In today’s world of medical technology, you can have your vision fixed, your nose reshaped, hair regrown and fat sucked out. But if you’re part of the 85% to 98% of the adult female population cursed with cellulite, you’re stuck with it — unless the latest treatment known as Cellulaze is as effective as it claims to be.
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is the fatty deposits of dimpled skin that tends to show up on women’s thighs, hips and buttocks. Unlike the fat that appears on our bodies from eating too many burgers and fries, cellulite fat resides within the skin; the fat that affects our weight lies closer to our bones, according to WebMD.
This fat wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for septae, these verticals strips of tissue that tug on the skin and pull it downward, emphasizing the appearance of those fat pockets lying below it. Men usually aren’t affected by this unfortunate skin condition because their septae are arranged in a more diagonal, crosshatch pattern, according to dermatologist Bruce Katz in an MSN article.
Most doctors say that cellulite is a hereditary condition, though the National Library of Medicine also says that a poor diet, fad dieting, a slow metabolism, hormone changes and even dehydration may also play a role.
Cellulaze: The new cure for cellulite?
The Food and Drug Administration approved a new minimally invasive procedure known as Cellulaze back last year for the treatment of cellulite. Patients pay about $5,000 to $7,000, depending on the size of the area being treated, to go into the operating room for 45 to 90 minutes and have a doctor thread a laser fiber underneath the skin. The laser cuts the septae, releasing the skin it was pulling down; melts the patient’s fat pockets; and heats the skin from the inside out, which promotes skin elasticity, according to MSNBC.
Patients are fully awake for the procedure but are given anesthesia. While it may sound terrifying to be wide awake while someone pokes a laser under your skin, this isn’t unusual; patients are also awake for medical procedures like laser eye surgery. Most people go about their daily lives 24 hours later, though they’re required to wear something known as a compression garment, which somewhat resembles Spandex shorts, for a week or two afterward. Leakage, bruising and soreness are the commonly reported short-term side effects. The final results appear within about four to six months, and doctors swear it lasts, though this treatment hasn’t been around long enough to really find out if the cellulite returns or not in, say, 10 years.
Don’t have $5,000 to $7,000? There’s a huge industry of creams, devices and other products that exists to fill this niche. But do they work?
A 1999 study published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery claimed that the application of methylxanthine creams were effective after about eight weeks. However, it also stated that “much research must be undertaken before any of the treatments discussed can be validated as clinically effective. At present, it can be safely stated that there is no topical medication or manipulative process to which advanced cellulite visibly responds in a treatment period of less than 2 months.”
Muscle stimulators, iontophoresis devices and special massagers are also sold for the purpose of reducing cellulite. Muscle stimulators, according to Quackwatch, are only approved for such purposes as relaxing muscle spasms, increasing blood flow, preventing blood clots and rehabilitating muscle function after a stroke. And iontophoresis devices are only approved as a means to diagnose cystic fibrosis. “The FDA considers promotion of muscle stimulators or iontophoresis devices for any type of body shaping or contouring to be fraudulent,” Quackwatch said.
Massagers typically affect the appearance of cellulite by causing the tissue to swell, which temporarily hides the appearance of cellulite. But as soon as the swelling goes down, the skin returns to its original form, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Many people believe that if they lose enough weight or tone the affected areas enough, the cellulite will disappear. But Dr. Howard Murad, author of “The Cellulite Solution,” says otherwise: “Cellulite is not a fat problem; it’s a skin problem. It has nothing to do with what you weigh, or how much weight you lose.”
Research generally coincides with Dr. Murad’s statement. A study published in August 2006 in the journal Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery found that while some people’s cellulite did improve with weight loss, it worsened in others. The article concluded by stating: “Cellulite is a complex condition, and treatments such as weight loss have variable effects on the improvement or worsening of this condition. Additional studies are required to understand how the factors that influence and modulate cellulite severity, particularly those at the level of the subcutaneous tissue septa, can be manipulated to improve this condition.”
Unless you have money to spare, it’s probably easier, cheaper and safer to just accept your body’s natural age-related changes.