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Using Shea Butter as an Anti-Cellulite?

Shea butter needs no introduction when it comes to skincare. Indeed, it is incorporated into most nourishing and hydrating skin treatments. While its benefits are fairly well-known, does it act against cellulite?

Published July 11, 2023, updated on January 31, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 3 min read

Cellulite: What is it?

Cellulite , also referred to as superficial lipodystrophy , is an abnormal accumulation of fats, water, or toxins . It affects the structure of the fatty tissues located beneath the epidermis. This inflammation of the fatty tissues gives the skin an unattractive appearance similar to orange peel. There are three types of cellulite, adipose cellulite (excess fat storage) , aqueous cellulite (adipose cellulite with water retention) and fibrous cellulite (adipose cellulite with the presence of fibrosis) . It is generally located on the thighs and buttocks, but it can also affect the stomach.

Cellulite primarily affects women, with 90% being affected compared to only 2% of men, as it is strongly linked to estrogens, female hormones. Additionally, the subcutaneous tissue in women differs from that in men. Women have adipose lobules that are perpendicular and parallel to the skin surface, which explains why even the slightest alteration is visible. In men, the skin is smoother because the adipose lobules are oriented obliquely.

Cellulite does not pose a real danger to the body. The main issue is primarily aesthetic. However, it can happen that cellulite causes pain in the area where it is located. This is due to the fact that over time, it becomes dense and exerts pressure on the nerve endings, which causes hypersensitivity in the area.

Shea butter to combat cellulite?

Often used in skincare, shea butter possesses intriguing properties for combating cellulite. Shea butter melts at body temperature and can be used in massage to break down the dense adipose tissues. Its nourishing action facilitates the massage. The kneading technique is the most effective massage against cellulite. It breaks down subcutaneous fat clusters and promotes the melting of fat mass. This stimulates blood and lymphatic circulation.

When the fat is dislodged, the emollient property of shea butter takes over. The skin is nourished by various fatty acids, and the nutrients work to soften the skin, regenerate it, and make it supple and smooth. The orange peel effect then dissipates.

Shea butter also acts against a specific type of cellulite. Fibrous cellulite appears as a result of a phenomenon called collagen glycation. This is a process during which sugars attach to collagen, a protein that plays a role in ensuring cellular cohesion to maintain tissue resistance. This results in the stiffening of collagen and promotes the appearance of cellulite. Thanks to vitamin E, shea butter has antioxidant properties that counteract fibrous cellulite by inhibiting collagen glycation.

However, it's worth noting that the best way to prevent the onset of cellulite is to maintain a balanced diet and engage in regular physical activity.


ROSOIU N. & al. Review : Vegetable oil and butters, their anticellulitic effect, composition, mechanism of action and clinical trails. Academy of Romanian Scientists (2022).


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