours) the 6 lb/ 3lb each pair | Similar 1 (various weights/colours) | Similar 2 (various weights/colours)
- Resistance bands – Ideal for targeting the outer thighs and the outer glutes.
I have a set of 4 “booty bands” of different strengths/resistance levels. The heavy-duty bands are great for the thighs, while the lighter bands are perfect for arm workouts.
These are super convenient and don’t cost a lot! I even keep a set in my living room to use while I’m watching Netflix.
I use the PEACH BANDS Traditional Set of 4 by Peach Band Fitness | PEACH BANDS Fabric Set of 3 (supposedly provides more resistance)
- Body scrubs – When you don’t feel like doing this full routine, body scrubs can also provide some lymphatic stimulation when applied properly.
Coco Rose Body Polish by Herbivore | Coconut Citrus Body Scrub by Indie Lee | Malibu Made Body Scrub by C & The Moon
6 Steps to Reduce Cellulite at Home:
Time needed: 28 days.
It takes time to reduce cellulite. Be patient and kind to yourself. You’ll see results in about 2 – 4 weeks!
Also, don’t use excessive force. Lymphatic channels are just beneath the skin, so use a light touch.
- Dry brush your lower legs using a circular motion
Starting with your ankles and toes, work in small, gentle circles gradually up your to your knees. Don’t forget the back of your knees!
- Dry brush your upper legs using a circular motion
Starting at your knees, work in medium-size, gentle circles gradually up to your hips. Make a wide circle around your kneecap with the brush–this is a common area for fluid to accumulate. (aka: chubby knees.)
Spend more time on stubborn areas, but don’t overdo it and irritate the skin. Don’t forget the area of your thigh that meets the base of your cheeks! This is a stubborn area for most.
- Dry brush your entire legs in long sweeps
This time, move in long, gentle sweeps from your ankles up to your hips. This motion helps move lymph fluid and dislodged fat cells in the right direction.
- Dry brush your torso
Alternate between gentle circles and long sweeps with the brush over your hips, bottom, belly, and lower back. Always work in an upward motion towards your shoulders.
Finish off by brushing up your back and over your shoulders, towards your collarbones. Lymphatic vessels travel up the back and wrap over your shoulder to filter inside the chest cavity. Sometimes, lymph fluid can stagnate on the upper back or shoulders, so it’s good to give this region a quick sweep too.
- Apply body oil or body butter
As I mentioned above, this should be a slow absorbing formula. The next step will hurt if you haven’t applied a nourishing barrier with a high degree of slip.
Start at your ankles and work up to your hips. Continue to work in upward sweeping motions.
- Vacuum cupping the upper legs
Select a glass cup that will cover a medium to large area. (I use the largest one in the set linked below.) Push the glass edge of the cup against the skin until you feel a barrier is formed. (ie: no air can get through.)
Squeeze the rubber bulb. You should see the skin lift up under the cup. (This suction-lifting is the part this is going to break up and loosen the fat.) Holding the rubber bulb firmly, drag the cup up towards your hip using a straight or diagonal line.
Release the rubber bulb to break the suction.
If this is too painful, use a smaller cup, apply more lotion/oil, or work in shorter movements.
After each session, you should feel a tingling sensation under the skin. This is the lymphatic fluid moving! When done correctly, there will be a feeling of lightness in the limbs. Once the lymphatic system has been activated, it will continue to pump for several hours. Doing this routine before you go to bed will assist with lymphatic drainage since you’ll be laying down and the lymph flow won’t have to travel against gravity.
Repeat steps 1 – 6 once a week, for 4 weeks. Some may see visible results after 2 or 3 sessions, but if you’ve never flushed your lower lymphatic system, it will be slower to respond.
Lazy Girl Tip: If you are looking for a more convenient way to get your lymphatic system pumping, try using a body scrub. Apply the body scrub while you are in the shower or bath, working in the same direction and with the same motions outline above. Scrubs won’t provide as dramatic results, but they are better than nothing when you are pressed for time!
The Lymphatic System’s Role in Flushing Cellulite
A strong, consistently moving lymphatic system will continually circulate and flush toxins, lymph, and discarded fat cells from the body. A weak or stagnant system will do the opposite.
Unlike the cardiovascular channels, the Lymphatic System doesn’t have a large central pump to assist with circulation (ie: blood flow is pushed by the heart’s values.) Instead, the Lymphatic System relies on full-body muscle movement and a network of one-way flowing values inside the delicate lymph vessels. Scattered along this network are small bean-shaped clusters called lymph nodes. These nodes filter and eliminate pathogens and biological debris (discarded cells) from the body. Concentrations of them can be found along the throat, upper chest, armpits, elbows, abdomen, groin area, and knees. You want to pay special attention to these node-cluster areas during lymphatic drainage treatments.
Most lymph nodes and the lymph vessels are located just beneath the skin. You only need a light touch to ‘activate’ them. Dry brushing and vacuum cupping with glass cups work the superficial layers of the skin and muscles, which is why they are effective methods to flush stagnant lymphatic fluid and fat, and ultimately reduce cellulite.
Bonus: Upper Leg and Glute Workouts to Visually Reduce Cellulite
As I mentioned above, increasing the firmness of the muscles underneath cellulite-prone areas can help smooth the skin’s overall appearance. Strap on some ankles weights for faster, more obvious results. I recommend aiming for at least 2 pounds per ankle. Here are the workout moves I love to reduce the appearance of cellulite:
- Kneeling Fire Hydrants. 25 reps on each side. Targets the side glutes and side of thighs.
- Kneeling Donkey Kicks. 25 reps on each side. Targets the under-booty and backs of the thighs.
- Straight Legs Lifts. 25 reps on each side. Targets the under-booty and backs of the thighs.
These can be done kneeling or from a standing position.
- Rainbow Leg Lifts. 25 reps on each side. Targets the under-booty and backs of the thighs.
These can be done kneeling or from a standing position.
- Laying Inner Thigh Lifts. 25 reps on each side. Targets the inner and upper thigh.
- Laying Inner Thigh Circles. 15 reps clockwise, 15 reps counterclockwise each side. Targets the inner and upper thigh.
- Squat Pulses with a Resistance Band. 50 reps. Targets the full glutes and outer thighs.
Personally speaking, I do either the Rainbow legs lifts followed by Straight leg lifts, or Fire hydrants followed by Straight leg lifts, every day.
It only takes about 2 mins to do the full rep, so making it a part of my morning grooming routine is a no-brainer. It feels amazing to get your muscles moving early in the day. Or after work!
Pro tip: these can all be done while you watch Netflix. Just sayin’.
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Professional Options to Reduce Cellulite
Sometimes you may want to enlist the help of a professional. Cellulite reduction treatments usually have the phrases “body contouring”, “lymphatic drainage” or “fat flushing/freezing” in their description. The following clinical treatments and professional services should help in cellulite reduction:
- Glass cupping/vacuuming massage
- Infrared heat or radiofrequency treatments
- Full body Lymphatic drainage massage
- Cryolipolysis (vacuum and cooling of fat)
- Acoustic wave therapy
Please make sure these services are performed by a certified specialist in a professional clinical or day-spa setting. Combining treatments, such as infrared laser and cupping massage, seems to increase the speed and significance of results. Regardless of which type of treatment you choose, several sessions will be needed to see results.