The most effective treatment for cellulite?
First, let's not let the bad news get in the way; there is still no easy cure for cellulite, a condition that afflicts about 85% of women over the age of 20. Nevertheless, there are a few things you can do to downplay its appearance.
What is cellulite?
Under the skin, there is a network of connective tissue strands called septum, which holds the fat in place. If the septums are not strong and tightly woven together (as may be determined by genetics), fat can bulge between them, creating ripples on the surface of the skin. Cellulite. Women are more likely to have cellulite than men because their septum is smaller and not as tightly placed. Women also have thinner skin and hormones that may affect the size of their fat cells and the strength of their septum. Dermatologist Molly Wanner, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, says that to truly eliminate this problem, you need to remove the fat and essentially change the internal structure of the skin.
Weight Loss Factor
Since fat is half of the equation for cellulite, it would seem that losing weight through diet and exercise would help. And it may - but it depends on the elasticity of your skin. As your skin bounces back after weight loss, you may notice a reduction in cellulite, says Wanner. But she adds that if your skin isn't as elastic (which could be partially due to hormones and aging), it may sag, which could exacerbate the bumps.
The easiest short-term way to improve the appearance of cellulite is to use a lotion or cream. These fall into two main camps: those that contain caffeine, which has a temporary tightening effect and helps bumps appear smoother, and those that contain vitamin A Derivatives. Over time, the outer layer of the skin may thicken, making it harder to see lumps. These ingredients can be combined with other ingredients such as Gingko and Vitamin C. Both improve circulation, minimize unevenness, and tighten the skin. Two good choices are VichyCelluDestock ($39.50 at drugstores and amazon.com ), with caffeine, Murad Firm and Tone Serum ($77, murad.com ), and retinyl palmitate. For best results, massage the cream vigorously. This will plump up the skin. (Unfortunately, the results are fleeting. It only lasts until the next shower. For maximum camouflage, try combining the cream with everyone's favorite skin perfector, self-tanning.
If you are looking for a more long-lasting solution, there are several options available. Endermologie, available at many spas, involves kneading the skin with a rolling suction device to stimulate circulation and stimulate collagen production. You will probably need at least six sessions, each costing between $50 and $150. The (subtle) results can last up to several months.
Want to take it a step further? Dermatologists offer more high-tech (and more expensive) treatments. The gold standard are lasers and radiofrequency (RF) devices, both of which use massage and suction to stimulate collagen production and alter the septum so that the skin is not pulled tightly, causing dimpling. These relatively painless treatments also add heat energy to help shrink the fat cells (your liver then processes the fat). Robert Weiss, an associate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, says that laser and RF work equally well. At $300 to $500 per pop, you will need about four to eight 30-minute sessions and can expect up to a 50% reduction in dimpling. Results can last from six months to two years or more. After that, one or two maintenance treatments will be needed each year, Weiss says.
If you will never rest until you have done everything you can to get rid of the lump, you may want to consider laser-assisted liposuction. Often called Smartlipo, this procedure (which requires local anesthesia) involves inserting a small laser fiber under the skin to melt the fat. A cannula then suction it out. The procedure takes about two hours and is painful for several days afterwards. It usually works well in one session, but costs about $5,000. And even then, it is not a permanent solution. Results can last up to six years, which means you will eventually need repeated treatments.
On the horizon.
For those looking for a one-time, single-session solution, a new procedure called Cellulaze, currently available in Europe, is awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It's similar to laser-assisted lipo, but uses a bi-directional beam to cut stubborn septums and liquefy fat cells, says Bruce Katz, a clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Results are long-term, and the procedure is expected to cost between $2,500 and $3,000 per area.