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If you're seeing bumps on your behind, you're in good company: About 90 percent of women -- and virtually no men -- have cellulite, fat cells found underneath the top layer of the skin that have squeezed between bands of connective tissue, or collagen, attaching your muscle to your skin. While the structure of women's connective tissue is vertical (like mattress springs), men's collagen is angled, which means that fat cells don't push through and pucker as much. Dermatologists believe that poor circulation, which is primarily genetic (thanks, Mom and Dad!), can exacerbate the look of lumps. "When blood flow slows, collagen separates, allowing fat to come up to the surface of the skin, creating an orange-peel effect," says Howard Murad, MD, a FITNESS advisory board member and author of The Cellulite Solution.
This puckering can mess with your confidence: In a FITNESS survey, readers ranked cellulite as their number-one beauty bummer (above acne, frizzy hair, and wrinkles). Fifty-seven percent of women have worn clothing over their bathing suits to camouflage it, according to a study commissioned by Nivea. While there is no cure (sadly!), derms believe it's possible to temporarily camouflage bumps. So before you grab that sarong, here's the skinny on the latest potions that firm.
Cellulite busters aim to help tone your skin and minimize lumps by drawing out excess moisture that can become lodged between bands of collagen. The newest ones also have multiple benefits. FITNESS readers tested them so that you can get the best butt for your buck.Product: St. Ives Cellulite Shield Gel Creme ($6.99, drugstores)
Mission: Firm and cool
Claim: Laced with cooling menthol and depuffing caffeine, this gel also contains green tea to help soothe your skin.
Reality: "I have tried a few products before, and none worked. But with this, my trouble zones looked tighter after only one week." -- Jennie Blagg, Sherman Oaks, California
Mission: Firm and hydrate
Claim: Ginseng extract in this lightweight product tones your skin, and petrolatum locks in softening moisturizers.
Reality: "I didn't see a significant change in my cellulite. But I'll keep using this lotion every day because it makes my skin very soft and keeps it moisturized for hours." -- Beth Prather, Pelham, New York
Mission: Firm and induce sleep
Claim: Packed with calming lavender, this rich concoction uses lotus extract to help make lumps less noticeable.
Reality: "My dimples haven't disappeared, but the skin on my thighs appears somewhat firmer. Every little bit counts! Plus, the formula felt cooling after my nightly bath." -- Hope Teich, Wanaque, New Jersey
Mission: Firm and self-tan
Claim: This lotion helps you build a bronze color gradually and tightens skin with elasticity-boosting ginseng.
Reality: "My thighs look smoother, and the golden brown tan makes my legs and butt look more muscular and toned. I'll be using this cream all summer." -- Angela Vetta, Brookfield, Wisconsin
Mission: Firm and protect
Claim: This sunscreen's vegetable collagen tones skin, and caffeine and peptides help reduce puckering.
Reality: "Unfortunately I didn't see a difference in my cellulite. But I really like the feel and the light, refreshing fragrance of this cream." -- Cathy Saragosa, Fresno, California
Three simple steps to improve your rear view.Twice a Day: Slather on Lotion
The tightening effects of anticellulite creams start to diminish after six to eight hours, says Bill Johnson, MD, a cosmetic specialist in Dallas. Apply an additional layer at midday to extend the toning time.Once a Day: Exfoliate
Creams and gels will penetrate the skin on your butt and thighs more deeply if you slough dead cells first, Dr. Johnson says. Sweep a natural-bristle brush over cellulite-prone areas before you hop into the shower.Three Times a Week: Stretch It Out
Boosting circulation helps lessen lumps, says Howard Murad, MD. Get blood flow going: Lie on your back and extend legs. Bend your right leg and pull your knee into your chest. Hold 20 seconds; switch legs to do one rep. Repeat twice.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2010.