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Do anti-cellulite lotions and stretch-mark formulas actually work?

Cellulite is characterized by lumpy, dimpled skin on hips, thighs and buttocks. According to  MedPage Today, a website that is written for medical doctors,it is caused by fat deposits just below the surface of the skin and is very difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of. Paula Begoun, beauty expert and author of the book "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," says that cellulite shows up on the thighs of an estimated 85 percent of adult women, regardless of their body weight. Perhaps that explains the numerous firming and anti-cellulite creams on the market today. Manufacturers and beauty magazines are constantly touting the latest skin firming ingredients, like caffeine and seaweed. But do they work? Not likely, experts say.

Doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, authors of the book "You Being Beautiful," say "no creams, gels or other easy solutions have been shown even to assist" in reducing cellulite. While some of the ingredients contained within these lotions may make the skin feel slightly tighter, experts say there is no evidence that they can actually reduce or eradicate the appearance of cellulite. One reason why, doctors at health website MedicineNet.com explain, is that "Skin creams cannot deliver the required concentration of these chemicals for the length of time required for significant fat breakdown." However, for some women, even temporary improvement may be worth a splurge. It is important to note that while no cream will rid you of cellulite, firming and exfoliating products may slightly improve the appearance of cellulite.

Begoun concurs, saying that most research suggests that "there is little hope that anything rubbed on the skin can change fat deposits or radically reduce the appearance of cellulite." She states that the only topical treatments that could possibly have any effect are retinols (a derivative of vitamin A that helps to boost collagen production and thickens skin) and alpha-hydroxy acids (exfoliating ingredients that gently remove dead skin cells and smooth the appearance of skin), though there is only minimal research to suggest the possibility.

Despite all the scientific evidence, numerous products claim to visibly improve the appearance of cellulite, and user reviews often support these claims. This may be merely a placebo effect, or may be due to the increased blood circulation caused by vigorous application. One product that receives some positive reviews is Prevage Body Total Transforming Anti-Aging Moisturizer (*Est. $135 for 6.8 oz.) . However, Paula Beguon says that there are no ingredients in this product that merit the staggering price tag. While skin tone may improve as it would with any other moisturizer, it will not help with cellulite and the claims made about its skin-lightening ingredient are only suggestive, not conclusive. Beguon, instead, recommends Olay Quench, which also offers a skin-tightening formula.

In Beguon's review of Olay Quench Plus Firming Body Lotion (*Est. $8 for 13.5 oz.) , she says that the product is a very effective lotion for slightly dry to normal skin, though she concedes that the tightening effect is only minimal. Still, for buyers determined to try a tightening formula, an inexpensive, highly reviewed moisturizer that also boasts some skin-tightening effect is the best value. As no lotion will have a permanent or drastic effect, it seems wiser to use an inexpensive product that will at least moisturize well if nothing else.

However, because none of these products are clinically proven to actually reduce cellulite, none make the grade as a ConsumerSearch Best Reviewed body lotion. Concealing cellulite may be a more convenient option. For instance, Begoun suggests camouflaging affected areas with a good sunless tanning lotion.

Much like cellulite, stretch marks are a common ailment for which treatments receive a lot of hype with very little promise. Stretch marks affect an estimated 90 percent of mothers, 70 percent of adolescent females and 40 percent of adolescent males, according to Begoun. They occur when the skin is stretched for an extended period of time, such as with a pregnancy or weight gain.

Experts say there is no evidence that over-the-counter creams can have any impact on stretch marks. Begoun, Roizen and Oz all recommend the ingredient tretinoin instead, which can be found in Retin-A, Renova or their generic counterparts. Tretinoin has the ability to improve skin texture, color and function and helps to stimulate elastin synthesis. Over time, this can improve the appearance of stretch marks, but it will not remove them completely. Experts say the typical improvement for this prescription treatment is approximately 20 percent and it works best if it is used at the first sign of stretch marks. Experts say laser treatments may also lighten the appearance of stretch marks, but the only way to permanently remove them is with surgery.

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