Do butt-firming creams really help eliminate cellulite? One woman decided to find out—and share her experience

By Refinery29
February 05, 2015
Corbis Images

There's no shortage of procedures, topical products, diets, massages, at-home machinery, or magical spells floating around to treat cellulite. Despite a sneaking suspicion that neither "vacuum therapy" nor overpriced creams can reduce cellulite's characteristic dimples, we keep buying them-and buying into the notion that cellulite is an abnormal disorder that needs to be corrected.

In fact, about 90 percent of post-adolescent women have it at some point. "It's something we argue about in medicine. Is it a disease or even an abnormality if 90 percent of women have it?" says David Bank, M.D., a Mt. Kisco, NY-based dermatologist. "It's really just…normal."

I'm sad to say that I'm not a special snowflake in this regard. (Or, maybe I should be happy: I'm normal!) I have cellulite on my outer thighs and butt, and yes, I have entertained the idea of buying a skirted swimsuit. And, lately, I've turned my attention to the "magical" potion of butt-firming creams-at least it sounded better than zapping my ass with a laser.

When treating our lumps and bumps, most of us turn to topical creams, rather than in-office procedures. We all know intellectually that they probably don't do much-yet beauty companies keep making them and we keep buying them.

They don't work, right? Then, why are there so many of them? Surely, they must do something! Would beauty companies really try to get our hopes up in such a mean way? -My internal dialogue

There aren't a lot of objective studies that have analyzed whether cellulite creams actually do anything. Generally, companies do their own clinical studies so they can make claims like, "80 percent of women saw an improvement in the appearance of cellulite," being careful never to say "treatment" or "cure." So, I decided to test some of them as scientifically as possible. Bank, who also works with the Federal Trade Commission on cases in which cosmetics companies get into hot water for putting misleading labeling on products, seemed like the ideal no-BS guy to help me with this project. He agreed to photograph my cellulite before and after a two-month course of treatment with two different topical creams, and then to analyze the results as objectively as he can. Now, obviously this isn't as rigorous as, say, a double-blind study with 1,000 subjects, but it's better than me taking belfies in my bathroom mirror.

I went into Bank's office, where I underwent a rather humiliating procedure. Imagine E!'s GlamCam 360, except in a medical office and you have no pants on. I stood in the middle of a small octagon on the floor, and was asked to spin around slowly-sans pants, may I remind you, but also, thankfully, sans Ryan Seacrest-while the doctor's assistant took closeup photos of my butt and thighs from every angle.

I chose two products to test: Mio Shrink to Fit Cellulite Smoother ($56) on my left side, and Talika Back Up 3D ($64) on my right side. I applied them twice a day for eight weeks, missing only a few applications. I used the application technique recommended by Mio, which is to take about 20 seconds to massage in the product vigorously. Sluggish lymphatic drainage is one of the causes of cellulite, and massage can help move things along, so I wanted to increase my chances of a good outcome. [Read the full story at Refinery29!]