Cellulite impacts a large number of people, especially women. The “cottage cheese” appearance of cellulite is caused by fat layers poking through pockets of fibrous bands attached to muscle fascia beneath the skin. There are many advanced noninvasive treatments to improve the condition that often appears on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, and other areas of the body.
Cellulite riddles the skin with unattractive dimples which are caused by septae, fibrous bands that connect the skin to underlying layers of tissue and muscle. In women, the septae form a honeycomb shape that allows the fat layers to push through. In men, the connective tissue takes on a criss-cross pattern that serves as a mesh to offer a smoother appearance covering the fat.
Certain factors can contribute to the condition, including bad eating patterns, a lack of exercise, increased body fat, slower metabolism, hormonal shifts, and dehydration. Skin thickness and shade can camouflage the look of the dimples. As many as 85% of adult women may experience the "orange peel" or "cottage cheese" look of cellulite, which can appear on any individual - no matter their shape or size.
The fact that cellulite represents a fat layer trapped within the skin's dermal layer makes it more difficult for the body to burn it off as fuel. However, cosmetic surgeons can address the underlying structural issues that pull the skin in a downward direction, allowing lumps of cellulite to appear.
Ideal Candidates & Contraindications for Cellulite Removal
Cellulite removal is well tolerated by many patients and can be effective for most individuals suffering from unsightly cellulite on the hips, thighs, and buttocks. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the ideal candidates for cellulite reduction treatments are:
- Healthy individuals who are troubled by the way cellulite affects their appearance
- Those who are near their ideal body weight and are not overweight
- People who desire cellulite reduction and have realistic expectations of the treatments
- Individuals who are significantly overweight may not represent ideal candidates for effective treatment of cellulite removal until weight loss occurs. Patients might be advised by their physicians to reduce their weight before treatment for optimal results.
Procedures and Treatments to Reduce Cellulite
There are several treatments marketed to men and women to reduce the appearance of cellulite, ranging from completely non-invasive massages and creams to surgical procedures and energy-assisted therapies. To determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs, it is best to speak to a licensed and experienced board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist.
Laser Treatments: Cellulaze® Cellulaze® is an FDA-approved laser treatment that uses a tiny laser fiber to sever fibrous bands beneath the skin which pull down the overlying skin and create a dimpled appearance. The procedure also helps to melt away the subcutaneous fat and increase collagen production to improve the skin's elasticity and texture. After only one session, immediate improvements can be viewed - although Cellulaze® requires annual touch-ups. With new, strengthened collagen, thickened skin results in the area of treatment and the appearance of cellulite is further reduced.
Subcision: Cellfina® Cellfina® is also an FDA-approved procedure designed for the treatment of cellulite. During the minimally-invasive procedure, Cellfina® reduces the dimpling caused by cellulite by using a tiny blade to cut and release the septae that pull down the skin.
The Cellfina® hand-held device gently suctions skin, letting the surgeon cut the underlying bands a few millimeters underneath, reducing harm to surrounding tissues. Hailed as the cellulite treatment with longest lasting results, one-hour Cellfina® sessions can treat from 20 to 30 cellulite dimples, with results lasting as long as three years.
Endermologie Cellulite treatments involving vigorous massage aim to lessen the appearance of cellulite by increasing blood flow and reducing excess fluids. Lipomassage by Endermologie is approved by the FDA, and involves using a handheld roller to smooth and distribute fat pockets, while reducing swelling and softening fibrotic tissues.
Carboxytherapy Carboxytherapy helps treat cellulite, stretch marks, and dark circles under the eyes using carbon dioxide gas injected into the areas of concern. Studies have shown Carboxytherapy to result in less noticeable cellulite, with the treatment aiming to increase blood flow to the affected area, improving skin texture and elasticity.
Radiofrequency for Cellulite Treatment Radiofrequency-assisted cellulite treatments not only aim to reduce cellulite but encourage collagen production and reduce fatty tissue deposits. RF energy devices such as BTL Vanquish, ThermiSmooth®, and BodyFX® are non-invasive body contouring procedures that reduce fat cells as well as the appearance of cellulite. Treatments such as Velasmooth™ and VelaShape™ use infrared light along with RF energy to heat fat layers and suction the skin with a pulsed vacuum.
