The Bathroom: Treating Cellulite from the Outside In

So you’ve chosen to begin your cellulite-investigating adventure in the bathroom. Wise choice.  The cellulite treatments in this room are the most instantly gratifying and thus provide plenty of motivation to stay consistent with your anti-cellulite routine. They are also simple and inexpensive, yet potent at the same time.

As we learned in our primer on cellulite, a major contributor to the development of cellulite is sluggish lymphatic circulation. The lymphatic system is often thought of as the “sewage drainage system” for the body.  Although it has a variety of functions, its main purpose is to remove metabolic debris from our cells, including our fat cells.  Like the cardiovascular system, it is connected to every organ in the human body through a network of capillaries, vessels, and ducts (see Lymph FAQ to learn more).  Since cellulite is formed in the outermost lymphatic vessels, the ones just under the skin, topical and other external treatments can be particularly powerful cellulite remedies.

Getting Started with Dry Skin Brushing

Dry skin brushing is the single treatment that ignited my curiosity in finding a natural cure for cellulite.  I knew the treatment was working when, after just a few days of brushing, I developed an itchy red rash on my legs. I was dry brushing my whole body, but the rash only appeared on areas with cellulite. It was as if an irritant trapped under my skin was released to the surface.

Not all women have the same reaction to dry skin brushing, but I’ve heard from many who notice immediate improvements. The gentle friction of the bristles against the skin help to stimulate circulation, as evidenced by the skin turning a rosy shade of pink. It is important to brush in the direction of lymphatic flow to maximize the beneficial effects on the lymphatic system. For more detailed instructions, see How to Dry Brush Cellulite.

The Ancient Practice of Oil Skin Scraping

Roman strigil and oil flask, St. Albans Museum, circa 44 BC

Dry skin brushing helps with exfoliation, but after two years of dry brushing I noticed my skin was still not turning over at what seemed like a healthy rate. That is when I learned about the ancient practice of oil skin scraping.

Oil skin scraping involves rubbing a base oil into the skin, such as almond oil or jojoba, and then sitting in a steam room or a hot bath while the skin softens. The oil combines with fat-soluble waste on the skin and is then lightly scraped off. The ancient Greeks and Romans used an instrument called a strigil. In parts of Asia where variations on the practice are still common they use polished jade, a honed animal horn, or even a metal coin or spoon (I use this nifty tool from QVC).

Steam Baths and Hydrotherapy

Mosaic from ancient Roman bath house displays sandals, three strigils, and the phrase "it is a healthful thing to bathe."

In our hectic modern culture, we “jump in the shower” before work or at the end of the day.  But as anyone who has been to the ruins of the magnificent Roman baths can attest, bathing was once an esteemed ritual.  Restoring this sense of ritual to your own bathing routine can be a powerful addition to your anti-cellulite strategy.

Forget the synthetic bubble baths and bath oils that line the shelves of common bath stores. Even the ones with “natural” on the label usually contain a small amount of the advertised ingredient in a sludge of questionable chemicals and preservatives.  It is much easier and cheaper to create powerful bath potions at home. Once you start indulging in these truly natural luxuries, you’ll lose all interest in bath products purchased at the mall.

Start exploring the use of mineral salts, herbal concotions, apple cider vinegar, and other natural ingredients for the bath. Many essential oils, such as rosemary and lemongrass, are particularly effective at stimulating the lymphatic system.  Even something as simple as a cold water rinse can improve circulation and bring fresh oxygen to the skin.  French women swear by them!

Self-Massage for Cellulite

Nurturing touch is a central concept in Ayurveda, the ancient system of traditional medicine native to India where infants receive a massage at birth and every day thereafter for the first three years of life. Massage continues to be an important aspect of healthcare throughout adolescence and the adult years (reference: Absolute Beauty by Pratima Raichur).

There are many different schools and techniques for self-massage, but the important part is to be consistent.  A few minutes of massage will have a subtle effect on the body, but a few minutes of massage every day will have a much stronger impact.

Abhanga, the daily self-massage prescribed in Ayurveda, is a good place to start and can be performed prior to oil skin scraping. Like many other people, I experienced amazing results with Lymph Drainage Massage and still use some of its techniques on my legs at home. Even the rolling pin treatment or just a good “twaddling” (to use a non-technical term from Bronwyn Hewitt’s The Ultimate Cellulite Treatment in a Book) will do wonders for stubborn dimples.

Be Kind To Your Lymph

A crucial aspect of treating cellulite is to reduce the load placed on the lymphatic system. I must warn you though, once you start down this rabbit hole your shopping experience for many common products will be forever changed.

Take a look under your bathroom sink. Do you see brand-name household cleaners made from mysterious chemicals. Even mainstream physicians like Dr. Oz are shining the spotlight on these toxic solutions. Natural alternatives are cheaper and just as effective –although they can’t be patented and sold for large profits.

What products are in your shower right now? What about your medicine cabinet? Dare I ask about the makeup bag? If you are content using shampoos, toothpaste, cleansers, even feminine hygiene products from Target, a world of natural (and better!) alternatives is out there waiting to be discovered.  Switching to truly natural products can be overwhelming at first, but once you start saving time and money on products that are safer, healthier, and more pleasurable, you just might start to feel liberated from the modern trap of commercial marketing.

A Note on Anti Cellulite Creams

You might have noticed that I did not list anti cellulite creams as an effective topical treatment for cellulite. I’m not against the idea of anti cellulite creams, but I have yet to find one that worked.  A few manufacturers offered their products to The Cellulite Investigation for review, but those of us who tested them did not see any results. I suspect the dearth in product offerings since then could have something to do with these negative reviews.

Anti cellulite creams are a popular cellulite treatment in Europe, so I am hesitant to discount them completely as part of an effective anti cellulite strategy. But until I see reason to pay $60 and up for a cellulite cream, I recommend an essential oil blend in a pure carrier base, instead.

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