Smooth Moves

Effective spa cellulite treatmentsDimples on the face are cute, but  dimples found pretty much anywhere else on the body can be a source of embarrassment and frustration for many people. According to Angela Eriksen-Stanley, director of education for Phytomer Group Brands, these body dimples, typically found on the hips, thighs, lower stomach, inside of knees, and buttocks, are referred to as cellulite or uneven deposits of excess stored fat in the subcutaneous layer of the adipose tissue. “This area of tissue also contains networks of connective tissue and networks for the blood and lymph to flow through,” she says. “As the fat cells in this tissue expand with added fat storage, the function of the cells, connective tissue, blood, and lymph drainage are affected.”

Cellulite is more common among women than men. In fact, it affects more than 90 percent of women of all ages and body types. According to Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals, fibrous connective tissue adheres skin to the muscle beneath, and the arrangement of this is different in women than men. “As the body ages, connective tissue contracts and stiffens causing it to pull down or tighten the skin, which pushes the fat cells out against the cells,” she says. “Thus, you can see why the arrangement of this tissue would impact the visibility of cellulite.”

Cause and Effect

There are certain factors that are known to contribute to the formation of cellulite, including hormones, lack of muscle tone, and excess fat, says Milana Knowles, senior director of spa development USA at Clarins. Another possible cause is poor circulation. As the blood vessels that bring nutrients to the skin begin to deteriorate—a process that can start as early as puberty—they leak lymphatic fluid into fat cells, causing the cells to puff up, cluster together, and push toward the surface of the skin. “As women age, their bodies produce less estrogen—a hormone that helps keep blood vessels flowing smoothly,” says Knowles. “Less estrogen can mean poorer circulation, which can also mean a decrease in new collagen production and the breakdown of older connective tissue.”

Effective spa cellulite treatmentsOther factors include genetics (some women are more predisposed to cellulite than others); a poor diet (not getting enough healthy nutrients and vitamins can cause problems with blood flow and collagen production); aging (as people age, their connective tissue weakens and fat cells get larger while skin loses its elasticity); and a lack of exercise (exercise increases circulation, metabolism, and muscle tone); as well as a buildup of toxins and trapped fluid in the tissue, smoking, sluggish lymphatics, and dehydration. “The amount of cellulite increases with bad lifestyle habits,” says Lydia Sarfati, founder and CEO of Repêchage. “Bad habits, such as a poor diet and smoking, contribute to less dense and poorer quality of the skin. Additionally, sun exposure damages the collagen and elasticity in our skin.”


Healthy Habits

Because there is no permanent cure for cellulite, it’s crucial that you and your staff be honest with clients who might expect unrealistic results after just one visit. Remind clients that the most important and effective way to prevent and treat cellulite is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which, according to Knowles, includes eating a diet rich in nutrients that help keep up circulation and collagen production, as well as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fiber, and to consume less sugar, processed foods, carbohydrates, alcohol, and caffeine. In addition to a healthy diet, spa-goers should partake in meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and stretching, which can have a positive impact on the circulatory system, connective tissue, and muscles. “While there’s no actual cure for cellulite, I believe we can greatly improve the appearance, so much so that it is diminished and no longer visible at the surface,” says Allison. “There are four primary components to minimizing cellulite: Increase circulation, flush toxins, strengthen collagen, and reduce fat.”


Treatment Plan

Cellulite can be prevented and treated with spa services that are designed to directly target it and help increase circulation. At The Spa and Wellness Center at Stowe Mountain Lodge (VT), for example, spa-goers can invigorate their minds and bodies with the Detoxifying & Energizing Scrub ($160, 50 minutes), which helps to reduce cellulite, stress, and exhaustion. Juniper berry, rose geranium, and wild poppy essential oils help stimulate the lymphatic system, aiding in the elimination of toxins from cells and stimulating circulation. Similarly, the Quick Slim Wrap ($145, 50 minutes) at Spa Mio at M Resort Spa Casino (Henderson, NV), which is a slimming and toning treatment, also includes a refreshing body scrub to stimulate blood circulation, but it is followed by a heated wrap to treat and prevent fat cell accumulation, water retention, and the appearance of cellulite.

According to Knowles, the lymphatic system is made up of lymphatic nodes and vessels that carry liquid, called lymph, through the body, moving toxins away from the healthy cells, but it lacks a pump of its own to transport the lymph through the body and must rely on movement, muscular contraction, and massage to flush the fluid. Because of this, she believes that lymphatic drainage is the best beauty regimen available that does not require exercise. “By using very light pressures in a rhythmic, circular motion, a massage therapist can stimulate the lymph system,” she says. “The movements help to remove toxins, built-up proteins and waste products, and more importantly, it reduces swelling. Lymphatic drainage massage will help the body to flush out built-up toxins in the body and increase blood flow.” Spa-goers can increase their blood flow at Mii amo (Sedona, AZ) with the Lymphatic Drainage ($160, 60 minutes) treatment, which involves a light, rhythmic touch to increase the flow of fluid through the lymphatic system, speed up the detoxification process, and stimulate circulation.

