According to the Mayo Clinic, cellulite is harmless. I think that’s a little harsh. Cosmetic issues are not necessarily harmless. For many people, it may not be easy (or even possible) to separate personal image from well-being or self-esteem. Cellulite may not put your life, or even your health, at risk. But it could be the case that your life would be better without it. So it’s worth asking what infrared sauna can do for cellulite.
But the Mayo Clinic isn’t very hopeful about cellulite treatments in general: “Many people try, with variable success, to improve the appearance of their skin through weight loss, exercise, massage and creams marketed as a solution to cellulite. Medically proven treatment options are available as well, though results aren’t immediate or long lasting.”
More than Skin-Deep
Cellulite is visible on the surface of the skin, but it results from what goes on at the deepest skin layer: subcutaneous tissue. That is where you store most of your fat cells. When you increase the quantity of fat, the outer layers of the skin expand to accommodate the increase. But where the connective fibers of the skin’s middle layer anchor the outer layer, it can create dimples. This dimpling can resemble cottage cheese or orange rind. That’s cellulite.
This page at the Women’s Health site describes the most common medical treatments for cellulite. Let me say first that I doubt you can get an effective treatment out of a jar. Cellulite happens at the deepest layer of the skin, so it’s hard to see how it could be affected by anything you do on the surface. And, in fact, Women’s Health suggests that skin creams, when they work at all, just make the cellulite look less obvious.
A Variety of Treatments
But there are mechanical- and energy-based treatments (some of which are FDA approved) that sound like they should work. They are designed to cut the fibrous connective tissue in the middle layer of the skin. That would reduce the dimpling without reducing the fat that causes it. And even those methods sound a little drastic to me, although they are usually characterized as “minimally invasive.”
The Women’s Health page does not mention sauna at all. And I must admit there isn’t much credible research on sauna as cellulite treatment. I found one article, dating from 2005, that documented a 50% improvement. But that study did not focus on infrared sauna alone. It evaluated a treatment consisting of radio frequency, infrared, and mechanical tissue manipulation. The article includes photos that do indeed show improvement in the appearance of cellulite on subjects’ thighs and buttocks. But these photos also showed a reduction in bulk, and that suggests to me that reducing fat tissue may be helpful in reducing cellulite, even though some say weight loss doesn’t usually help.
Infrared Sauna for Cellulite
I have written in this blog before about infrared sauna’s usefulness in weight control (here and here), so I won’t go over that again. My opinion is that infrared sauna can be a useful supplement to diet and exercise for weight control.
Regardless of what you read on the web, infrared sauna by itself is not going to get rid of your cellulite. But it may complement your efforts to control your weight, and weight control could help to minimize the appearance of it. In any case, infrared sauna is not even minimally invasive, so the risk of using it is very low. And an infrared sauna session could be the most relaxing half hour you will spend this week. You can book one here to find out.
Photo: “Woman holds an orange in her hand near her legs. The concept of cellulite on the body” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0