Cellulite Scams and Remedies

How Effective Are the Popular Treatments?

If you have cellulite, you are not alone. Cellulite affects more than 85 percent of all women to some degree. It is characterized by alterations to the skin surface, presenting as dimpled or puckered skin, primarily involving the thighs and buttocks. With the advances in technology and more women demanding treatment, significant research has gone into better understanding and treating cellulite in the last decade.

Cellulite Scams and Remedies - How Effective Are the Popular Treatments?

Why Do I Have Cellulite?

Understanding how to best treat cellulite starts with understanding its causes. After all, you need to know your enemy before you can figure out how to defeat him. Doctors currently believe that cellulite is caused by a combination of coexisting factors. There is no consensus on what exactly causes cellulite, but these are the current ideas.

The architecture of the connective tissue. In women, bands of connective tissue are oriented longitudinally, from the muscle to the skin. These bands separate fat into channels. As the fat layer enlarges, these bands pull the skin down towards the muscle and squeeze the fat, pushing it up toward the skin surface and creating an uneven appearance of the skin.

Hormones. Hormonal changes (especially estrogen) in women that occur after puberty promote fat deposition in the hips and thighs and make the elimination of fat particles deposited in these areas difficult.

Disturbance of the lymph and blood circulation. Anything that reduces blood flow to these areas causes fluid buildup (edema). Swelling increases the volume of fat, thus making the protrusions more obvious. External toxins including alcohol, tobacco and caffeine inhibit movement of fluid from these cellulite prone areas.

Dietary habits. High-sugar and high-refined carbohydrate diets tend to make cellulite worse, possibly through tissue edema.

Genetics. Blame it on your parents. If your mom has more than your friend’s mom, you are likely to have more cellulite than your friend.

Chronic inflammation. Have you ever run into a friend who had been through a stressful time? You can see it on her face— weathered, unhealthy, dull skin. This is the result of stress and inflammation on the skin. The visible appearance of cellulite has as much to do with the health of the skin as it has to do with fat. If you have thick, healthy skin overlying the layers of fat, cellulite will be less obvious. Unhealthy, thin skin = more cellulite exposed.

Sedentary Lifestyle. Weak, flabby muscles don’t support the overlying tissues and results in more skin irregularity.

What Can I Do About This?!

So what is out there, what is safe and what is worth the money? Here’s an overview of the current treatments for cellulite, and each is rated for cost, safety and effectiveness.

Weight Loss

Weight loss actually has a variable effect on the appearance of cellulite. As the fat globules retract with weight loss, the skin doesn’t appear as dimpled. This holds true in women with healthy skin. But, if the skin is not healthy, skin looseness can result in rapid weight loss, making dimpling even worse. It is best to keep a steady weight and avoid drastic fluctuations in your weight. One thing for sure— weight gain WILL make cellulite worse.

Cost: Low
Risk: Low
Effectiveness: Not very effective

Diet

An anti-cellulite diet focuses on removing excess fat and toxins, eating more fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats in your diet from oily fish, flaxseed, nuts and avocado. Drinking plenty of water will help flush out toxins from the body. Excessive salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine will cause expansion of the fat cells, retention of fluid, and increased toxin accumulation. It is best to eat five or six small meals to keep your metabolism working efficiently and also avoiding your body entering “storage mode,” which occurs after eating large meals. This means more fat deposition.

A study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science showed that changes in dietary habits without weight loss improved the appearance of cellulite. The addition of a cream, which improved the health of the skin, reduced the appearance of cellulite even more.

Cost: Low
Risk: Low
Effectiveness: Somewhat effective

Exercise

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Weight training is especially important, as the more you build your underlying supportive muscles, the tighter the skin will appear and the thinner that superficial fat layer should be, making cellulite less visible. By toning your muscles with weight training, the muscles will push out and shape your skin and make those areas tighter and smoother.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) will boost your metabolism and naturally boost your levels of growth hormone, a fat-burning hormone. Acceleration training, in which you perform exercises on a vibrating platform, improves circulation and breaks down cellulite. The vibrations cause muscle contractions that help to flush out toxins. One study showed that acceleration training alone reduced cellulite by 26 percent.

Cost: Low
Risk: Low
Effectiveness: Somewhat effective

Vigorous massage

LPG Endermologie® is a machine-assisted massage in which a system of rollers and a suction device are used. This technique can improve circulation, body contour and skin texture. It works to massage cellulite buildup so that the fat is redistributed into the bloodstream and carried out the body. Frequent treatments are needed to maintain the results.

Cost: Low
Safety: Low
Effectiveness: Somewhat effective

Cellulite Scams and Remedies - How Effective Are the Popular Treatments?

Topical Anti-Cellulite Creams

Cellulite creams could be considered an adjunctive therapy to diet, exercise and weight loss, but you will be sorely disappointed if you expect any cream to be a solution. Skin is designed to keep things out, so even ingredients proven in the lab to work on reducing fat pockets often don’t get to where they need to in order to complete that job. Also remember that most of these creams are botanical (just like poison ivy is botanical) and may contain hundreds of ingredients, many of which may cause allergic reactions.