SmoothShapes SmoothShapes® combines several methods to reduce cellulite. In one handpiece, energy from lasers and light helps to lessen fat cells while encouraging collagen production. SmoothShapes® also stimulates the lymphatic system through mechanical massage to remove toxins and cell debris.
Additional Cellulite Treatments There are several more invasive and less invasive methods that cellulite sufferers can use to deal with their problem areas, including the following:
Fat Reduction/Liposuction to Reduce Cellulite Certain treatments are not necessarily meant to improve cellulite, but by targeting fat tissue in general, the dimpling effect can be lessened. Whereas liposuction can reduce fat cells, it may not improve the appearance of cellulite and instead worsen it.
Cryolipolysis is a noninvasive procedure that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved that involves freezing away fat cell lipids. Several treatments are needed to see one inch of fat dissolved, which can take three or four months to happen. The fat removal process can improve the look of cellulite.
Ultrasound therapy is a noninvasive procedure that utilizes sound waves to improve the appearance of cellulite. Acoustic wave therapy breaks up cellulite with a handheld device using sound waves in the cellulite treatments. With non-invasive ultrasound treatments, non-invasive RF, and laser treatments, similar benefits such as skin tightening, fat reduction, and collagen production can be experienced.
Topical Treatments There are hundreds of topical products on the cosmetic market that promise to eliminate cellulite. Cellulite creams often contain herbal extracts, caffeine, and other ingredients that claim to reduce cellulite. The ABCS notes that while medical-grade cellulite creams may marginally help collagen production over time, most cellulite creams are not effective. No cream or ointment will remove cellulite as it will not affect the fibrous septae that pull down the skin internally and create the dimpled effect. Retinol cream, however, can reduce the appearance of cellulite by thickening the skin. A twice daily application of 0.3 percent solution for six months helps to thicken the skin and lessen the orange-peel aesthetic.
Mesotherapy Injectables Mesotherapy is a procedure that injects various substances beneath the skin, including hormones, aminophylline, or other ingredients to destroy connective tissues that create the look of cellulite. Chemical injections into the fat layer under the skin help to reduce the cellulite appearance, but physicians warn patients that the procedure includes the risk of infection, swelling, and other problems.
Cost of Cellulite Removal
Cellulite treatments can range in cost from small amounts for creams or hundreds of dollars for Carboxytherapy, and up to thousands of dollars for more invasive treatments. Cellulaze® treatments can range from $3,000 to $5,000. Cellfina®, meanwhile, may cost upwards of $6500.
Recovery from Cellulite Removal
Recovery periods from cellulite removal treatments vary. Cellfina®, for example, involves little downtime with patients experiencing minimal soreness, bruising, and swelling. Other treatments like Cellulaze® warn patients to expect downtimes of approximately 24 to 48 hours after each procedure.
Cellulite Removal Before & Aftercare
Before seeking cellulite reduction treatment options, it is important to book a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon or medical expert. Providers should understand patient needs and be able to answer all questions a patient has in regards to their condition and treatment options.
Pros & Cons of Cellulite Removal
When deciding to undergo treatment for cellulite removal, it is important to consider the advantages, disadvantages, and potential side effects of each treatment. Discuss the pros and cons with your medical provider to help facilitate the correct choice.
The benefits of cellulite removal procedures include the following:
- Effective treatments may last for several years
- Improvements in dimpled skin appearance can increase self-confidence
The disadvantages of cellulite removal may include:
- Certain treatments for cellulite may only temporarily improve the look of the skin
- Bruising, pain, swelling
Potential side effects from cellulite removal treatments can include bruising and soreness. Patients should have realistic expectations regarding the level of improvement after treatment. Previous cellulite dimples may return or new indentations may form.
Conclusion: Finding the Best Cellulite Removal Option
There is a myriad of cellulite treatment options available for patients ranging from topical to surgical. The best way to determine the most effective treatment for your individual needs is to schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist. A licensed professional should evaluate your problem areas to develop a treatment plan that will suit your result expectations, recovery time needs, and budget.
List of Sources
- What is the best treatment for cellulite? | ASPS - American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- American Academy of Dermatology: Cellulite treatments: What really works?
- Cellulite Treatments - American Board of Cosmetic Surgery
- Cellulite - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic
- Cleveland Clinic - Cellulite: Management and Treatment
- An alternative treatment modality for cellulite: LPG endermologie.
- Endermologie: humoral repercussions and estrogen interaction.