Cellulite is a condition that produces an orange-peel skin texture on body parts such as the thighs and abdomen of 90 percent of women in industrial nations, according to ScientificAmerican.com. Although anecdotes and reviews extol or decry seaweed baths as a way to reduce or eliminate cellulite, evidence to support the effectiveness of these procedures does not exist, as of 2010. Always consult your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Marcelle Pick, an obstetrician, gynecologist and co-founder of the Women to Women clinic in Yarmouth, Maine, defines cellulite as a condition in which the connective tissue that surrounds the layer of fat directly underneath your skin tightens down over the fat layer, producing a characteristic, dimpled skin texture. Pick, a holistic practitioner, says impaired blood and lymph circulation to and from the skin is a contributing factor in the development of cellulite. Reduced circulation, she says, causes the connective tissue to lose flexibility and tighten over the fat layer, causing the fat cells to bulge through the tissue.
Non-invasive Cellulite Treatments
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Endermologie, an advanced massage therapy, as a way to break down the fat cells involved in cellulite formation. As of 2010, the FDA provides no guidance on the topical use of over-the-counter cellulite treatments containing ingredients such as seaweed or coffee. The application of mineral-rich seaweed and heated water to the skin to improve skin tissue health and texture is known in France as thalassotherapy. Seaweed "appears to promote local vasodilatation and increased circulation of blood and lymph flow. This may be the basis for the widespread use of seaweeds to treat cellulite,” says Anne Williams, a licensed massage therapist, licensed esthetician and certified reflexologist, in “Spa Bodywork,“ a textbook for massage professionals.
Effect of Seaweed Extract on Skin Tissue Health
Williams cites several research studies that illustrate the nutritional value of various species of seaweed and the benefits of topically applied seaweed extracts to improve skin texture and regulate the hormones related to energy production and fat metabolism. “The different forms of thalassotherapy may be effective because seaweed and seawater contain significant concentrations of minerals, and seaweeds contain many useful bioactive compounds that are absorbed by the skin,” Williams writes. Seaweed varieties that contain high amounts of iodine and other minerals help stimulate metabolism, raise body temperature and have an impact on transport of nutrients between cells, Williams says.
Thalassotherapy is a standard medical treatment for skin conditions in the French medical system. However, U.S.-based health insurers don't cover the practice. Some therapies in France include using seaweed or sea mud packs on the body, seaweed baths, exercise in seaweed water and diets rich in seaweed, Williams says. In "The Cellulite Solution," Howard Murad, a physician, dermatologist and UCLA associate clinical professor of medicine, lists thalassotherapy as a cellulite minimizer. Murad advocates nutrition for cellulite reduction and prevention.
Holistic practitioner Marcelle Pick, in her article, "The Best Cellulite Treatment--A Holistic Approach," advocates incorporating both massage and nutrition in your effort to reduce the appearance of cellulite and ward off its formation. “Gently massage the area in circular motions, kneading the skin like dough," Pick says. "Performing self-massage techniques a few minutes each day will help deliver nutrients to your skin and break down unnecessary fat,” she writes. Like Murad, Pick says you should work to balance your hormones, exercise regularly and maintain a diet that strengthens your connective tissues.