Cellulite Treatment Options

Cellulite_TreatmentSome currently available options for improving the appearance of cellulite do seem to work. However, experts caution that the results are often not dramatic or permanent.3

There are four main areas of conventional cellulite treatment—reducing or alleviating factors that make it worse, physical interventions, pharmacological methods, and laser treatments.4 The following list includes mechanisms that have been studied and show some positive results:

  • Carboxy therapy. Injecting carbon dioxide into the skin may be a useful cellulite treatment since it can cause lipolysis.3
  • Drugs. Although study results are currently insufficient to clearly indicate the efficacy of treating cellulite with drugs, in vitro tests of some pharmaceutical compounds are encouraging. These drugs could be administered topically or through local skin injections. One example is Viagra®, which has been shown to increase lipolysis in lab cultures of fat cells and is also known to improve skin circulation.5
  • Elōs™ technology. There are two versions of this treatment available. Both are a combination of unipolar or bipolar radiofrequency, infrared light, vacuum, and massage. The newer version, VelaShape, uses a higher radiofrequency than the older (VelaSmooth) technology, and claims to be able to not only smooth the skin but also reduce thigh and abdomen circumference by up to 5.0 cm in as little as eight treatments. A number of different versions of this combination of treatment mechanisms are currently available. They all involve administration of radiofrequency waves and ultraviolet light via laser beams, which work in a variety of ways (including heating up the septae and fatty tissue) to reduce the appearance of cellulite.3
  • Endermologie. Around for decades, this procedure involves massaging the skin surface with a machine to smooth bumps and reduce body dimensions. Today it is called lipomassage, and is not used as much because other methods are more effective. However, some newer methods incorporate rollers and massage as well.3
  • Ionithermie. Only recently available in the U.S., this electrical treatment (followed with a topical ointment) has been in use for over 20 years in France. It sends a current to the muscle which causes it to contract and also increases blood circulation in the area.3
  • Lipolysis and transplantation. One recent clinical study demonstrated positive results of using a laser to dissolve fat cells combined with transplanting fat cells to combat the uneven appearance and distribution of fat that occurs with cellulite.6
  • Liposuction. This body-contouring surgical procedure to remove fat deposits is not without controversy and risk. While some promote it as an excellent procedure, others report that liposuction’s effects on cellulite are disappointing at best and possibly disfiguring—most likely because cellulite fat is so close to the skin’s surface. However, newer procedures that combine lasers with liposuction have shown promising preliminary study results.3
  • Phosphotidylcholine and mesotherapy. Both of these methods involve lipolysis—the breakdown of fat cells. With mesotherapy, solutions that contain fat-dissolving substances like caffeine and phosphotidylcholine are injected into the hypodermis. Some clinicians hesitate to use mesotherapy because of potential adverse effects. Phosphotidylcholine has also been used with some success as a topical gel form in combination with a light-emitting diode (LED).
  • Shock waves. Non-invasive application of high-focused medium-energy shock waves (ESW) on the skin has been shown to increase the thickness of both the dermis and septae in at least one study, improving the appearance of cellulite. Different than ultrasound, ESW reportedly works by increase local blood circulation and metabolism, and stimulating collagen production.
  • Subcision. Although 99% of 232 patients in at least one study were subjectively pleased with results of this invasive procedure, experts caution that subcision could actually make cellulite worse over time. Subcision involves cutting the septae that separate the protruding fatty tissue, which should improve the dimpling effect of cellulite. However, some doctors speculate that it may also cause more fat to protrude towards the skin’s surface.3
  • Topical creams. Although most creams lack scientific evidence of their effectiveness over any long-term period, there is evidence that certain creams may improve the appearance of skin afflicted with cellulite. One of these creams includes retinoic acid, which appears to increase the strength of the septae by promoting collagen production.3 Topical use of various plant extracts (including aloe, green tea, witch hazel, and algae) is based on properties derived from their polyphenol components. Some of these beneficial effects include improving blood and lymph circulation. Although these plant extracts are generally considered safe, experts caution that there is the possibility of an allergic reaction.8
  • Ultrasound. Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to generate heat and cavitation to dissolve fat cells.3
  • Weight loss. Losing weight can benefit those with the most severe cases of cellulite; paradoxically, in some with loose skin after dramatic weight loss the dimpled appearance actually worsens.3

In addition to the above treatment methods, there are some natural herbal remedies that may help.

Breakdown of fat cells.
An extract made of lecithin (lipids, fatty acids, and carbohydrates) from soybean.
Another laser light therapy.
Creation of tissue-disruptive bubbles.

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