Cellulite is a great equalizer. Anyone can be afflicted. Even skinny and well-toned women get cellulite (sorry, J Lo). And, contrary to popular mythology, men get cellulite. So what is it? Although some believe that the toxins in coffee, meat and alcohol are responsible for cellulite, others say it is all about losing weight and doing more exercise. Since I am rather partial to my toxins, I tend to favor the second theory. Reality, of course, is more nuanced.

Cellulite is an accumulation of toxins and waste in our cells. It occurs when circulation is sluggish, which can be caused by a number of things including sitting on your bum all day and not doing your leg squats. There are four stages:

1. Accumulation of fluids and clumping of fat cells. Blood vessels begin to break down.

2. Collagen and elastin break down.

3. Fat cells move upwards towards the surface and become surrounded fibrous bands called septa. Connective tissue breaks down.

4. Hard nodules form.

By the time stage three and four have been reached, treatments need to affect connective tissue, circulation and the lymphatic system. The first two stages are easier to treat and do respond to exercise and some topical formulas.

An intriguing solution is electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). Don’t think of the infomercial pulsing thingy that makes you look ridiculous and is ultimately a waste of time. I’m talking about professional versions. I have tried a machine called Miha Bodytec (this is a supervised treatment, not something you do at home) and it exercises eight muscle groups at once. Electronic pulses elicit a contraction of the muscle, train the muscle fibers and results in stronger muscles. It is an extremely efficient process and while I’m not saying that it works on the cellulite, it certainly creates more muscle tone and that will mean less visible cellulite.

Personally, I swear by the Bar Method. These exercise programs focus on sculpting the muscle and the thigh chiseling moves have transformed the shape of my legs and I swear diminished my cellulite to almost non-existent. I can highly recommend the Super Sculpting DVD  ($20)- butt (or in Burr parlance, “seat”) raising and shaping is one of the key goals and in only a couple of weeks. And the great thing about it is that it can be transformative at any age (the Bar Method’s founder, Burr Leonard inspires at 63).

Topical anti-cellulite creams mostly disappoint. I have come across a few that help – providing that your expectations are realistic and you aren’t secretly hoping for a potion that will take you down a jean size, including Nutra-Lift Cellulite Cream ($24 in the TIA shop). Nutra-Lift claims that it causes fat cells to release lipid fat particles. I find that a bit far-fetched, but results can be seen in a couple of months. The formula includes seaweed, retinal, caffeine, green tea, Vitamin C ester and DMAE.

Prana has a great Firming Body Milk at a reasonable $28. It is light enough for summer and has a refreshing scent, while hydrating as well as tightening. It focuses on glaucine, an extract from yellow poppy that inhibits a specific enzyme  creates new fat cells. And by releasing glycerol release, it stimulates the ejection of fat from fat cells. The clinical trials aren’t stunning but they do show that cellulite can be reduced by a worthwhile 15%. Prana’s Firming Body Milk ($28 in the TIA shop) also has antioxidant oils and red tea. A full review of this is coming soon.

Also worth checking out is Hydropeptide Moisturize ($54), which is formulated to improve uneven skin texture by improving firmness and elasticity. It also has some secret sauce aimed at stretch marks and through Hydropeptide I discovered the lima bean and the stretch mark connection. Who knew! Sederma (a lab that manufacturers peptide-based ingredients) makes this lima bean, rutin and peptide combo and calls it Regestril. Apparently rutin has recently been found to strengthen the extracellular matrix. Sederma claims that the combined action of anti-proteolytic (breakdown of proteins) activity lima and rutin with the tissue repair properties of the two peptides, led to a reduction of stretch marks.

Juice Beauty’s good value Green Apple Firming Body Lotion ($18) also does a good job of improving skin firmness and evening out skin tone and texture. It doesn’t have the stretch mark thing going for it, but it does have the useful anti-aging peptide, Matrixyl, with its collagen boosting powers. Plus there’s antioxidant green tea, borage, anti-inflammatory aloe and nourishing shea butter and honey.