Getting Rid of Cellulite: Ranking the 5 Best Current Cellulite Treatments

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The lovely Mrs. Kutcher reportedly gets VelaSmooth treatments.  Photo Source: Demi Moore W Magazine – December 2009; Originally uploaded by trendlerden (flickr)

Ah, summer.  The sun comes out, and so do your summer clothes, and with them comes close inspection of your thighs.  Or, should I say, what used to be your thighs, now blobs of fleshy matter, replete with dimples but no smiles…

Thankfully, in recent years, medical researchers have designed numerous methods for reducing the appearance of cellulite.  What’s more, others have even devoted their time to testing which methods work best, saving you and I valuable time and money.  So what works best?  Read on…

#1:  VelaSmoothTM

According to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, the radio-frequency light treatment VelaSmoothTM may be the gold standard in eradicating cellulite.  In the study, thirty-five women underwent two VelaSmooth treatments per week for either four or eight weeks.  At the conclusion of four weeks, 70% had a reduction in thigh circumference; after eight weeks, that figure expanded to a full 100%, with a mean lean reduction of 0.8 inches in circumference.

Although many people do not know that there is an FDA-approved cellulite treatment, VelaSmooth is in fact FDA-approved.  Developed by a medical doctor, Dr. Shimon Eckhouse, and a Ph.D.-level physicist, Dr. Michael Kreindel, VelaSmooth works by combining what the company calls elōs (electrical-optical synergy, in actuality specific frequencies of light and electrical energy), Bi-Polar Radio Frequency (again, specific energy energies), infrared light energies, plus negative pressure and tissue manipulation.  In addition, and perhaps more significantly to the public, it also has been reported thatDemi Moore gets VelaSmooth.  (And who wouldn’t want to look like that at 45 in a bikini?!)

According to RealSelf.com, the average cost of VelaSmooth is approximately $3000, with cost varying with numerous factors, including the severity of your cellulite, location, and the experience of the practitioner.  For more, please visit VelaSmooth.com.

Reasons for Ranking:

  • Peer-reviewed published study demonstrated strong level of effectiveness and quantifiable results
  • Non-invasive (does not penetrate the skin)
  • Quick recovery time

#2:  Subcision or Rejuveskin

Developed by Drs. Orentreich and Orentreich (no that is not a typo) in 1995, subcision is a simple surgical technique in which the septa that retain the skin are cut and the subcutaneous fat is redistributed more evenly under the skin’s surface using a NoKor needle.  A specific cut-redistribution-compression technique is used to minimize complications and to stimulate the healing process.  In a similar procedure,Rejuveskin, the septa is cut and the fat is redistributed, but the patient’s own tissue (harvested earlier) is used to replace the severed septae and fill in dimpled areas before smoothing out the skin and closing.

According to a 2000 study in the International Journal of Dermatology of subcision amongst 232 patients, 183 of them (78.87%) were satisfied with the improvement achieved during the first treatment session, while 47 patients (20.25%) exhibited “reasonable” results.  Just two (0.86%) patients were dissatisfied with the results.  Similarly, Rejuveskin has a reported 80% satisfaction rate amongst patients.

Unfortunately, despite the high success rate, the surgical route is not for everyone.  TheInternational Journal of Dermatology reports that subcision is best reserved for patients with “level II or III cellulite,” meaning patients who see cellulite on their hips and thighs whether contracting their leg muscles or not.  Patients with “level I cellulite,” witnessing cellulite only when they contract their underlying leg and hip muscles, are not well-served by subcision.  It has not been publicly stated to my knowledge whether or not Rejuveskin is appropriate for all levels of cellulite.

Further, as would be expected with any surgical technique, there are necessary considerations with subcision or Rejuveskin, such as a patient’s bleeding and medication profile.  As always, speak to your doctor.

Reasons for Ranking:

  • Peer-reviewed published study demonstrated strong level of effectiveness, though categorical and non-quantifiable results
  • Outpatient procedure
  • Lasting results
  • Not many physicians perform this procedure

#3:  Lipomassage by Endermologie

The reviews for Endermologie are mixed.  On the one hand, the FDA has approved the founding company’s claim that Endermologie temporarily reduces the appearance of cellulite. In support of this, in one company-affiliated, controlled, randomized study done on Lipomassage by Endermologie, it was found that lipolytic (fat-dissolving) activity of cutaneous and subcutaneous tissue was increased by 20-35% after the treatment, with lipolytic activity measured as a result of glycerol production.  On the other hand, according to the text Non-Surgical Skin Tightening and Lifting, whether newly called “Lipomassage” or not, Endermologie has lost its favor to other treatments.  According to a 1999 study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, only 10 of 35 (28.5%) of patients reported having improved appearance of cellulite following treatment.  The researchers reported that they “do not believe…[the treatment] is effective in improving the appearance of cellulite.”

