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Cellulite creams are the perfect cosmetic because of a wide potential audience and the large body service area that must be covered with cream required frequent purchase. This explains the competitive marketplace, but determining efficacy is another story.
A. Indeed, cellulite creams are extremely popular. Perhaps this is because every postpubertal woman has cellulite somewhere on her body. This is a large market of consumers wishing for smooth dimple-free skin over the thighs and buttocks. Cellulite creams are the perfect cosmetic because of a wide potential audience and the large body service area that must be covered with cream required frequent purchase. This explains the competitive marketplace, but determining efficacy is another story.
The breakdown of fat has been a medical challenge, but some physiologic facts regarding lipolysis are known. Lipolysis is mediated, in part, by the nervous system via beta- and alpha-2 adrenergic receptors on adipocytes. If the beta-adrenergic receptors are activated and/or the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors are inhibited, fat is broken down. Modulating these receptors in one physiologic way in which fat breakdown can be encouraged.
Substances that stimulate beta-adrenergic receptors include theophylline, aminophylline, caffeine and theobromine, while substances that inhibit alpha-2 adrenergic receptor include yohimbine, piperoxan, phentolamine and dihydroergotamine. It is theorized that use of these substances topically may increase fatty acid release from the adipocytes, which are then eliminated by the lymphatic system. Since excess fat is one of the contributing factors to cellulite formation, it is possible that this lipolysis might have an effect.
The most commonly used substance in cellulite creams is caffeine. Caffeine is an alkaloid derived from the leaves and beans of the coffee tree that also functions as a stimulant. Caffeine is similar to theobromine, which is found in cacao beans, kola nuts and tea. It is a stimulant and also diuretic.
Topical caffeine is believed to be safe and is used in various types of cosmetic formulations from “wake up” soaps for morning use to “stimulating” face creams. Theoretically, caffeine might increase fatty acid release from adipocytes, but the steady concentration needed to induce a sustained effect might cause caffeine toxicity.
Remember that fat is highly vascular and rapid washout of caffeine from the adipocytes is a certainty. This means that a steady supply of caffeine would need to be present to maintain lipolysis. Further, I have not noted that high-consumption coffee-drinkers possess less cellulite than the rest of the population.
I think most cellulite creams are wonderful moisturizers making the skin smooth and soft. Certainly, this change can improve the feel of the skin and create a sense of beauty. Whether lipolysis is occurring to diminish cellulite, though, is uncertain.