My recommendation is that if you are going to use an anti-cellulite cream, don’t break the bank and think of it as a high-end moisturizer that you vigorously massage into the area when applying. A great and inexpensive idea is to body brush your skin, shower, and then immediately apply a great moisturizer.

Cost: Low
Risk: Low
Effectiveness: Not very effective

Liposuction

Cellulite is a superficial fat just below the skin. While liposuction can diminish fat deposits deep in the deep fat, its effect on the superficial fat layer as seen in cellulite is often disappointing. Moreover, traditional liposuction may actually worsen the appearance of cellulite by creating more depressions in the skin. The Nd:YAG (1064 nm) laser, SmartLipo and other laser-assisted liposuction devices target selected areas of fat for destruction in addition to simultaneously tightening the skin. This technology is also less invasive compared to conventional liposuction. Still, all liposuction is better at removing fat and should not be used primarily for cellulite reduction.

Cost: High
Risk: High
Effectiveness: Not very effective

Cellulite Scams and Remedies - How Effective Are the Popular Treatments?

Medical Devices

Devices using radiofrequency, laser and light-based energies— alone or in combination— are available for improving cellulite. Just remember— as with creams, if one laser worked perfectly for everyone, there wouldn’t be so many! Cellulite has many complex causes and that is why there are a multitude of treatment choices!

Tri-Active LaserDermology for cellulite treatment combines mechanical massage, laser stimulation and localized cooling. VelaSmooth and VelaShape combine bi-polar radiofrequency, infrared light energy, pulse vacuum and mechanical massage, showing smoothing of the skin surface and reduction of the thigh circumference. VelaShape has slightly more power and comes equipped with a smaller handpiece to treat smaller areas (face, arms).

Lasers and radiofrequency theoretically work by applying heat. The heat is supposed to firm and thicken the skin and possibly melt some of the bulging fat underneath while stimulating skin tightening to smooth out the bulges. Acoustic waves are high-pressure waves that aim to break up the cords that pull down on the skin.

Cellulaze is a laser that is inserted under the skin and used to break up the cords that are pulling down on the skin while simultaneously cooking pockets of fat and reducing bulges. This device reportedly melts fat under the skin, breaks up the fibrous bands under the skin, and stimulates collagen production by applying heat to the underside of the skin. Peak results are achieved about six months after the surgery (it takes 3-6 months for new collagen to form) and it may take three to four weeks to recover. For the roughly $7,000 price tag, improvement is about 65 percent and lasts up to two years. This is probably the most effective treatment that is currently in the marketplace.

Cost: High
Risk: Moderate
Effectiveness: Somewhat effective

Cellulite Scams and Remedies - How Effective Are the Popular Treatments?

Body Wraps

Body wraps may smell and feel good. They may even temporarily tighten skin or reduce inches through dehydration of the localized tissues. But there is no evidence that body wraps have any lasting effect and once you are rehydrated, those inches will return in a day or two.

Cost: Low
Risk: Low
Effectiveness: Not very effective

Mesotherapy (Lipodissolve®)

This involves a series of injections into small pockets of cellulite. The injections contain a variable solution that supposedly breaks down fat and flushes it away. This procedure is more common in Europe than the United States, as there hasn’t been good evidence that it works, it isn’t FDA approved, and it may cause very serious infections and uneven skin contours.

Cost: High
Risk: High
Effectiveness: Not very effective

Cellulite Scams and Remedies - How Effective Are the Popular Treatments?

Subcision

This is a method in which a needle is inserted into the dermis and breaks up the connective tissue cords. No consistent improvement has been shown.

Cost: Moderate
Risk: Moderate
Effectiveness: Not very effective

Tanning

Many people erroneously think that if they are tan, their cellulite will appear less obvious. While darker skin tends to make cellulite less noticeable, tanning will backfire in the long run by causing permanent damage to your skin and underlying blood vessels. Ultraviolet rays permanently damage the elastic fibers and collagen in the skin, making cellulite more obvious. I recommend a self-tanner as a safer alternative— especially one with added moisturizer and SPF!

Cost: Low
Risk: Low
Effectiveness: Not very effective

Recommendations

• Think hard before investing too much money, and choose safely.
• Cellulite creams are minimally effective, so if you decide to use one, think of it as a good moisturizer to improve the health of your skin.
• Healthy skin will reduce the appearance of cellulite.
• Keeping off excess pounds and strengthening your muscles through consistent, regular exercise will go a long way towards maintaining your skin tone and texture.
• Expect a 25 percent improvement in the appearance of cellulite with any medical procedure or you will be disappointed.
• Even with successful treatment, cellulite often returns over months if healthy lifestyle behaviors are not maintained.

Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with a degree in Nutrition Science from Cornell University, enjoys sharing her knowledge about skin health, nutrition and exercise. Dr. Haley has been an NPC bikini competitor, consultant to the U.S. Capitol, and currently enjoys an active lifestyle in Scottsdale, AZ and Park City, UT with her husband and three boys.

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