Baby got back—and if you’re like most human women, that back’s got some cellulite. “By some estimates, up to 90 percent of all women have cellulite,” says Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC.
Cellulite treatments come into play because those dimples don’t discriminate based on size or weight (you can actually thank your genes). It’s hormones, like estrogen, that play a role in the development of cellulite, which may be why cellulite often worsens during pregnancy, says Dr. Chwalek. This is also why it’s uncommon to see it in men (except men in an androgen-deficient state, adds Dr. Chwalek).
Cellulite, which most commonly affects areas like the butt, thighs, and stomach, results from the connective tissue beneath the surface of skin, which can create the puckering effect of cellulite dimples, explains Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, dermatologist and founder of PFRANKMD & Skin Salon.
There are a lot of devices and potions out there that claim to make your cellulite totally disappear. But because cellulite happens to skin on a deeper level, it’s extremely tough to treat. So to help you sort through the mess, here’s what you need to know about the best cellulite treatments.
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You have to go to your derm’s office to get this treatment (which can cost around $4,000), but Cellfina is the first and only FDA-cleared minimally invasive treatment that is clinically proven to improve the appearance of cellulite for at least two years.
The treatment uses a needle-sized device to cut some of the above-mentioned fibrous tissues to smooth out dimpling. You’ll also have some temporary bruising but will start to see results in about a week, says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska
If you have a few specific spots that you’d like to treat, this might be for you. “It’s designed to target individual dimples in the skin,” says Dr. Chwalek.
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This handheld device uses infrared light, radiofrequency, and massage with suction to increase lymphatic drainage (making the area less puffy), while reducing the actual size of the fat cells and fat chambers.
It’s FDA-approved and considered a non-invasive treatment (meaning it doesn’t require injections or cuts). Results start to appear after about four treatments. It’s effective on the thighs, back of the thighs, butt, abdomen, and love handles, says Dr. Schlessinger.
At $1,000, it’s cheaper than Cellfina, but you have to keep going back about every three months in order to see a real difference. “This is perfect for those with slight dimpling and who want a slimmer silhouette in the treated areas,” adds Dr. Schlessinger.
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Similarly to Cellfina, this minimally-invasive procedure is designed to break down the structure of cellulite beneath your skin—except it uses lasers rather than blades.
The small laser is used to help increase skin thickness, release the bands that create dimples, stimulate collagen production, and flatten out fat.
The treatment can cost upward of a few thousand dollars (similar to Cellfina), and the results are supposed to last for about a year or two.
4. BTL Unison
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“Unison uses a combination of thermal and mechanical energy to leave skin visibly more elastic and smoother with reduced dimples,” says Dr. Frank. “There is no downtime or pain and the treatment delivers immediate results.”
The mechanical portion during a BTL Unison treatment helps breaks up those fibrous bands and can improve circulation. Simultaneously, the thermal effects of the radio frequency boost skin’s elasticity and collagen production.
Dr. Frank recommends four treatments (each one takes only 20 or 30 minutes) over a two-week period to see the best results. Each treatment will set you back about $1,000.
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“This skin tightening treatment uses radiofrequency, which heats up your dermis [skin] to stimulate collagen production and improve blood flow,” says Dr. Chwalek. The result is a smoother skin surface.
Thermage is non-invasive, and takes between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on the body part you’re treating. But don’t be surprised if you leave the treatment looking like you did when you walked in. These tightening results should slowly develop over a six-month period.
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Think of Vaser like the next generation of liposuction. “It uses a combination of ultrasound, which warms up the tissue, and vacuum-assisted lymphatic massage to promote metabolism and drainage of toxins and fats,” explains Dr. Chwalek. Basically, it sucks out fat and tightens your skin at the same time, and it’s much more gentle than traditional liposuction.
7. Cellulite Creams
These OTC creams contain ingredients that claim to help make your cellulite look better. “There is some evidence they work by promoting lipolysis, stimulating collagen, and increasing blood flow and lymphatic drainage,” says Dr. Chwalek.
Topical caffeine is one of the most common active ingredients in cellulite creams. It’s thought to work by improving vascular and lymphatic flow, says Dr. Chwalek. Caffeine also dehydrates the fat cells just under the skin to make them appear less prominent
These creams are mostly just making your cellulite look less obvious, rather than getting rid of it. But they’re great options before a vacation or big event.
8. Dry Brushing
This natural approach involves scrubbing a stiff-bristled brush against skin. The technique focuses on brushing cellulite-ridden areas with upward strokes. This movement will stimulate the lymphatic system and boosting circulation, which may temporarily result in the appearance of smoother skin, says Dr. Chwalek.
The downside: When it comes to treating cellulite, you’ll need to do this every day. “It can help, but they will not yield effective long-term results,” says Dr. Frank.
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