Researching my recent post on Michelle Phan I came across one of her videos where she explains how you can make your own product to treat cellulite from coffee grouts. Well having christened her the most influential person in the cosmetic business I have to take issue with that one. I think this is what they call set ’em up, knock ’em down in the media.
But first off I have to agree with the way she introduces the video. As she says, cellulite is something that huge numbers of people experience and it isn’t something to beat yourself up about. It isn’t something to be ashamed of and most people looking at you are not even going to notice it.
But can you treat it with coffee grouts (or grounds as some people call them)? The idea behind the treatment is that coffee contains caffeine. The problem is that if you use spent grouts, then the caffeine will have largely been extracted by the coffee making process. Caffeine is very water soluble, so it is quite easy to extract. The bitter note in the taste of coffee comes largely from caffeine.
So that isn’t a great start. But if we concede for a moment that there is some residual caffeine left in the grouts, will it treat your cellulite?
Well caffeine does stimulate the metabolism, as you might notice after drinking a cup of it. In principle, this ought to lead to fat being burnt to fuel the extra metabolism. So if you can deliver it to your fatty cellulite and create a local concentration, that isn’t too far fetched a notion. It is also encouraging that caffeine belongs to the small minority of molecules that are able to get through the skin. So we might be onto something.
Cosmetic companies have been using caffeine for just this purpose for years. Most of the products that claim to treat cellulite, or ‘body sculpt’ as the more optimistic ones put it contain caffeine. They don’t always make a big deal of it, often concentrating on something a bit more interesting sounding, but you’ll find it on the ingredient list.
What nobody has done is come up with a convincing user trial with proper controls that shows caffeine having any more than the mildest of effects. I think the reason caffeine’s actual results are nowhere near what we would hope is fairly simple. Yes caffeine gets across the skin ok, but once it is there it is a very small mobile molecule. It soon gets into your blood stream and is diluted way below its effective concentration.
It is a great shame, and I’d love it if someone could work out a way of keeping the caffeine where you put it at least long enough to have some effect. Sadly nothing I have yet seen comes close. Maybe the answer would be a patch that releases the caffeine slowly.
But going back to Michelle Phan’s video, I am afraid I have to say that I doubt her proposal is going to have much effect on cellulite. But if you treat it as a mild natural exfoliator it is probably going to be enjoyable to use and might perk your skin up a bit.
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