Other anti-cellulite treatments include Endermologie, which is offered at many spas and medical spas today, and involves kneading the skin with a rolling suction device to break up cellulite, boost circulation, and stimulate collagen production, as well as devices such as VelaShape by Syneron-Candela, SmoothShapes by CynoSure, and Reaction by Viora. They are fairly painless and use heat energy to shrink fat cells temporarily. With these devices, newly firmed thighs and backsides can last between six months to two years or longer but may require touchups. At Dream Spa Medical (multiple locations in Massachusetts), clients can experience VelaShape, which utilizes a combination of bipolar radiofrequency, infrared light energy, vacuum, and mechanical massage to help smooth out the skin, increase the metabolism of stored energy, increase lymphatic drainage, and reduce or shrink the size of the actual fat cells and fat chambers. The P.R. Shape Technique by Silhouet-Tone is also non-invasive and helps tighten the skin and reduces the orange peel appearance often associated with cellulite.

At Elemis Spa at Mohegan Sun (Uncasville, CT), spa-goers can enjoy the skin-smoothing effects of Ionithermie with the Ionithermie Cellulite Reduction Treatment ($160, 60 minutes), which helps reduce the appearance of cellulite and firm and tone the skin. Ionithermie involves galvanic and faradic stimulation, micronized algae, and conductive thermal aroma clay. A series of three treatments is recommended for the best results. Spa-goers who desire instant gratification and are willing to pay a higher price for it, can opt for Cellulaze by CynoSure, which stimulates blood flow as well as new collagen formation after just one session. Offered at select spas, including Juva Skin & Laser Center (New York City), Cellulaze differs from other lasers, because it penetrates past the skin’s upper layer to get at fat and connective tissues and involves minimal downtime and discomfort. During the treatment, a tiny fiber-optic laser is inserted below the skin to melt fat bulges. Next, the laser fires its energy at fibrous bands, releasing them. Results can last up to two years, says Knowles.

Clients who desire a more natural way to prevent and reduce the appearance of cellulite should consider thalassotherapy. “Natural thalassotherapy wraps that utilize a thermal effect and seaweed, which is rich in amino acids and electrolytes, are very effective in treating cellulite,” says Sarfati. “Unlike machines and devices, thalassotherapy works by utilizing seaweed extracts and essential oils like spearmint and peppermint to stimulate the blood flow, which will lead to improved circulation. The thermal aspect of the thalassotherapy will induce sweating, and, therefore, also speeds up the elimination of toxins from the body.” Arabella Spa at St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort (Balearic Islands, Spain) offers several thalassotherapy treatments including the Thalasso Contouring Treatment for Abdomen and Buttocks ($199, 75 minutes). It utilizes a thermo-reducing clay combined with an intensive targeted massage and a self-heating body mask on the area between the waist and knees to help smooth cellulite.


Key Ingredients

To enhance and prolong the results of spa treatments, it is important for spa-goers to utilize products that are available specifically to combat cellulite. According to Allison, nourishing and skin-building ingredients like amino acids, epidermal growth factors, hyaluronic acid, isoflavones, peptides, and organic stem cells, to name a few, will firm skin and support cellular regeneration. Products containing caffeine are highly effective in treating cellulite, as the ingredient provides a topical slimming stimulant that is known to help increase the body’s own enzymes responsible for the degradation of fat, says Sarfati. At Cal-A-Vie Health Spa (Vista, CA), spa-goers can enjoy the benefits of topical caffeine with the Bodycoffee Contouring and Cellulite Wrap ($260, 90 minutes), which helps reduce the appearance of cellulite and wrinkles, improve microcirculation, and break up fatty deposits that can cause cellulite. The treatment includes an exfoliation with a combination of coffee, Dead Sea salt, and essential oils to smooth and stimulate the skin, followed by a detoxifying body wrap, hot shower, and application of body lotion. 

Also, seaweeds, such as ascophyllum nodosum, palmaria palmate, and spirulina, can help eliminate excess fluids, assist in fat tissue breakdown, enhance blood flow, and protect dermal tissue, which makes it an effective ingredient in cellulite treatments. At Murad Inclusive Health Spa (El Segundo, CA), spa-goers can opt for the Spa Seaweed Detoxifying Wrap Experience ($100, 50 minutes), which begins with a dry-glove exfoliation to loosen dead skin cells and help to stimulate the lymphatic system. Then, heated seaweed is applied to the entire body to stimulate microcirculation and reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Retailing products that are designed to prevent and treat cellulite is a great way to help clients maintain and enhance the results of cellulite-targeting spa treatments. Catherine Baek, director of global education at SpaRitual, suggests that clients exfoliate their skin two-to-three times a week to rid the skin of excess dead skin cells, create smoother texture, and minimize the appearance of cellulite. Manual exfoliation with a loofah, brush, or scrub also boosts microcirculation and increases the permeability of the skin so that the targeted actives in a contouring product can penetrate more effectively and quickly, says Eriksen-Stanley.


