Open just about any women's magazine and you'll find ads for anti-cellulite creams that promise to reduce the spongy, dimply, cottage cheese-looking skin that causes distress to so many women.
The products tout caffeine, retinol and the antioxidant DMAE as the special ingredients that help reduce the appearance of cellulite, which first surfaces on the hips, thighs and buttocks of millions of women during adolescence. Though excess weight and a lack of exercise can contribute to the problem, even thin women grapple with it.
According to a study by Neutrogena, 70 percent of women have cellulite. More women have it than men, because women have thinner skin, so it shows more clearly.
Wrestling With Cellulite
Over the years, Vivian Carlson has done everything to stay in shape: she runs, goes to the gym and eats healthily, but has had no luck in getting rid of her cellulite. At one point, she even took a dust buster to her inner thigh, hoping to suck the dimply skin away.
"I heard about the treatments they give at the spas — this wasn't so different," Carlson said. "It's all suction and massage. Why spend the money on the spa treatments? I thought I was on to something."
But all she got for her efforts was some red skin. So Carlson avoids wearing dresses or skirts and wears a skirted bathing suit to the beach.
She's not alone, and that is why the interest in anti-cellulite creams is so strong.
Linda Wells, editor-in-chief of Allure magazine, says the new products claim to help with the appearance of cellulite, and do not say that they can banish it completely
"No cream will get rid of cellulite," Wells said. "And they don't really say that they do. What they say is 'help the appearance of cellulite.'"
Caffeine is in almost every cellulite-reducing product that shows any benefit, because it helps blood flow to the skin and works like a diuretic, Wells said, adding that it flushes you out.
"In removing moisture from the skin, it firms it, albeit temporarily," Wells said.
Retinol is supposed to work by being able to penetrate the skin, exfoliate it, and increase collagen production, which makes skin thicker and hides the dimpling fat. But the question is how much is needed in the products to achieve the effects, because too much can dry out the skin and cause it to redden and peel, Wells said.
Other creams boast the ingredient dimethylaminoethanol or DMAE, an antioxidant derived from fish that when combined with amino acids supposedly stimulates the muscles to contract and become firmer.
No Scientific Proof
But doctors told ABCNEWS.com there is no scientific proof that cellulite creams are effective in getting rid of cellulite or reducing its appearance.
Women who believe that they can eliminate cellulite through creams, or even weight loss, are likely to be disappointed, said Dr. Garry S. Brody, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California.
"So-called cellulite is the natural anatomic contour characteristic of many women's thighs and buttocks," Brody said. "It is unrelated to weight gain or loss. There is absolutely no surgical or medical solution to women's dislike of this appearance except for the psychological self-deception of wanting to believe the ads."
Cellulite Is the Norm