It could be one of nature’s cruelest jokes: that cellulite, the unsightly dimpling and puckering of the skin, afflicts the majority of women—around 90%, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery—but very few men. (Their collagen is arranged in a cross-hatch pattern, versus women’s parallel one, making it less susceptible to holding fat.) And as the temperature rises and our wardrobes take a turn towards bikinis, cut-offs, and other thigh- and bottom-baring attire, cellulite becomes, unfortunately, front of mind. Here, the 411 on what causes it and myriad methods for making it disappear.
For those in search of something more intensive, there have been significant strides made in the treatment realm. Cellulaze, which the FDA approved a few years ago, uses laser energy (applied beneath the skin surface) to soften the fibrous bands of connective tissue, melt fat and tighten. The doctors who have used it claim that cellulite doesn’t reoccur after the procedure, but it can be costly (around $5,000). Another option is mesotherapy, a treatment that’s wildly popular throughout Europe and Asia, but that still hasn’t caught on in the US (it remains unapproved by the FDA here). Mesotherapy consists of micro-injections of substances like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or enzymes. “Our average needles in medicine are about 13 millimeters, but in mesotherapy they don’t go deeper than four to six millimeters,” explains Madhere. “You are going superficial to mid-dermis where a lot of the collagen and micro-vasculature resides, and people who perform it believe it has a tightening effect on the skin.” Though it may offer a slight improvement for cellulite, Engelman cautions that mesotherapy also carries risks like swelling, infection, and irregular contours. Madhere and Dr. Haideh Hirmand are both excited about the arrival of Cellfina, a new quickie (an hour or less) treatment that releases the fibrous bands in dimpled areas using a device that mimics the surgical process of subcision. “You place it over the area after numbing it, and it releases a blade that cuts the bands very quickly and efficiently, allowing you to do more in a shorter amount of time,” says Madhere. “If you have stage 1 cellulite [aka, orange peel skin] it won’t be helpful, but for those with stage 2, meaning plenty of dimples, it will be a great option.” And Dr. Joshua Zeichner reports that another, as yet unnamed, treatment on the horizon, presented at the AAD conference this year, is an injectable that will actually melt fibrous bands away rather than cutting them.
If you are wary of breaking the skin’s surface to treat cellulite, treatments using radio wave frequencies have also become de rigueur. Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank has had success with Exilis Elite, a skin-tightening device that contours areas with cellulite using monopolar radiofrequency energy, and Engleman employs a one-two punch of BTL Vanquish ME and Cellutone, which use high-energy radial shockwaves and radiofrequency, respectively, to address cellulite. And at beloved facialist Joanna Vargas’s New York salon, ladies with cellulite are lining up for The Burn—the treatment uses radio waves and heat to push collagen fibers together and trigger collagen production.
For a more holistic approach, many swear by a vigorous daily dry brushing, an age-old technique wherein you use a stiff-bristled brush with gentle pressure on dry skin (always moving in the direction of the heart). Body brushing is meant to stimulate the lymphatic system, exfoliate skin, boost circulation and elasticity, and reduce the appearance of cellulite. Try brushing before you shower, starting at the feet and brushing upwards towards the heart focusing in on cellulite-prone areas like the thighs and buttocks. Bellis offers a two-hour treatment (Bio Cupping Body Detox) targeting cellulite with a combination of essential oils, body brushing, light therapy and, most importantly, cupping. The ancient Chinese methodology brings toxins to the skin’s surface and, in conjunction with light therapy, combats water retention and detoxes the body. Bellis counsels 6-12 treatments total, every two weeks, to see a difference but insists that clients should also chill out for the best results. “It’s really important to reduce stress,” she says. “Excess stress creates a lot of acid in our bodies and slows down metabolism, thus reducing circulation.”
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