Smooth Talk

It’s important for you to make clients aware of the treatments and products that are available to help prevent and treat cellulite, but it’s also crucial to ensure clients have realistic expectations. Because it often takes several sessions of a particular treatment, along with continuous use of products, and lifestyle changes, clients should not expect immediate visible changes. To motivate clients to take their treatment plans seriously, Elizabeth Murchison, director of education at Guinot, suggests offering a discount on a series of treatments or include the cost of a retail homecare product in the package and instruct clients on how to use it. “Cellulite may be a tough topic for certain clients to talk about, but the good news is it’s also an issue most are interested in,” says Allison. “You might break the ice with some informative counter cards, or market a homecare cellulite treatment system. This can also make for an informative blog series or email campaign outlining potential causes, ingredients to help prevent or diminish it, and homecare treatments.”

Sarfati recommends highlighting any natural cellulite treatments that are available, as invasive treatments might sound intimidating or risky for clients. She also suggests that spas reach out to members of their community to develop a referral program. For example, a spa can partner with a nutritionist who can then speak at the spa’s next VIP event, offer nutrition training, and contribute articles to your spa’s newsletter or website. The nutritionist, in turn, can refer clients to your spa to receive contouring body treatments that will aid those undergoing weight loss to improve skintone and elasticity. Other partnerships can include gyms, weight-loss centers, or plastic surgeons. “This will develop your knowledge and establish your spa’s credibility and have more clients seeing you to help take on their cellulite issue,” says Sarfati.

Because many people are skeptical about cellulite treatments, it’s important to educate clients with before-and-after photos, as well as any clinical data that helps to promote confidence in a procedure or product, says Marc A. Ronert, M.D., Ph.D., president of Image Skincare. Also, it’s smart to offer a cellulite add-on treatment for a similar service to get clients to try it for the first time. Once they see the results, offering the service in a package is always an effective tool, especially if it is during the summer months when clients will likely be in bathing suits, he says.

Signage and events can make clients aware that cellulite treatments and products are available at the spa, and discounts on services and products can entice clients to purchase these offerings. But it’s important that you never over-promise results during a consultation prior to performing any treatments. “The best advice I can give is to be realistic when promoting these services and products to clients,” says Karen Asquith, director of education at G.M. Collin Skincare. “To prevent and reduce cellulite, a daily regimen must be followed with regards to the homecare products, and if clinical treatments are also incorporated, they must also be performed on a regular basis. To me, complete bodycare is like facial skincare, start young and make it a part of your daily regimen for life.”

Help clients attain a sleek physique with one of these anti-cellulite products.—Jessica Morrobel


1. Bon Vital’ Anti-Cellulite Crème: Glaucine, a plant-derived ingredient, helps reduce the appearance of cellulite while firming the skin.

2. Circadia Professional Firming and Shaping: Targeting dimpled skin, this light gel tightens and improves skin’s texture while eliminating cellulite.

3. DMK Skincare Body Sculpting Body Contouring Cream: Designed to reduce the appearance of cellulite, this cream eliminates toxins, tones, and increases the amount of oxygen delivered to the tissue.

4. FIT Booster Spray: Ideal for use in  conjunction with an infrared wrap, this anti-cellulite and slimming spray enhances microcirculation and stimulates the  breakdown of fat.

5. HydroPeptide Active Body Scrub:  Anti-cellulite peptides, caffeine, Tahitian sand, and volcanic pumice promote smooth,  radiant, and firm skin.

6. Ilike Organic Skin Care Circulation Revitalizing Body Lotion: A milky blend of cinnamon and Hungarian paprika stimulates, tightens, and reduces the appearance of  cellulite.

7. Image Skincare Cell.U.Lift Firming Body Crème: Created to improve skin quality, this paraben-free cream hydrates  skin and strengthens collagen fibers.

8. Nelly De Vuyst Oleaslim Body Treatment: A complex of slimming and stimulating essential oils help eliminate  cellulite for a slimmer and firmer body  contour.

9. Pevonia Seaweed Exfoliating Soap: Lemon and lime fruit extracts and sweet  almond oil stimulate circulation to problem  areas and remove impurities in the skin.

10. Phytomer Celluli Attack: Glycolic acid and sea grape work to smooth skin while  pepper undertones add a fresh scent.

11. Skinprint Luster Firming Body Lotion:  This smooth body lotion provides hydration while stimulating collagen and elastin production to reveal radiant skin.

12. Sothys Paris Enhancer Body Serum:  Providing results after two weeks of application, this slimming serum reduces the dimpled appearance of cellulite.