If you’re one of the nearly 90 percent of adult women battling the bulgy, dimpled lumps on your thighs, arms, stomach, or behind, you’re clearly in good company. In fact, anyone can develop cellulite, the pesky condition that occurs when enlarged packets of body fat deposited deep under the skin balloon up to the surface, pushing through layers of fibers that once kept your limbs nice and firm. “Contrary to popular belief, cellulite is not a weight issue,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. “Even very thin people can have cellulite and it is considered normal from a medical standpoint to have some.”
So how do you get rid of these unwanted lumps? We asked Engelman to give us the lowdown on the most common cellulite treatments available today—and which are the most effective of the bunch.
The first FDA-approved ‘cure’ for cellulite, this procedure involves a small laser tube that’s inserted under a patient’s skin. As the laser heats up, it melts the lumpy fat pockets and softens the fiber bands of connective tissue that hold them together. “Cellulaze can significantly improve and minimize the appearance of cellulite,” says Engelman. “But I’ve yet to see a case where it’s completely gone.” But unless you have a fairly large budget, it may be out of your price range since the procedure can cost upwards of $5,000 and, depending on how large the treatment area is, it can be quite the time commitment. “A good candidate for Cellulaze has to be someone who understands the time commitment required and is reasonable with the expected results of their selected treatment,” says Engelman.
Newer to the market and recently given the FDA’s stamp of approval, Zwave applies high energy radial shockwaves to the affected area to reduce and improve mild to moderate cases of cellulite. The tissue around the dimpled areas breaks apart and leads to a collapse in the gas bubbles within the fat structures. “Zwave is showing great promise after around 10 sessions with initial frequency up to three times a week,” says Engelman. “I’ve seen improvement in my patients after a few sessions, though maintenance varies based on the person and their severity.” Though not nearly as expensive as Cellulaze, expect to pay about $300 to $450 per treatment, depending on the size of the treatment area, says Engelman.
This noninvasive treatment claims to deliver a quick and painless way to reduce fat and tighten the skin. Using radiofrequency energy directly to the targeted fat cells, it applies heat to the affected area and destroys these cells only, without damaging the skin or surrounding muscles or tissues. “Though considered a fat-removal technique, it is often coupled with Zwave to help with improving the appearance of cellulite,” says Engelman. “Patients are positioned on a treatment table and the Vanquish device is directed toward the intended area of the abdomen, but does not touch the body. A slight warming sensation is often felt, but no pain or discomfort is typically associated with this procedure.” While prices are steep, ranging from $500 to $800 for a 30-minute session, no downtime is necessary so patients can resume their normal daily activities immediately after leaving their doctor’s office.
4. Cellulite Creams
“Most cellulite-fighting creams contain caffeine as their active ingredient, which can be more helpful than you’d imagine when applied religiously,” says Engelman. “This is because of the temporary effects caffeine has on the body, which are actually prolonged to daily effects. It shrinks fat cells by dehydrating them.” Her favorites: Biotherm Celluli Eraser ($45, biotherm.com) and Nerium Body Contouring Cream ($60, amazon.com). “Apply these creams daily with an aggressive massage or a rolling motion to help aid in the penetration and see better results.” And keep this in mind: Like any non-invasive technique, cellulite is known to creep back up when treatment of any kind is halted.
5. Coffee Scrubs
“These obviously also contain caffeine as their main ingredient, which helps aid in the lymphatic drainage and smooth out the appearance of skin,” says Engelman. “By exfoliating, you’re showcasing your skin at its smoothest and the caffeine is adding some actual shrinkage to the fat cells.” Just like with creams, you’re going to want to use a coffee scrub once a day for best results.
6. Dry Brushing
A more holistic approach with a similar level of effectiveness to coffee scrubs, dry brushing is a technique that’s been around for centuries. “It uses a stiff-bristled brush with gentle pressure on dry skin,” says Engelman. “By brushing upwards towards the heart, focusing on cellulite-prone areas to stimulate the lymphatic system, it exfoliates the skin, boosts circulation and elasticity, and reduces the appearance of cellulite.” You'll also need to do this once a day to maintain results.
Originally developed in Europe to relieve the pain of inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, mesotherapy involves injecting substances such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes into the tissue just beneath the skin. It’s most popular in Europe and Asia and not often used in the U.S., as it is not FDA approved. “Mesotherapy may break down fat and bring a slight improvement in the appearance of cellulite, but it also carries risks such as swelling, infection, and irregular contours,” says Engelman.
The bottom line: While many of these treatments are aimed at smoothing the skin’s appearance and minimizing dimpling of the skin’s surface, there’s no ‘cure-all’ for cellulite, says Engelman. Use caution when deciding on which procedure is right for you and consult a medical professional who you feel comfortable with and who can answer any and all questions you may have.
Jenn Sinrich is a writer and editor living in New York City, self-proclaimed foodie always looking for healthier version of recipes, passionate lover of all things cheese, committed wino, Bostonian at heart, and proud Red Sox fan. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.