To trim extra fat from the body, experts say exercise and a healthy, balanced diet is the best solution. But for cosmetic imperfections, like cellulite, spider veins and skin discoloration, the solution is less obvious.
Creams that claim to have a quick fix aren't always effective, and many times they just cover up the appearance of things like cellulite, said Dr. Shasa Hu, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Miami in Florida.
Hu explains why we get these common imperfections, and the best ways to be rid of them (or at least disguise them) in time for beach season.
Cellulite is caused by fat cells that gather beneath the skin's surface, Hu said. The lumpy fat cells lead to skin with a “cottage cheeselike” appearance.
Cellulite depends largely on how each person's fat cells are structured and lumped together, she said.
“It's absolutely normal to have cellulite; even babies have cellulite,” Hu told MyHealthNewsDaily. “So it's not a pathologic condition, it’s normal. But for some women [and men], it's more noticeable.”
Unfortunately, cellulite is very hard to treat, she said. Weight loss may help a little by getting rid of the fat, but there aren't any completely effective skin creams for the condition.
Hydrating the skin can help to disguise cellulite by plumping up the skin and filling in the areas that are depressed, Hu said.
Many over-the-counter products that claim to treat cellulite do just this — moisturizing and disguising cellulite, but not necessarily ridding the body of it, she said.
Blotchiness and skin discoloration are most common on the chest and the back, and make the skin look uneven, Hu said. The condition is most evident in skin that is hyper-pigmented (too much skin pigment) or hypo-pigmented (too little skin pigment).
Skin discoloration is caused by tinea versicolor, a common chronic yeast infection of the skin, Hu said. Tinea versicolor is especially common in warm climates and during the summertime.
“The best advice for people with this condition is actually to wear sunscreen so that the normal skin doesn’t get so dark, and the affected [discolored] skin doesn’t tan,” Hu said. “If you get too much of a tan , then you actually make the problem worse.”
Otherwise, wearing concealing makeup can help disguise the blotchy skin and make blend in with the other skin areas, Hu said.
Stretch marks are caused by rapid, excessive stretching of the skin that comes with weight gain or growth, Hu said.
“Your collagen gets distorted and doesn’t go back to its original form,” she said.
They're most common in teens (who go through growth spurts), pregnant women (whose stomachs expand) and overweight or obese people. They first appear as red streaks that fade to white near the buttocks, hips, stomach and breasts.
Like cellulite, there are no treatments to completely vanquish stretch marks. But there are certain creams, like Mederma, that can at least reduce the appearance of the marks, Hu said.
Spider veins are the most common in the legs and near the ankles, and are caused by bad blood flow through the veins.
“Instead of blood in the veins flowing back to your heart as they normally do, in spider veins, the blood actually stays static,” Hu said. The blood “doesn’t go back and it accumulates and stretches the capillaries, and that causes them to dilate, so you have these spider veins.”
Spider veins are most common in people who stand for long periods of time, since their blood flow is often static from the force of gravity, she said.
For spider veins, it's important to take preventive measures to keep them from getting worse by wearing support hose or stockings, keeping legs elevated when resting and doing calf muscle exercises to increase blood flow, Hu said.
For existing spider veins, there's no cream that has proven completely effective in reducing their appearance, she said.
However, getting a fake tan or spray-on tan can mask the color of the veins. There are also several vein treatments that can be done in a doctor's office, including laser treatments (where veins are exposed to bursts of light until they disappear) and sclerotherapy (injection of a solution into the veins that causes them to fade).
Pass it on: Spider veins, cellulite, skin discoloration and stretch marks are common woes when it comes to baring skin, but there are some ways to at least disguise their appearance.
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Maria is our expert for medicine, fitness and general health. Her contributions are particularly convincing through completeness, accuracy and her own personal experience. Maria also writes for other health magazines, which has enabled her to build up her expert status.