Most women to some degree are bothered by cellulite. Cellulite is a condition that gives the skin a dimpled appearance. Cellulite is usually most prevalent in the thigh, hip and buttock areas. Patients consulting with board-certified plastic surgeons for body contouring frequently ask what can be done to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Currently, there is no ideal cellulite treatment.
"Cellulite is caused by bands of fibrous tissue that connect the muscle to the skin," says Dr. Sam Speron, body contouring expert and consumer advocate. "If these bands are tight and the fat between the muscle and the skin is compressed, there will be dimpling. Almost all women and even some men have cellulite. Cellulite stems from genetic predisposition, hormonal changes and weight gain. Patients need to understand that cellulite can be improved, but not removed!"
Various treatments have emerged over time claiming to "treat" cellulite. We offer this information summarizing the current available cellulite treatment options:
Laser Cellulite Reduction: Laser Cellulite Reduction does improve the appearance of cellulite by itself. However, the issue is always how much? Most surgeons think that you can assume a 10-20% correction but the problem is always that patients have a difficult time noticing this small a change. This approach can be combined with many other modalities including a small office procedure to release the skin. This can be done alone or in combination with a filler injection.
Liposuction: Lipoplasty (commonly known as liposuction) does not reduce cellulite by itself. Some surgeons, however, have reported performing a technique of cellulite lysing (breaking up) using a liposuction cannula (hollow tube powered by gas or electricity) that features a smooth, round-tipped tunneling rod inserted in a hollow casing with a sharp, V-pronged cutting edge. The tunneling rod assures passage under the skin to the area to be broken up, while the curette fork (loop shaped surgical instrument) extends at the tip to sever only the dimple-causing connective tissue system. The area that is released can then be injected with fat to fill the space. This technique does improve the appearance of cellulite.
Fat Injections: Autologous fat harvested from donor sites in the abdomen and flank areas may fill in depressions. Again, this is more successful if a release is performed at the same time. However, the results of fat injections may not be permanent.
Lower Body Lift: This procedure evolved from one called "Cellulite Lift." The technique was designed to replace the thigh/buttock lift, a procedure that works well for some patients but may produce scars that are visible when wearing a bathing suit. The lower body lift requires an incision around the entire circumference of the abdominal and buttock area, so that excess skin can be removed and the entire flank, thigh and buttocks areas can be lifted. The incision can usually be placed discreetly within standard or high-cut bikini lines. The result of the procedure is tightening of the back, flank and abdominal tissues, and reduction in the appearance of cellulite in the lifted areas. The lower body lift is a major surgical procedure that requires a lengthy recovery and leaves an extensive, though well-positioned, scar. For this reason, it requires especially careful patient selection and, as with all cosmetic surgery, the patient's full informed consent.
Endermologie: This mechanical roller massage therapy has been proposed as a treatment for cellulite and as an adjunct to liposuction. Treatments may produce temporary improvement in the appearance of cellulite, but long-term results of this noninvasive therapy have not been established, either clinically or scientifically. According to a 2001 study published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal, ASAPS' peer-reviewed publication, Endermologie in and of itself has not been found to be beneficial for producing long-term and lasting clinical results.
Mesotherapy: Small amounts of homeopathic medicine are injected immediately beneath the surface of the skin to break down the cellulite and to improve circulation and lymphatic and venous drainage. Currently, there are no peer-reviewed articles or scientific studies to back up claims that mesotherapy improves the appearance of cellulite. Mesotherapy is not FDA approved.
Herbal and dietary supplements: Some makers of herbal and dietary supplements claim to cure what they say are the internal causes of cellulite, such as poor circulation, slow metabolism, and bloating. Since supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unless they are marketed as a cure for a disease or a medical condition, some companies market supplements with claims that are unsubstantiated by scientific studies. Until reliable data is provided concerning any herbal or dietary supplement, consumers should be skeptical of claims and should also be aware that many such supplements carry risks.
Creams and lotions: "Miracle" creams and lotions are frequently marketed with claims of diminishing the unsightly dimpling of cellulite. These topical "cures" contain a variety of active ingredients including, but not limited, to: caffeine, green tea, plant extracts, retinol, aminophylline (an asthma drug), and the antioxidant DMAE. Most creams may mask cellulite temporarily by hydrating and swelling the skin and for most, there is no science to back up their long-term efficacy. One of the most exciting new creams for cellulite correction is neaclear's firming body lotion. The combination of liquid oxygen, vitamin C, vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 makes a lot of sense!
Conclusion: Although some treatments may provide temporary improvement in the dimpled appearance of cellulite, to date there is no proven, permanent "cure" for cellulite.