Cellulite is a common cosmetic problem involving visible pockets of fat under the skin. Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to eliminate cellulite. Tanning the skin by exposing it to ultraviolet, or UV, light may temporarily mask cellulite to some extent, but in the long run, tanning actually makes cellulite look worse and can cause serious health problems, including cancer. Sunless tanning is a safe alternative to UV tanning that may temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Cellulite is fat deposited in pockets just under the skin, often occurring around the hips, thighs and buttocks. It occurs when collagen fibers in between the fat and skin stretch or break down, allowing fat cells to bulge through and giving the skin a rippled or dimpled appearance. Cellulite is very common, even among people who are not overweight. Women are typically affected more often than men, but men can also have cellulite. Although many people are self-conscious of their cellulite, it is not considered a medical disorder or health problem.
Causes and Treatments
A number of factors may cause cellulite, including genes, hormones and diet; however, once you have cellulite, there is not much that you can do to get rid of it. Advertisements for numerous products, including creams, massages, surgeries and wraps, claim to minimize or eliminate the appearance of cellulite, but according to MayoClinic.com, only weight loss and medical treatments involving laser therapy or radio-frequency systems have shown any promise in this area. Tanning the skin may temporarily mask the appearance of cellulite, although over time, tanning will actually make cellulite look even worse by weakening and thinning the skin that covers it.
Dangers of Tanning
Besides only offering a temporary cosmetic fix for cellulite, UV tanning, both indoors and in the sun, poses significant health risks. Even if you don't get a sunburn, tanning can cause skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Tanning can also cause eye damage, including cataracts and corneal damage. In addition, according to the FDA, overexposure to UV radiation may suppress the body’s immune system, making you more vulnerable to viruses and infection.
Although there is no proven way to cure cellulite, certain lifestyle factors may help prevent it from worsening or prevent you from developing it in the first place. You can't change your genetic predisposition for cellulite, but according to MedlinePlus, the following guidelines may help you avoid cellulite: eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and fiber; exercising regularly; maintaining a healthy, steady weight; staying hydrated and not smoking.
If you like the temporary cellulite-masking effect of tanning but wish to avoid the serious health risks of UV tanning, sunless tanning may be a good alternative of you. Sunless tanning products, also called self-tanners, usually contain a chemical called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which temporarily darkens the skin's outermost layer. Topical sunless tanning products are safe if used as instructed and are available in many over-the-counter sprays, gels and lotions. Many tanning salons and spas also offer professional spray-on sunless tanning treatments.
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Shannon George, former editor-in-chief of the trade magazine "Prime," holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University. Her health interests include vegetarian nutrition, weight training, yoga and training for foot races.