Skin Deep

The latest weapons in the fight against cellulite

It’s a fact that about 90 percent of women have cellulite regardless of their size. Even the thinnest and most fit can have these lumps and bumps, which is why anti-cellulite products and treatments are such a huge segment of the beauty industry. But perhaps the most disconcerting fact about cellulite is that it only affects women, and estrogen and the anatomy of the female body are to blame.

What causes cellulite?

To understand the root cause of cellulite, we have to take a closer look at the structure of the skin. In both men and women, fat cells are separated from the skin by fibrous tissue called septa, but the structure of the septa differs in male and female skin. In men’s skin, the septa form a crisscross pattern that prevents underlying fat from bulging through and keeps the skin’s surface looking taut and smooth. In women, on the other hand, the septa and fat cells are both perpendicular to the skin above. As fat accumulates and the fibrous tissue becomes more rigid with age or even sun damage, the fat cells bulge around the septa and leads to visible lumps. Another contributing factor is that fat cells tend to be larger in women’s bodies, and estrogen causes them to accumulate around the abdomen, thighs and buttocks.

At-home fixes

Skincare products with caffeine can help smooth the appearance of cellulite temporarily by flushing excess fluid from affected areas. Many anti-cellulite products also have massaging or rolling applicators that help get this fluid on its way as well. Another option is dry brushing, which helps stimulate circulation to address the buildup of toxins and fluid that contribute to the orange-peel appearance. Lymphatic drainage massage works in a similar fashion to temporarily improve skin texture, but these results only last for 24 hours at most.

Another skincare approach is a combination of vitamin C and retinol. Together these products help maximize the skin’s collagen production and actually thicken the skin, which in turn makes the nooks and crannies less visible.

In-office treatments

There have been many office-based cellulite treatments over the years and I’ve always been skeptical. It wasn’t until recently that I found two technologies that seem to be somewhat effective for improving the appearance of cellulite.

The first technology is Venus Legacy, which works to tighten skin and, in turn, smooth the appearance of cellulite. The other is the latest version of VelaShape, which I’m especially excited about. VelaShape tightens skin similarly to Venus Legacy, but this technology helps shrink fat cells as well, which makes it great for patients who need to lose fat in addition to tightening skin. In some cases we use VelaShape in conjunction with fat-shrinking treatments such as UltraShape and Liposonix. The correct treatment really depends on the level of cellulite you have, so you will need to be evaluated first to see what will work best for you.

These treatments offer immediate improvement in some people, but a series of three to six sessions is recommended for optimal results. The cellulite reduction lasts for about six months (and possibly longer if topical vitamin C and retinol are used regularly), which is why follow-up maintenance treatments are necessary.

A healthy lifestyle, weight-bearing exercise and lunges go a long way toward minimizing cellulite. (Cardio does not seem to help.) A diet high in antioxidants may prevent cellulite by helping the skin retain its strength and elasticity. A supplement such as horse chestnut seed extract that increases blood flow may improve it as well. For cellulite, the supplements we prefer are the GliSODin Advanced Diuretic/Lymphatic Formula and the Slimming Formula. The bottom line is, getting rid of cellulite requires a multi-pronged approach, but there are finally some treatments that are working.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.