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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Under the skin of the cellulite debate
Orange peel - how cellulite's often described
The 'orange peel effect'
There are hundreds of products claiming to be the answer to tackling cellulite. Do they work?

Creams, jeans and even tights. Like the secret to eternal life, they claim to solve a problem which is the bane of women and agony aunts throughout the country. Cellulite.

This war on fatty deposits fills many magazine column inches and has earned a fortune for the UK's 6bn cosmetic industry through its self-proclaimed remedies.

But there was a setback this week when the advert for a cream by Estee Lauder, which costs 28 for a 200ml tube, was criticised as misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA said the advert implied that Estee Lauder's Body Performance Anti Cellulite Visible Contouring Serum worked directly on the cellulite.

I don't see how a cream can remove the dimples, unless it's Polyfilla
Dr Susan Mayou
But Estee Lauder said its consumers realised this was a cosmetic treatment which alleviated the appearance of the cellulite by toning and moisturising. And it said 83% of women tested said it worked.

Cellulite is a permanent change in the fat stored under the skin and it is inevitable in most women.

As the fat cells enlarge with age, they push through the connecting fibres, which stay the same size, giving the effect of a balloon being blown up through a string vest. The dimples on the outer skin are the fat cells emerging through.

Cellulite affects people of all sizes because everyone has fat cells. Men can develop cellulite but it's not as visible because their network of fat cells is deeper in the skin, their fat distribution is different and the hair can cover it up.

There is a genetic inevitability about the process but some medical experts say a poor diet, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute.

Massage

But no quick fix will be found in a bottle, says Dr Susan Mayou, a consultant dermatologist. "I don't see how a cream can remove the dimples, unless it's Polyfilla.

"Cellulite is beyond people's control. It's a genetic predisposition and I'm sure it doesn't help if you're overweight but I don't think there's any way of improvement, other than rupturing the fibrous bands or removing the fat.

"Tights can improve the shape of your upper thighs but they don't do anything to the cellulite, although if you look better you feel better."

Massage is supposed to break down the fibrous bands, but again there is little hard evidence to support this
Dr Trisha Macnair
Dr Trisha Macnair, a medical journalist and broadcaster, says the formation of cellulite is closely linked to female sex hormones. And puberty and pregnancy are times when it can worsen.

She is sceptical about some of the remedies. "Massage is supposed to break down the fibrous bands, but again there is little hard evidence to support this."

Liposuction, which sucks out the fat cells, might help but it's a drastic step, she adds.

One answer is a self-tanning preparation, says Dr Margaret Stearn, of the website Embarrassing Problems, because cellulite is much less obvious on darker skin.

But before you throw away your anti-cellulite creams, one doctor believes they can make a difference. Dr Chris Flower, director general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, says products that tone the skin can improve the look of cellulite.

All cosmetic companies have to substantiate the claims they make under the European Cosmetics Directive and bosses risk imprisonment if they break this, he says.

But the biggest test is the general public, who turn their back on products they don't believe.

"The market is a strict control on the claims that can be made successfully," he says.




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