What are treatments for cellulite?
Many people dislike the appearance of cellulite and prefer to have skin as smooth as they possibly can. Therefore, there are many articles about cellulite, and many treatments exist, ranging from dietary changes to cellulite creams and mechanical treatments.
Some treatments have an effect on cellulite in medical studies. These include the following:
Acoustic wave therapy (AWT) is a treatment that studies have shown reduces the appearance of cellulite. This technique applies acoustic waves (also called sound, pressure or shockwaves) to the affected areas. Typically, multiple treatments and maintenance treatments are necessary. Lipotripsy is another term for AWT.
Laser, light, or radiofrequency therapy: The U.S. FDA has approved certain light-therapy devices that combine suction or massage with light therapy for the temporary reduction of the appearance of cellulite. TriActive is a treatment that combines a low-level laser treatment with suction and manipulation of the skin. Velasmooth/Velashape is a treatment combining laser and massage therapy. These treatments require multiple treatment sessions and maintenance treatments to sustain the improved appearance. Other systems use radiofrequency therapy in combination with massage and infrared light or radiofrequency at multiple levels simultaneously. One minimally invasive laser treatment, called Cellulaze, involves insertion of a tiny laser fiber beneath the skin.
Subcision is a procedure that involves insertion of a needle beneath the skin to break up bands of fibrous connective tissue that separate the clusters of fat cells. Health care professionals perform subcision with a device known as Cellfina. Results of the technique can last up to two years or more.
Vacuum-assisted precise tissue release is another new procedure that can help break up the tough bands of fibrous tissue that contribute to the appearance of cellulite. The doctor uses a device containing small blades to cut the tough tissue bands. Subsequently, the fat tissue moves upward to fill out and reduce the look of dimpled skin.
Other proposed treatments for cellulite have fewer studies that show their effectiveness than those described above. These include the following:
Methylxanthines: Methylxanthines are a group of chemicals that include aminophylline, caffeine, and theophylline. These chemicals are present in many cellulite creams because of their known ability to break down fat stores. However, skin creams cannot deliver the required concentration of these chemicals for the length of time required for significant fat breakdown. While studies have shown a small reduction in thigh measurements with some of these preparations, they do not promote significant loss of cellulite.
Massage treatments: Several machines are available that massage the areas affected by cellulite. These machines use rolling cylinders to gather areas of skin and massage them inside a chamber. One example of massage treatments is Endermologie, a French technique used for cellulite treatment since the mid-1990s. This technique uses an electrically powered device that suctions, pulls, and squeezes affected areas. Treatments typically last for 30-45 minutes, and 10-12 treatments are typically required before results are noticeable. While a temporary decrease in the appearance of cellulite may occur, the technique appears to redistribute fat rather than permanently alter its configuration under the skin, and studies about the effectiveness of this therapy have shown conflicting results. Individuals need regular maintenance treatments after achieving the initial effect or the cellulite will return.
Laser-assisted liposuction adds a laser treatment to the typical liposuction fat removal procedure. Studies have not yet shown whether this can be an effective cellulite treatment. Pure liposuction involves extracting fat by vacuuming it from under the skin and is not effective for cellulite. In fact, liposuction may worsen the appearance of the skin by sucking out the cushion of fat that resides just under the skin. The result is additional dimpling of the skin.
Ultrasonic liposculpting uses sounds waves to try to reduce cellulite. There is no definitive evidence to prove that this technique is effective.
Retinol creams or topical products containing 0.3% retinol may also have some effect on cellulite. Some people claim that this reduces the appearance of cellulite. Retinol can help thicken the skin, which may explain the diminished appearance of cellulite. It is necessary to apply the product for six months or longer to see an effect.
Carboxytherapy is a medical procedure in which health care professionals inject carbon dioxide (CO2) gas just beneath the skin. A small study showed this may be beneficial in treating cellulite.
Physicians do not recommend the following treatments due to lack of medical evidence for their effectiveness:
Mesotherapy: Mesotherapy is a controversial treatment for cellulite that involves injecting drugs or other substances directly into affected tissue. Often, FDA-approved medications are used off-label (meaning that the FDA approved the drugs for other conditions but not for treatment of this particular condition) in the injections. The injection cocktails often contain herbs and vitamins. Health care professionals administer many injections over multiple (typically 10 or more) sessions. Most experts feel that this treatment is unproven and risky.
Dietary supplements: Several of these products have been marketed and contain a variety of ingredients such as ginkgo biloba, sweet clover, grape-seed bioflavinoids, bladder wrack extract, oil of evening primrose, fish oil, and soy lecithin. These preparations claim to have positive effects on the body such as boosting metabolism, improving circulation, protecting against cell damage, and breaking down fats. Such claims are difficult to evaluate, as is the case with similar assertions made on behalf of many supplements and alternative therapies. Concepts such as "metabolism," "circulation," or "cell damage" cannot be easily measured on an objective basis to determine whether or not any improvement has been achieved. Additionally, because merchants sell these products as dietary supplements and not as drugs, they are not subject to the jurisdiction or regulation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are therefore exempt from meeting the scientific standards for both safety and effectiveness that apply to drugs. Furthermore, there are no valid clinical studies to support the use of these dietary supplements for the treatment of cellulite. Some dietary supplements for cellulite treatment may also pose health risks or may interact with certain prescription drugs. For example, the formulation known as Cellasene contains iodine, which many doctors warn may be harmful for those with thyroid and other conditions.
Cryolipolysis is a procedure that freezes small areas of unwanted fat. While it may reduce fat deposits, it does not reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Cellulite diets: Special "cellulite diets" claim to be effective in treating cellulite. Proponents of these diets claim that the combination of foods in the diet can reduce inflammation and improve circulation in affected areas and diminish cellulite. However, no studies published in the medical literature have supported these claims. Experts have conclude that eating a healthy diet can decrease fluid retention and improve the overall health and appearance of skin, but specific diets designed to target cellulite are of no value.
Wraps: Many salons offer herbal or other types of body wraps as treatments for cellulite. As is the case with cellulite diets, controlled studies in the medical literature have not proven the effects of wraps. While wraps may decrease fluid retention and improve the overall appearance of skin, these effects are temporary. It is also not possible to "detoxify" the body by the use of herbal or other wraps.