Get to the Bottom of Topical Caffeine for Cellulite: Does It Work?


Can creams and lotions that contain caffeine improve the appearance of cellulite? It’s a question many people who suffer from cellulite are eager to explore, in hopes of feeling more confident and comfortable in shorts and bathing suits. Cellulite is so common that it affects up to 90 percent of women over 18, appearing on their backs, thighs, and tummies. If you’re dealing with cellulite, you’re certainly not alone. Can a caffeine-based cream help?

What is Cellulite?

The exact cause of cellulite is unknown, but it appears to result from an interaction between the connective tissue in the layer that lies beneath the skin and the buildup of fat underneath the skin. The lumps and bumps you see with cellulite are fat peeking through connective tissue bands that are supposed to hold it in place.

Women get cellulite more often than men because their connective tissue is arranged vertically, making it harder for the bands to hold fat tissue inside. Some women are more predisposed to it than others. Contributing factors include skin structure, hormones, genetics, and age.

Men are lucky when it comes to cellulite. That’s because their connective tissue is arranged in a crisscross pattern that gives it the strength it needs to resist cellulite formation. The pattern of the tissue also helps it to hold fat in better than other types of tissue. This means that men are less likely to suffer from cellulite than women, who have connective tissue that is arranged in a more vertical pattern.

Caffeine for Cellulite

Caffeine is a popular ingredient in some skincare products, including those that claim to reduce cellulite. You might wonder whether there is truth to this claim. It would be gratifying if you could rub on a caffeine-based cream and see those lumps, bumps, and dimples disappear. But does it work?

A small study in 2015 found that a cream with 3.5 percent caffeine, significantly improved the appearance of lumps and bumps caused by cellulite and there were no adverse effects. The cream used in the study also contained xanthenes, compounds that may work in synergy with caffeine to tame fat and cellulite.

It’s unclear whether products with less caffeine would be as effective. Also, it may be hard to find such a high concentration since manufacturers must use more surfactants and alcohol, which could cause skin irritation. Interestingly, a Brazilian study found that a caffeine cream containing 7 percent caffeine experienced a reduction in the size of their thighs when they used the cream twice per day.

How Might Caffeine Creams Work for Cellulite?

The way caffeine might work to reduce cellulite isn’t clear. According to a 2013 study, caffeine boosts the breakdown of fat within tissues by affecting certain enzymes and also boosts circulation to the tissues. The question is whether enough caffeine reaches the deeper layers of tissue where the fat cells are. If that’s not the case, it may work temporarily by reducing fluid retention in the tissues, so cellulite looks less pronounced. This is the more likely explanation since you’ll lose the benefits if you stop using the caffeine cream.

Other studies show that caffeine helps to dehydrate the water content of fat cells and restrict blood vessels, thereby making cellulite look less obvious. However, the effects are temporary. If you’re looking for a quick solution to reduce the appearance of cellulite, caffeine cream may provide a temporary fix. Plus, there’s a lack of evidence that the active ingredients reach the fat cells in sufficient amounts to have benefits.

Other Ingredients in Caffeine Creams for Cellulite

Some topical products with caffeine also contain ingredients, like retinol, which may stimulate collagen production. Increasing collagen production thickens the deeper layers of skin, thickens the skin, and makes cellulite less noticeable. So, it’s possible that using a caffeine cream containing retinol consistently could have modest benefits for cellulite.

A study found that six months of retinol improved skin elasticity by 10.7 percent and could change the resting tension of the skin in a way that makes the surface of the skin look smoother. So, if you use a caffeine-based skin product, look for one that contains retinol. It also helps to reduce wrinkles and fine lines and can even help to even out skin tone.

The Bottom Line

There’s no scientific proof that topical caffeine permanently removes cellulite. There are few treatments of any type that treat cellulite long-term since it would require extensive remodeling of tissue. At most, caffeine creams lead to temporary improvement. Even energy therapies, like laser and radiofrequency, only improve the appearance of cellulite; they don’t remove it.

There isn’t a topical cream or other treatment that will cure cellulite but topical creams that contain caffeine and retinol could improve its appearance temporarily. However, the results will be subtle and short-lived. But don’t fret over cellulite! It’s reassuring to know that most women, and even some men, have it and it’s nothing to feel self-conscious about. But if you think caffeine-based creams make a difference, use them! They’re unlikely to be harmful.


  • Byun SY, Kwon SH, Heo SH, Shim JS, Du MH, Na JI. Efficacy of Slimming Cream Containing 3.5% Water-Soluble Caffeine and Xanthenes for the Treatment of Cellulite: Clinical Study and Literature Review. Ann Dermatol. 2015 Jun;27(3):243-9. doi: 10.5021/ad.2015.27.3.243. Epub 2015 May 29. PMID: 26082579; PMCID: PMC4466275.
  • Herman A, Herman AP. Caffeine’s mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(1):8-14. doi: 10.1159/000343174. Epub 2012 Oct 11. PMID: 23075568.
  • Sadick N. Treatment for cellulite. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2018 Oct 22;5(1):68-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ijwd.2018.09.002. PMID: 30809581; PMCID: PMC6374708.
  • Piérard-Franchimont C, Piérard GE, Henry F, Vroome V, Cauwenbergh G. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of topical retinol in the treatment of cellulite. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2000 Nov-Dec;1(6):369-74. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200001060-00005. PMID: 11702613.
  • Cronkleton E. What Is Cellulite and How Can You Treat It? Healthline. Published December 18, 2017. Accessed February 5, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/cellulite
  • Do anti-cellulite creams work? Medical News Today. Published 2023. Accessed February 5, 2023. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/3859#1

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