Every year when summer approaches I hear more and more murmurs about the scourge of bikini season - cellulite. If you're post-pubescent and a woman, chances are you have some. Cellulite is a term that describes the dimpled look of subcutaneous fat cells. It's caused by fibrous strands of connective tissue which create compartments for fat cells. When those fat cells increase in size, they bulge through these compartments and create that unsightly cottage-cheese look through the skin.
It's just a cruel fact of nature that cellulite is much more common in women than in men. The fact is at least eight out of 10 women have some amount of cellulite, so most of the sisterhood can commiserate. I'm sure this is no news flash, but the most common sites for cellulite are the thighs, hips and buttocks. Adding insult to injury, cellulite is more common with aging, when the skin loses some of its elasticity. Even slender women aren't immune to the orange peel look, but weight gain usually makes cellulite more noticeable. Why do some women get a free pass from it? Since cellulite tends to run in families, you can thank your genetics if you're one of the lucky few who don't have it - or curse them if you do. Also, those of you blessed with thick skin get the benefit of a smoother appearance, so even if there is cellulite underneath, it's well hidden. Other factors that may increase your chances of having cellulite are stress, an inactive or unhealthy lifestyle and using hormonal contraceptives.
So, what should you do if you can't stand the sight of these lumpy looking fat blobs? The safest and healthiest thing for you is to eat right and exercise your butt off - literally. Doing plenty of cardio and exercises that firm and shape the tush, hips and thighs should be your first course of action. And, drink plenty of water. This won't cure cellulite - there is no cure of course. But it will help minimize what you've got. Also, giving up smoking and limiting alcohol consumption may also help.
If there's no convincing you to do more squats, leg lifts and jogging, maybe because you prefer smoking and drinking, there are some treatments you could try. Beware, none of these treatments last forever and none are cheap. If you want cost effective, refer back to the previous paragraph and workout.
Although there's no shortage of products wanting to make a buck by promising to reduce your unsightly cellulite, there is only a handful that may actually be effective - but again, not permanent. These treatments either work by massage / suction, laser and radiofrequency systems or flat out surgery. I'm not recommending any one of these treatments or attesting to their efficacy, rather just compiling the best information I've found.
On the more conservative side you have treatments like Endermologie, which is a massage treatment given by a doctor or trained professional. It uses a high-powered hand roller and suction device that is FDA approved for temporary reduction in appearance of cellulite. The rollers can help redistribute fat if used regularly. I've overheard some ladies talking about it at a gym I teach at and the reviews were very good.
If high tech is more your speed, then look into the latest in laser/light treatments like TriActive and VelaSmooth, both approved by FDA for the temporary reduction in the appearance of cellulite. These lasers use heat to "release" the fat and tighten the skin and then use roller suction massage to smooth out the areas. The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (May 2010 Volume 26, Issue 8) writes, "a 2006 paper in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine noted that these laser procedures 'yield better and more prolonged clinical results than other therapies'" for cellulite. According to WebMD, Thermage may also have some lasting benefit of up to 21 months or so.
Acoustic Wave Therapy is another interesting new treatment and reportedly used by Madonna. It works by using external pressure waves to break up the skin-dimpling connective tissue plus increases circulation, collagen production and tissue elasticity. No long-term data is available as the procedure is still relatively new but hey, Madonna supposedly has one in her home. If you like to be on cutting edge, give it a try, then, write a comment on this blog and let us all know how it goes. (Mo, if you're reading this please share your thoughts).
Finally, if you're not the squeamish type and you're game for a little down time, not mention a few incisions in your trouble zones, then Cellulite Subcision Surgery is for you. This is where a cutting tool called a "dermasector" is moved beneath the skin to cut the hard bands of connective tissue that are the culprit for the lumpy look of cellulite. Any remaining dimpling in the treated area is filled with tissue grafts harvested from the patients own body. This procedure is marketed under name "RejuveSkin."
In case you're wondering, good ole' liposuction doesn't work on cellulite and may actually make it look even worse. The alternative is a new procedure called "Smart Lipo" or Laser Lipolysis. Laser lipolysis doesn't use the suction action that old school liposuction does. Instead, a laser is inserted into the area and used to liquefy the fat. Then the melted fat is drained from the body through 1-2 mm incisions. Again, no long term studies are available on it's safety or effectiveness so do your due diligence.
Other treatments being touted include gels and creams and Mesotherapy. Probably neither are worth your long green. Mesotherapy involves injecting a solution usually consisting of a combination of aminophylline, hormones, enzymes, herbal extracts, vitamins and minerals -- under the skin. Since there's no standard formula, persoally I'd steer clear until it becomes FDA approved, even if your doctor wants to do it for you. You could get an infection or rash which happened to a friend of mine.
As for those pricey cellulite lotions, they usually contain a combination of ingredients such as retinol, vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, caffeine, antioxidants, amino acids and other alleged "fat burners." They may have pretty impressive advertising campaigns but their studies are far less impressive and not really considered medically credible. If any of these do work somewhat, it is by causing swelling and to do that, the compounds would actually need to penetrate the skin deep enough to reach the area, and in a strong enough concentration to have an effect.
See you at the beach!