Can Foam Rolling Really Get Rid of Cellulite?

The short answer: sort of.

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Using a foam roller is a proven way to loosen tight muscles, speed recovery after a tough workout, and prevent injuries. But does a foam roller also help get rid of cellulite? Plenty of products on the market that promise to erase those annoying lumps and bumps under the skin.

Cellulite affects all body types—even people who are super-fit and toned—and it's estimated that 80% to 98% of women will experience cellulite in their lifetimes. So it seems almost too good to be true to think that massaging your body with a foam cylinder could make dimples disappear on your legs and butt. But it turns out it does work—sort of.

Causes of Cellulite

First, it's important to understand what cellulite really is. "Cellulite is a genetic condition that makes you predisposed to having fibrous bands between your fat cells," explained S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, dermatologist, CEO, and founder of Miami Skin Institute. Everyone has a layer of fat separating their skin and muscles; for some, this fat layer lies smooth, but those with lots of fibrous bands wind up with that cottage cheese appearance on the surface of the skin, Dr. Jegasothy said.

How Foam Rolling Works

Foam rolling is typically used to relieve muscle soreness or tightness by rolling or massaging the area using a foam cylinder. The idea behind foam rolling for cellulite is that it breaks up and loosens fascia (the connective tissue that protects and separates muscles), Dr. Jegasothy said, allowing fat to lie flat under the skin.

And after some foam rolling or self-massage with a myofascial release/trigger point ball, you will see some skin-smoothing benefits. "What myofascial release devices might do as a side effect is create a little bit of superficial edema, or swelling, and that can actually make the surface of the skin seem a little smoother," Dr. Jegasothy explained. "That's why people think maybe it will improve the appearance of the dimpling from cellulite.

How To Get Rid of Cellulite

If a quick visual improvement is what you want, then roll away. Just don't expect the results to last more than a few days. "It doesn't do anything for the fibrous bands, and it's a very transient we don't consider that a viable treatment for cellulite," Dr. Jegasothy said.

New York City-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, agrees. "It can temporarily help. Foam rolling is essentially plumping up the dermis, which overlies the pockets of fat that tend to bulge in cellulite. This makes it hard to see the uneven fluctuations beneath as easily—hence the improvement in the appearance of cellulite," Dr. Bowe said.

If you're looking for a more long-term treatment for cellulite, Dr. Jegasothy said there are two effective treatments. One, radio frequency, is a device that tightens the fibrous bands that create cellulite, so they lie flat against the skin. According to a 2012 study, almost 90% of women who had radiofrequency treatment experienced a reduction in cellulite.

Results last for three to six months. "The cellulite does come back," Dr. Jegasothy said. "People age on an ongoing basis and form more fibrous bands, so it does require maintenance."

The other treatment option helps with deep dimples. It's called Cellfina, and it's a machine that cuts and releases the fibrous band that's pulling down on the skin and creating the dimple. A multicenter study published in 2017 found the treatment was effective for at least three years, significantly longer than foam rolling (a few days) or radiofrequency treatments (a few months).

A Quick Review

If you have cellulite, you're definitely not alone since at least 80% of women also have it. If getting rid of cellulite is important to you, there are several treatment options to consider. You can try foam rolling away your cellulite—there's no danger in doing so, and your skin may smooth out for a few days. If you're interested in longer-lasting results, talk with a dermatologist to discuss the best treatment option.

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  1. Bass LS, Kaminer MS. Insights Into the Pathophysiology of Cellulite: A Review. Dermatol Surg. 2020;46 Suppl 1(1):S77-S85. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000002388

  2. Mlosek RK, Woźniak W, Malinowska S, Lewandowski M, Nowicki A. The effectiveness of anticellulite treatment using tripolar radiofrequency monitored by classic and high-frequency ultrasound. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012;26(6):696-703. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2011.04148.x

  3. Kaminer MS, Coleman WP 3rd, Weiss RA, Robinson DM, Grossman J. A Multicenter Pivotal Study to Evaluate Tissue Stabilized-Guided Subcision Using the Cellfina Device for the Treatment of Cellulite With 3-Year Follow-Up. Dermatol Surg. 2017;43(10):1240-1248. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000001218

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