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The 7 Best Ways to Get Rid of Cellulite

April 28, 2015 5 min read

Cellulite is an equal opportunity offender. 80 to 90 percent of adult women are affected with dimpled looking skin that has always been considered impossible to remove. What's worse, there is still nothing you can do to prevent it. "Cellulite is like a swollen fat sandwich," says Rachel Nazarian, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The top slice of bread is the skin (dermis), the filling is the adipose tissue just beneath, and fibrous bands called septae are like toothpicks, anchoring your skin's surface to the bottom slice—the muscle—creating a puffy, quilted effect. The old snake oil treatments have given rise to cellulite attacking methods that are actually based in science. Here's what you've got to choose from:

1. The sure bet: Cellulaze

The science: This is an in office treatment that attacks cellulite from every direction. After inserting the tip of a laser just beneath your skin, your doctor will use the laser's energy to sever the stubborn fibrous bands responsible for puckering, melt the fat, and stimulate collagen growth to tighten skin. The outcome: If you are looking to be done after one treatment, this is your option. A typical patient will see a 25% increase in skin thickness, a 29% increase in elasticity, and noticeably less cellulite. BUT, it isn't a quick fix. The $1,500 to $8,000 treatment can take up to 5 hours to complete, a month before you're swimsuit-ready (bruising can linger for a few weeks), and 6 months to a year before the growing collagen achieves its peak skin-tightening effect, says Elie Levine, MD, director of plastic surgery at Plastic Surgery & Dermatology in New York City.

2. The insta-fix: Cellfina

The science: This handheld device is the newest minimally invasive cellulite treatment cleared by the FDA. Using a blade about the size of a needle inserted 
6 mm beneath the skin's surface, a doctor snips the tight, pucker-causing septae. The outcome: The dimple-reducing effect will be apparent within just 3 days and should last at least a year. Cellfina requires only a numbing cream, and your bill may be a little easier to swallow—in the neighborhood of $2,500 to $5,000. Because it hasn't been around for long Cellfina's long term efficacy is still not proven. So far, results look promising but the procedure basically banks on the hope that the severed bands won't eventually bounce back.  

3. The spontaneous-beach-weekend saviour: Radio Frequency Waves

  The science: FDA-cleared devices like VelaShape, VelaSmooth, SmoothShapes, and Thermage use radio frequency waves to tighten skin by stimulating collagen growth and heating up the fatty adipose layer beneath the skin, which increases blood circulation. (When cells don't get enough oxygenated blood, the fibrous bands tethering skin to muscle thicken and pull even more.) Finally, the devices follow up with massage, suction, or vibration, which helps move excess fluid and fat (both of which contribute to cellulite bulging) into the lymphatic system so they can eventually be peed out, Nazarian says. The outcome: With RF, the improvements will be immediate and you will be able to show them off the next day. However, the transformation won't peak until you've had a month of twice-weekly sessions, each costing $300 to $600. On top of that, you'll need a maintenance treatment every few months—forever. Go 6 months without and you'll lose most of your gains, Nazarian warns.

4. The best excuse for a standing spa appointment: Massage

The science: Vigorous massage increases blood flow, which protects the fibrous septae tugging your skin downward from hypoxia-triggered thickening. It also cuts down on water retention, which can contribute to bloated fat cells says Kristen Ma, an Ayurvedic practitioner and aesthetcian based in Toronto. To see any results, you'll need at least a weekly appointment, says Ma—and make sure it's a deep-tissue rubdown. Nazarian agrees that massage can offer modest, temporary cellulite improvement, but she underscores that it works best when combined with RF devices that actually melt the fat, so it can be worked out during the session. The outcome: Massage can decrease the appearance of cellulite but you will have to keep a standing weekly appointment. Once you stop going, the lumps will come back.  

5. The jillionth reason not to skip your workout: Strength Training

The science: While you can't lose cellulite by dropping pounds, lower-body strength training may help. Building muscle provides a firm foundation for overlying fat and skin, though side effects such as muscle's higher fat-burning capacity and exercise's circulation-increasing effects may help, too, says Wayne Westcott, instructor of exercise science at Quincy College. The outcome: Research published in Fitness Management, says that 80 percent of women who worked their major leg muscles 3 days a week with about 30 minutes of resistance exercise reported some improvement in the appearance of cellulite after 
6 months. "They looked smoother, firmer, and more toned," says Westcott. Your cellulite won't be a thing of the past but you will definitely feel better about your legs.

6. The holistic helper: Dry Brushing

  The science: Dry brushing—working a stiff body brush in circular motions from hands and feet toward the heart—stimulates the flow of both blood and lymphatic fluid just beneath the skin's surface, says Ma. "Poor lymphatic circulation can lead to inflamed nodules of cellulite," Nazarian adds. The technique also promotes collagen growth, which can make skin firmer and, ultimately, lumps less noticeable. The outcome: The 10 minute practice will give your skin a better, smoother appearance but it will not do the magic disappearing act on your cellulite that you'd get in an in office treatment.

7. The slow and steady solution: A Topical Cream

The science: There's evidence that topicals with caffeine, like Vichy Cellu-
De-stock, can help, and topical retinoids can strengthen skin so it puckers less. Ask your derm for a prescription-strength option for the biggest impact. The outcome: Using a caffeinated cream twice a week can lessen the dimples but only until you stop using it. Retinoids have longer lasting results. With regular use, they can thicken the skin up to a millimeter. If you have a few extra thousand dollars lying around it sounds like you can actually vanish your cellulite. But the majority of us don't have that. The 'lower end' treatments sound like they will improve things as long as you work them. I think we should stop caring. If 80-90 percent of us have it, and those who don't are just genetically gifted, than why are we trying to hide it? It may not be pretty but 80-90 percent is a lot of women with dimples in the their butts or legs. If most of us have it, why can't we decide that it is COMMON and embrace it?      

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