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CELLULITE TREATMENTS – WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T?

Dr. Rosmy Barrios 11 Oct 2021
CELLULITE TREATMENTS – WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T?

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Cellulite may be the most infamous of all aesthetic issues the majority of women struggle with worldwide.

The dimply, orange peel skin texture on the thighs, bottom, or belly is not something anyone looks forward to seeing. No wonder that the anti-cellulite battle has got a massive industry working to find the answer.

In this chase to cure cellulite, science leads the way. A highly effective and permanent solution does not exist yet. However, some treatments produce significant improvements.

Unfortunately, there are many false promises in the process. Magic formulas that claim they have it all figured out. In reality, most of these cure-all techniques do not solve the problem.

That's why we've created this article. To explain all relevant treatments present on the market today. So, if you want to see what works against cellulite and what does not, this is a place for you.

Let’s start with the less exciting ones.

Anti-cellulite Treatments that don’t Work

Science does not support the use of supplements, mesotherapy, or cryolipolysis.

Supplements. – You will often see ads claiming that supplements containing Ginkgo Biloba, caffeine, or grapeseed, can help you reduce cellulite. There is, however, no scientific data to back the effectiveness of these ingredients.

Mesotherapy – Different cocktails of injections containing enzymes, hormones, herbal extracts, and caffeine get injected into cellulite areas. There is no evidence that mesotherapy works against cellulite. The risk of complications is relatively high, ranging from swelling and redness to skin changes and infections.

Cryolipolysis – Freezing unwanted fat tissue. While this treatment is effective against small pockets of fat, it does not help reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Potentially Effective and Experimental Anti-cellulite Treatments

Some promising anti-cellulite treatments require more research, and others that seem to work well produce inconsistent results.

Radiofrequency

Radiofrequency is an FDA-approved cellulite treatment. That means it is safe but with limited effects.

Most radiofrequency devices combine this technology with massage, suction, and laser treatments. They heat the cellulite in an attempt to break up the connective tissue bands responsible for its appearance. However, most patients only report minor improvements, and post-treatment bruising is usual.

Carboxytherapy

Carboxytherapy uses carbon dioxide gas (CO2). The idea behind the procedure is to remove cellulite by inserting CO2 beneath the skin. Most patients notice only slight improvements. The treatment can cause discomfort and bruising.

Endermologie®

It is an FDA-approved massage technique that uses vacuum-based tools. Endermologie® is available at spas, and treatment providers claim that multiple sessions are necessary for visible results.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound, or ultrasonic liposculpting, can break up fat deposits, but it cannot reduce cellulite on its own. However, in combination with other techniques, it is a helpful anti-cellulite tool.

Laser-assisted Liposuction

Liposuction alone cannot improve cellulite. It can only make it worse. However, the combination of laser and liposuction is a promising one. More research is necessary.

Ionithermie

Ionithermie cellulite reduction is another popular spa treatment. It uses mild electric current in combination with clay and algae. The treatment area gets covered in this material, connected to electrodes, and wrapped in plastic. The entire process can cause discomfort in some patients.

The effects of the Ionithermie procedure are short-lasting and limited at best.

Lotions and creams

It is wrong to think that topical products do not influence cellulite. However, their effect is temporary, and they require regular daily use to produce any positive change.

Caffeine-containing products, for example, can dehydrate cells and make cellulite less visible.

Retinol is another common ingredient. It thickens the skin, making cellulite less prominent.

Topical retinol products require long-term use for maximum effect. So, it may take more than six months before visible results.

Anti-cellulite creams and lotions can contain different active ingredients. That's why it is vital to patch-test them before widespread application. That's a way to avoid allergic reactions and other unwanted complications.

Research-backed Cellulite Treatment Techniques

Science has a way of separating effective medical treatments from the ones that don’t work. It’s called research. Here are the study-backed anti-cellulite procedures:

Subcision

Subcision uses sharp needles to straighten the skin by cutting the fibrous connective cords that cause cellulite. The result is a significant reduction of visible dimples. The effects of the procedure are not permanent but can last for more than two years.

Laser Treatment

Multiple laser types are currently in use for cellulite treatment. Among the more popular anti-cellulite laser procedures is Cellulaze™. The minimally invasive technique involves the insertion of microlaser fibers beneath the skin.

Once the lasers are in position, they use light energy to break up the fibrous bands that cause cellulite and thicken the skin. The result is a reduction in visible cellulite that may last longer than one year.

Vacuum-Assisted Precise Tissue Release

The main principle of operation is not different from subcision and laser cellulite treatment. The goal is to eliminate the connective cords that cause skin dimpling. The technique involves the use of small blades for cutting the fibrous tissue. As of now, this may be the anti-cellulite treatment with the longest-lasting effect (up to three years).

Weight Loss and Exercise

Maintaining a healthy weight makes cellulite less visible. The case is similar with exercise. Adding muscle mass while melting the fat deposits makes the skin look tighter and reduces cellulite.

Acoustic Wave Therapy

Acoustic wave therapy (AWT) uses the mechanical energy of sound to boost the body's natural regenerative abilities. Research shows that several AWT sessions can reduce the amount of visible cellulite.

The Bottom Line

The fight against cellulite continues. At this moment, there is nothing that can remove cellulite indefinitely. However, there are some effective treatments with highly satisfying outcomes. So, if you decide to invest time and money to combat cellulite, make sure you don't waste both on something that does not work.

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About the Author:
Dr. Rosmy Barrios is an aesthetic medicine specialist with international work experience. She earned her physician diploma at the Universidad Del Norte’s School of Medicine in Barranquilla, Colombia, and her specialty at John F. Kennedy University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Dr. Barrios is a member of Pan-American Aesthetic Medicine Association (PASAM) and the Union Internationale de Medecine Esthetique (UIME). She is an expert health writer with keen interests in aesthetic medicine, regenerative aesthetics, anti-aging, fitness, and nutrition. Currently, Dr. Barrios heads the Regenerative Aesthetics department at a renowned Internal Medicine clinic based in Belgrade, Serbia.

References:

  • Friedmann DP, Vick GL, Mishra V. Cellulite: a review with a focus on subcision. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017 Jan 7;10:17-23. DOI: 10.2147/CCID.S95830. PMID: 28123311; PMCID: PMC5234561.
  • DiBernardo BE, Sasaki GH, Katz BE, Hunstad JP, Petti C, Burns AJ. A Multicenter Study for Cellulite Treatment Using a 1440-nm Nd: YAG Wavelength Laser with Side-Firing Fiber. Aesthet Surg J. 2016;36(3):335-343. doi:10.1093/asj/sjv203
  • Hexsel D, Camozzato FO, Silva AF, Siega C. Acoustic wave therapy for cellulite, body shaping and fat reduction. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2017 Jun;19(3):165-173. DOI: 10.1080/14764172.2016.1269928. Epub 2017 Feb 2. PMID: 27997260.
  • Guida S, Bovani B, Canta Pier L, Dell'Avanzato R, Galimberti M, Migliori G, Pellacani G, Bencini PL. Multicenter study of vacuum-assisted precise tissue release for the treatment of cellulite in a cohort of 112 Italian women assessed with cellulite dimples scale at rest. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2019;21(7-8):404-407. doi: 10.1080/14764172.2019.1683209. Epub 2019 Oct 24. PMID: 31648594.
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