For those still curious, Endermologie entails the use of a handheld machine that “kneads” areas of a patient that are covered in a nylon stocking (usually buttocks, hips, stomach, thighs) for 35 to 45 minutes. LPG, the company behind Endermologie, claims that results are available in as little as six sessions, although individual results may vary.

Reasons for Ranking:

  • Peer-reviewed published study demonstrated low level of effectiveness
  • Non-invasive (does not penetrate the skin)
  • Proven more effective than aminophylline-based cellulite cream

#4:  Methylxanthine-Based Cellulite Creams

Ever thought you’d put a form of stimulant on your thighs?  Well, judging from sales, you probably have.  According to Dr. Zoe Draelos et. al, creams with methylxanthines (including caffeine and aminophyllines) are phosphodiesterase inhibitors. When phosphodiesterases are inhibited, this activates ß-adrenergic receptors, which in turn break down fat into its glycerol and fatty acid components. Methylxanthines may additionally work by dehydrating the fat cells, decreasing their appearance through the skin.  For best results, it has been demonstrated that methylxanthine creams should be used continuously.  Still, don’t expect too much:  According to a 1999 study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, only 3 of 35 (8.6%) of patients reported having improved appearance of cellulite following 12 weeks of treatment.  Methylxanthines may be found in Neutrogena Anti-Cellulite Treatment, Retinol Formula ($13.89, Amazon.com) in the form of caffeine, and University Medical De-Cellulite Time-Released Anti-Cellulite System($16.70, Amazon.com) in the form of aminophylline.

Reasons for Ranking:

  • Peer-reviewed published study demonstrated very low level of effectiveness
  • Very low cost compared to other cellulite treatments
  • Needs to be applied continuously
  • May not work for you, period

#5:  Diet and Exercise

Surprised this ranks so low?  Me too, and I’m the one writing it!  However, according to the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, there are four hypotheses for the development of cellulite, none of which directly mention one’s weight:  sexually dimorphic skin architecture, altered connective tissue septae, vascular changes and inflammatory factors.  While I do acknowledge that consuming certain types of fat contributes to inflammation, we all have the skinny girl friend who hates to wear shorts because of her cellulite.  Plus, very few men have cellulite, no matter what their body fat percentage.  There has to be more to it than weight management!

Still, there is some – albeit limited – evidence to demonstrate the role of diet and exercise in cellulite development.  For one, yo-yo and crash dieting seems to contribute to the development of cellulite, as fat is broken down and re-added unevenly, causing a cottage-cheese like appearance under the skin.  For another, as Dr. Nicholas Perricone and Dr. Howard Murad suggest, increasing circulation and hydration to the skin may improve the appearance of cellulite and decrease future cellulite production.  Both doctors recommend consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids; exercising at least 30 minutes daily; drinking lots of water; and taking nutritional supplements.   Even if this approach has not been demonstrated in any mass peer-reviewed published study, it has been proven as a key to good health and longevity – and don’t we all want that anyway?!

Reasons for Ranking:

  • No large-scale, multi-center, peer-reviewed, blinded studies supporting this theory specifically to eradicate cellulite (at least not that I could find; if they exist, I do apologize, and will post later)
  • Healthy
  • Low-cost relative to surgical/dermatological procedures

The Bottom Line

Approximately 85% of women develop cellulite at some time in their lives.  And even though we live in a world where men have walked on the moon and we can instantaneously communicate with the touch of a button, we still don’t understand exactly why women get cellulite.  Despite this, to say “There is nothing we can do about cellulite” in 2010 is like refusing to believe Ashton Kutcher will be updating Twitter today.  It’s happening.  The truth is out there.  Granted, it’s not the answer to everything – even VelaSmooth leaves 30% of women wanting more – but even Twitter gives you just 160 characters at a time.  You have to start somewhere.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find out what Demi’s up to

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About Myself

Nicki Zevola is the founder and editor-in-chief of FutureDerm.com. Named one of the top 30 beauty bloggers in the world by Konector.com since 2009, Nicki