Last summer, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Endo Aesthetics’ Qwo™, a first-of-its-kind injectable that improves the appearance of cellulite, much to the delight of those dealing with dimpling. Statistically speaking, nine out of 10 women have cellulite they can’t shake, which makes sense when you consider it has nothing to do with diet or exercise.
There are plenty of topical treatments (think: lotions and scrubs) that claim to temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite, and there are a few surgical procedures (hi, Cellfina® and Cellulaze®) that address the bands under the skin’s surface that can lead to dimpling. But, with the approval of Qwo™, there is now a minimally invasive cosmetic solution that addresses the cause of cellulite. Read on to learn more about how Qwo™ works and hear from patients about what their experience was like.
What is Qwo?
Qwo™ (a.k.a. collagenase clostridium histolyticum-aaes) is the first-ever minimally invasive injectable procedure that releases fibrous septae enzymatically by specifically targeting types 1 and 3 collagen. Basically, Qwo™ targets the bands beneath the skin surface directly, which results in the surface-level smoothing effect. The enzymatic component is what differentiates the injectable from surgical procedures Cellfina® and Cellulaze®. While those two treatments also target the subcutaneous bands, they do so by severing the septae mechanically with either a knife or laser energy.
Ideal Candidate for Qwo
Qwo™ is FDA-approved to treat moderate to severe cellulite of the buttocks in adult women. During the clinical trial process, investigators needed to ensure they were reporting a two-point improvement in cellulite severity, which means participants went from having a lot of noticeable cellulite to a noticeably smoother rear. Additionally, Endo included women of all Fitzpatrick skin types in the trials, with nearly 30 percent of those treated with Qwo™ being Fitzpatrick IV, V, and VI. The treatment is considered safe and effective for women of all skin tones. It’s worth noting, however, that there are some groups of people who may not be candidates, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those who have conditions that cause excess bleeding.
Qwo Treatment Protocol
Qwo™ requires two or three sessions, spaced 21 days apart. Each appointment takes about 30 minutes, and patients do not need anesthesia. Instead, they are marked up in the affected areas (i.e. where you have dimpling), and the provider injects into the markings. As with any injectable treatment, there is a strong likelihood of swelling and bruising at the injection site, which usually subsides in about two weeks. Post-Qwo™ bruising tends to be significant, so you will probably want to avoid scheduling your treatments around a vacation or warm-weather months. Results are known to last a year or more.
At this point, you’ve likely heard first-hand accounts of Botox® and filler, but all injectables are unique and come with their own unique experiences. To get a better sense of what to expect from Qwo™, we talked to two patients about what it’s really like to get the cellulite-minimizing injections.
Frankie, 29, Boston, MA
Frankie has felt insecure about the cellulite on her upper thighs and buttocks since her late teens. She went out of her way to avoid swimwear and clothing that exposed the areas, which impacted her quality of life. Qwo™ is the first professional cellulite treatment she has tried, and she is pleased with her results.
The AEDITION: How did you find out about Qwo?
Frankie: I read an article about the treatment last summer. I guess it found me just at the right time. I had gotten back from a trip with friends, and I’d felt pretty down about my body a lot of the time. I’d looked into treatment for cellulite before I heard about Qwo™, but I never pursued it because it would’ve needed a decent amount of downtime to recover. I left the article open on my phone’s browser for a few weeks and eventually decided to see if anyone near me was already offering the treatment. I found a doctor who I got on with, who understood the results I was looking for, and who was able to be honest with me with what was realistic in terms of achieving those results.
The AEDITION: Talk us through the procedure. Was there any discomfort?
Frankie: My doctor told me I wouldn’t need any numbing treatment beforehand and she was right. It’s so painless. Maybe butt skin is tougher than face skin — it hurts a lot less than getting fillers! Before my first session, I had a consultation, so we had already discussed which areas were a priority for me. Each treatment session took around 15 minutes, and we were super relaxed, chatting throughout. I had some bruising a couple of days after each time, but it wasn’t enough to make me reconsider going back for my second and third appointments. My doctor told me to expect to see results around 10 days after the first injections. I would say I saw noticeable differences closer to the two-week post-injection mark, but the changes were showing before my second session for sure.
The AEDITION: How do you feel about the results?
Frankie: I’ll be honest, I had some very high hopes for the treatment. You know how you see all these perfect butts all over Instagram? I was hoping this would take me to that level. But my doctor was an absolute gem at explaining what could be done realistically. Although I was gutted that I wouldn’t get the model butt of my dreams from such a straightforward procedure, I understood why and decided it was still the best option for me. In all reality though, now that I’ve completed my course of injections, the results are so good. Add in some self tanner, and I’m decently close to my dream butt, which is a big win in my books.
Flossie, 28, Boca Raton, FL
Despite being a professional swimmer and exercising six days a week for as long as she can remember, Flossie deals with stubborn cellulite. After hearing from a fellow swimmer about Qwo™, she decided to look into it and is currently waiting to receive her second round of treatment.
The AEDITION: Why did you decide to get Qwo?
Flossie: It all came down to recovery time. I’m an athlete and have taken time out from regular training over the past year because of a pandemic and an injury. I couldn’t justify taking more time out for anything more invasive. I hadn’t ever considered getting any cosmetic procedure before. It wasn’t on my radar until a friend of mine was speaking about how she’d had it done. She’s an athlete too, so I was able to ask her about whether it affected her training or not. Once my friend cleared that up, I’d more or less made up my mind that I was going to go for it.
The AEDITION: Was your first procedure in line with what you expected?
Flossie: I have a pretty decent fear of needles, which getting my COVID-19 shot helped with. I was anxious, but not as worried as I could have been going into the appointment. My doctor offered to numb the area before injecting, which I was super grateful for. I was able to bring a friend with me too, so I held onto her hand pretty tightly throughout! There was very little pain during the procedure. It felt like little bug bites, nothing more than that. I didn’t get any noticeable swelling or bruising after, and just carried on with my routine. It was more or less precisely what I’d expected having spoken to someone who had already had the procedure.
The AEDITION: How are you feeling ahead of your next session?
Flossie: I’m so ready for it! I’m treating it as therapy against my needle phobia, too. I’m feeling a bit invincible because I’m proving to myself that I can do something scary without freaking out. I’m starting to see results from my first session now. I could see changes around a week after my first injections, but I plan to track my progress with photos after my next round. All around, it’s been a positive experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing the final results in time.
For women dealing with moderate to severe cellulite and looking for a minimally invasive way to smooth it, Qwo™ is a promising treatment option. Aside from some post-prick swelling and bruising, the procedure has little to no downtime. Consulting with a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon will determine if you are a candidate for Qwo™.
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