What is Cellulite?
The term "cellulite" is used to describe the dimpling of skin in fatty areas such as the abdomen, hips and thighs. The word hasn't been recognized by medical practitioners as a diagnosis, as cellulite isn't health-threatening, painful or dangerous. In fact, it appears on obese people as well as people who are within their ideal weight ranges, although women are more likely to have it than men. Regardless of its recognition as a disorder, many people feel it is an unattractive feature and have been looking for ways to get rid of cellulite for decades. Factors that contribute to cellulite are age, skin tone, genetics, stress, a sedentary lifestyle and hormone changes.
According to one study sited by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the dimpling effect of fatty tissue is caused not by the presence of fat cells but by the condition of the connective tissue. Think about it: You've seen overweight people without a trace of cellulite, just as you've seen thin people with plenty of it.
Getting Rid of Cellulite
According to the ASAPS, many treatments claim to eliminate or reduce the appearance of cellulite. Less effective are topical creams, supplements and massages. Somewhat effective-but not perfect-treatments include liposuction, lower body lifts and fat injections. The most effective treatments recognized by ASAPS use laser technology combined with suction massage to break down fat tissue and stimulates collagen growth, which tends to smooth the skin.
Nonsurgical Cellulite Reduction Methods
We know that exercise and diet are the best ways to lose weight, reach optimal fitness and improve our health. We also know that cellulite is a stubborn trait that won't respond to diet and exercise. Many methods exist for reducing cellulite. Make an appointment with a qualified cosmetic surgeon trained in cellulite reduction to discuss the best method for your body. The advantages of nonsurgical cellulite reduction are: low risk for infection, less pain, little to no recovery time and lower cost that surgical methods. The disadvantage of nonsurgical cellulite reduction is that the methods tend to produce temporary results, and touch-ups are needed every six to 12 months.
Laser massage: This noninvasive treatment uses low-energy lasers combined with massage to break down those cellulite-producing fat cells. TriActive® and SmoothShapes® are two brands of "cellulite workstations." Laser massage cellulite reduction can be used as post-liposuction treatments. They require no anesthesia and no down time. TriAcive is sold over the counter and is lower frequency, takes about 20 minutes and is relatively pain free. SmoothShapes is sold only to licensed physicians and uses a higher frequency. Treatments take 60 to 90 minutes, and patients will feel a little tenderness after treatments. Laser massage cellulite reduction requires repeat treatments, and results are not permanent.
Cellupulse therapy: This method, also referred to as acoustic wave therapy, uses sound waves to thin out unwanted layers of fat. It was developed to treat sports injuries, until the added bonus of cellulite reduction was discovered. This method is noninvasive and painless, and requires a series of treatments with touch ups every six to 12 months.
Ultrasound heat: This newer method has not yet been approved for use in the United States. The brand name is UltraShape® and it uses ultrasound heat to destroy fat cells that contribute to cellulite. The method requires no anesthesia, and patients experience only mild swelling and redness that subsides within a few hours.
Radiofrequency waves: Thermage®, Velashape™ and Accent XL® are three brand-name methods for reducing cellulite using radiofrequency waves. Sometimes these are referred to as thermotherapy.
Thermage uses heat to penetrate the skin and break down and shrink fat cells that contribute to cellulite appearance. It promotes collagen growth, which naturally smoothes the skin. Thermage treatment are slightly uncomfortable, and your cosmetic surgeon might give you a mild analgesic 20 minutes before your treatment. Some patients experience mild swelling, blistering and redness, which disappear within a few days. Typically these are treated with over-the-counter pain medication. Results from Thermage are permanent and results can take several months to optimize.
VelaShape uses slightly less radiofrequency with tissue manipulation (mechanical massage) to treat unwanted cellulite. Optimal results require four to six treatments, and maintenance treatments will be required for long-term results. Pain, swelling and redness are minimal and disappear within a few days.
Accent XL also uses radiofrequency waves to rupture fat cells, which "melt" away and are removed from the body naturally (via urination). Treatments last about 30 minutes. The Accent XL method has a built-in system that cools the skin after it is heated. Results from Accent XL are temporary, and touch-ups are recommended.
Home remedies: Home massage "body buffers" might feel good and give the illusion of reduced cellulite, but, according to the ASAPS, no scientific evidence does not support these methods as being long-term or lasting. For long-term, lasting cellulite reduction, make an appointment with a qualified cosmetic surgeon who specializes in cellulite reduction.
Surgical Cellulite Reduction Methods
Surgical cellulite reduction methods should be performed only by qualified, licensed and experienced cosmetic surgeons. The biggest advantage of surgical cellulite reduction methods is that the results are permanent, and touch ups are rarely, if ever, needed. Risks of surgical cellulite reduction include infection, scarring, long recovery period, pain, swelling and higher costs.
Buttocks lift: This surgical procedure removes excess fat using liposuction and surgically removes excess skin from the buttocks and hip areas. It is the most invasive procedure described on this page. The result of this surgical technique is a tighter buttocks area, which will reduce the dimpled appearance of the skin. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and takes three to six hours in a surgical hospital setting. Patients typically are released home the same day, and recovery gradually takes four to six months.
Liposhifting: This method uses tumescent liposuction to remove fat from unwanted areas and move it into areas that need to be smoothed. It can be done with local anesthesia, with a single incision per site. This procedure is less invasive than a buttocks lift, and recovery time is significantly less.
SmartLipo MPX™: The SmartLipo MPX liposuction system uses combined wavelengths to improve the patient's skin tone and stimulate collagen growth. The SmartLipo device liquefies fat and makes it easier for the surgeon to remove it from the body, or allow the body to absorb and remove naturally through waste. Incisions are very small, which reduces the risks of scarring and infection.
Find a Cellulite Reduction Surgeon Near You
Use our Surgeon Locator to find a qualified cosmetic surgeon near you. Schedule a consultation with one or more cosmetic surgeons and ask to see before and after photos of patients who have had cellulite reduction. Many cosmetic surgeons share before and after photos on their websites. To minimize risks and complications, choose a surgeon who is experienced and licensed to practice cosmetic surgery.