They say nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. But you can likely add cellulite to the list. The lumps and bumps affect pretty much all women: 85 to 95 percent of women have cellulite, says Deanne Robinson, MD, a dermatologist in Westport, CT. And while there’s no shortage of lotions, potions, and in-office treatments promising a miracle cure, do any of them actually work? Ahead, experts weigh in on what will actually help a dimpled derriere.
What is cellulite?
The dimpled, lumpy appearance you see occurs due to basic anatomy. Your skin sits on top of a layer of fat, which is tethered to the muscle underneath with fibrous bands. Those lumps and bumps occur when fatty deposits get pushed up around the bands, rather than lying flat.
Who does it affect?
Repeat after us: Cellulite has nothing to do with your weight. Almost all women experience it, regardless of their size or shape. Even a very slim person can have cellulite, points out celebrity cosmetic Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, founder of PFRANKMD & Skin Salon. Dr. Robinson also adds that it’s a common misconception that it can be exercised away.
So why don’t men have to deal with cellulite?
While men can have cellulite, it’s extremely rare. So, just like all the many other physical joys only women experience, you can blame hormones. Estrogen causes the fat underneath the skin to bunch up together, rather than lay smoothly. Women also tend to carry more fat in their hips, thighs, and butt, which is why this is where the dimpled skin most often crops up.
Do cellulite creams work?
The short answer: Maybe a little, but only temporarily. Many of these creams contain ingredients such as caffeine, which can constrict blood vessels and make skin look firmer, while also flushing out excess water in between fat cells for a de-puffing effect. Others work by plumping the skin, making it appear smoother. Still, these results are not permanent: “Creams aren’t treating the underlying fibrous bands that cause cellulite,” notes Dr. Robinson.
That being said, so long as you’re not expecting a miracle in a bottle, there’s no harm in using one regularly. Along with the cream itself, simply rubbing it in can be helpful; massage promote lymphatic drainage, helping to flush out fluids that can cause fat cells to swell and cellulite to look more prominent. Two we like: Glytone Slim Design Cellulite Night Cream ($44; dermstore.com) and Neora Firm Body Contour Cream ($80; neora.com).
What about in-office treatments?
“Cellulite is a progressive problem so there’s always going to be some maintenance involved, and there’s not one laser or injection that fixes everyone’s cellulite,” says Dr. Frank. “But if you find the right one for you, you can achieve a 40 to 70 percent improvement in cellulite.”
His top choices? Injectable semi-permanent biostimulatory fillers, which essentially fill in dimples; results are instant and last up to year. Shockwave and radiofrequency therapy is another option. “Acoustic waves break up the fibrous bands that cause dimpling while radiofrequency energy tightens the skin. The process is quick and feels like a mini jackhammer mixed with a hot stone massage,” Dr. Frank says.
Dr. Robinson also recommends Cellfina, a procedure during which those fibrous bands are actually cut. It’s done under local anesthetic and, depending on the area being treated, can be done in under an hour. Results can last for several years.
The bottom line (pun intended)
Cellulite is stubborn but take some comfort in knowing that most women experience it at some point in their lifetime. While there are ways that you can address it and achieve some improvement, minimizing the appearance of cellulite takes time and effort, and you have to have realistic expectations above all else, says Dr. Frank. “There’s no magic wand and nothing is going to give you air-brushed legs, but there are now more treatment options than ever before,” he adds.
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