It is impossible to keep track of all the ‘magical’ inventions that have been sold in recent years. The fact that no treatment has shown noticeable and lasting improvements means that many women are trying method after method. Companies are forced to bring new products to the market regularly, with the message ‘… If the previous product did not give the expected results, there is nothing to worry about, the new advanced formula will destroy cellulite once and for all…«. Yes, of course, this time yes …
But in fairness, not all treatments are useless. Some offer certain results, and there are studies (rarely conclusive) that support them. Today I am going to talk about some of the ‘solutions’ proposed by the industry, to which thousands of women have been submitted, and what science tells us about them.
While there are hundreds, or thousands of treatments on the market, the vast majority fall into one of these categories:
- Creams: Topical application. In general they have few risks, but also few results.
- External handling: Well with massages or use of devices (laser, ultrasound, radio frequency …).
- Internal manipulation: With surgery or by introducing substances under the skin.
Let us begin…
The variety of creams on the market is impressive, and the margins for manufacturers are astronomical. The vast majority have no foundation.
Among those that have some scientific support (although questionable), we could talk about the following:
- Retinol creams. As I commented in the previous article, one of the factors that influences the appearance of cellulite is the thickness of the skin. The logic is therefore that if a cream manages to improve the support of the skin (as retinol apparently does) it should reduce cellulite. Studies in general are inconclusive. East study shows a positive effect. East otherOn the contrary, while it shows that women who were treated with retinol for 6 months experienced a 10% improvement in skin elasticity, it indicates that «the bulging appearance of the skin showed little or no improvement«. If you calculate the cost of applying these creams for 6 months to experience “little or no improvement,” I don’t know if it’s worth it.
- Creams with Methylxanthine. Methylxanthines are a group of stimulant substances of the central nervous system, present for example in tea, coffee or chocolate. A famous study of 1999 seemed to indicate that the application of a cream with methylxanthine (a caffeine base was used in this case) for 2 months significantly reduced the accumulation of subcutaneous fat in the hips. Several subsequent studies showed less hopeful results, raising questions about the actual ability of these substances to penetrate the skin and cause a noticeable effect, but the creams continue to be sold.
The advantage in the case of creams is that it is simple self-experience. Try using the cream only on one leg for a few months. Look at the difference, and decide if the results are worth the price.
What is proven is that the effect of these creams, when it exists, is temporary. Stop using them for a few weeks, and you’ll be the same.
There are hundreds of machines and types of massages, but simplifying, they are based on one of these principles:
- Lymphatic drainage (pressotherapy / massage): I am totally in favor of massages (well done), and their health benefits are well known. When we talk about cellulite, however, its effectiveness is more questionable. The idea of the drains is to help the body eliminate fluids, fat and toxins that are believed to cause cellulite, improving circulation. While these treatments have few risks, their results are almost non-existent, and certainly short-lived.
- Thermotherapy / Radiofrequency: They are based on the use of heat (sometimes combined with massage) to reduce subcutaneous fat and generate a vasodilator effect. Some studies (such as this) have shown slight improvements in the short term, although others warn that it can worsen cellulite, by damaging the tissues and causing protein denaturation. In some cases it can be a very painful process.
- Ultrasound: Like thermotherapy, it aims to help burn fat accumulated under the skin. It seems to have fewer risks than the previous procedure and some studies support it (example).
- To be: The versatility of the laser means that it is used in multiple ways, and several studies suggest that it has an effect on reducing subcutaneous fat (study) and appearance of cellulite (study). Other studies (such as this) only speak of slight improvement, and surely temporary. In any case, the laser appears to have more scientific backing than previous methods, and fewer side effects.
- Wraps / bandages: As attractive as the idea of improving cellulite by wrapping up in some type of bandage may sound, to date I have not found any scientific support to support this method, and the only thing they seem to do is help eliminate water through dehydration, not even burning fat. This can have an immediate cosmetic improvement, which disappears in a short time.
Some of the methods in this category have significantly longer-lasting effects than those reviewed so far, but the associated risks are also greater. When you decide to go under the knife, or inject substances under your skin, the risks increase. Let’s see the most common methods:
- Liposuction: It sounds tempting to fall asleep (liposuction generally requires general anesthesia) and wake up with several pounds less fat. Unfortunately, it’s too pretty to be true, and your problems would last for an entire article. As I have ever commented, fat is not something inert that you can just remove suddenly. It is actually an endocrine organ, and it plays an important role in hormonal regulation. When plastic surgeons (who will know a lot about cosmetics but little about endocrinology) invasively remove large amounts of fat in minutes, they are exposing the patient to several risks. Not for nothing is it one of the cosmetic surgeries with the highest risk of complications. In addition, studies (such as this) indicate that by eliminating gluteofemoral fat, more visceral fat tends to accumulate later. Who wants to replace gluteofemoral fat (harmless) with visceral fat (dangerous)? As if that were not enough, liposuction removes the deepest fat, and not the superficial one that really causes cellulite, so in many cases ‘volume’ is lost but the orange peel remains (or even worse due to less support ).
- Subcision As we saw in the previous article, one of the actors involved in the appearance of cellulite is the connecting tissue, formed by parallel fibers, which when losing flexibility pull excessively on the skin and generate dimples. Some surgeon came up with the ‘brilliant’ idea of cutting these connectors, in a process called subcision. And today thousands of subcisions are practiced a day. It doesn’t matter that those connectors are there for something. It does not matter that we still do not know what effects this procedure has in the long term. Anything goes for smooth skin. This technique has in favor that it does not require general anesthesia, only local, and that in most cases a clear improvement in the skin is observed (study) in the short and medium term, but personally I think it is an attack on the body.
- Mesotherapy: It is not as invasive as the previous two. Basically, it is about injecting under the skin substances that supposedly ‘dissolve’ fat, such as deoxycholic acid. The FDA (American Food and Drug Administration) warns that these treatments can cause permanent scars and skin deformities (analysis). And the FDA is the same one that allows the massive use of high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified products, sweeteners, harmful preservatives and colorants… Come on, it’s not that they’re especially alarmist. The studies I have reviewed (this, this or this) leave a lot of doubts about their effectiveness, and the idea of injecting me with solvents doesn’t quite convince me.
- Carboxytherapy: It consists of introducing carbon dioxide (CO2) under the skin, which apparently helps in the breakdown of fat cells. It appears to have somewhat more scientific backing than mesotherapy, as this shows study or this (in rats), and less likely to complications. Long-term effects remain unclear.
My goal with this article is to simply give certain guidelines on existing treatments for cellulite, based on what little science exists about it, but which will always be better than corporate marketing. For those women who really have a serious cellulite problem, I recommend doing more research on the different treatments, really understanding how they work, what to expect, and the associated risks. But if this is your case, please do not do it without first reviewing the article that I will publish soon, on more natural methods to improve (I will never talk about eliminating) cellulite.
Remember that cellulite is the perfect ‘problem’ for the cosmetic industry. All treatments, to a greater or lesser extent, are temporary (study), so it is necessary to repeat the treatment over and over again, with a continuous expense on the part of the clients.
Like have I ever talked about how the food and pharmaceutical industry seem to conspire to earn money at your expense (some designing foods that make you sick and others designing medications, which you must take your whole life, to treat the symptoms of diseases caused by these foods), here we find something similar. The ‘fitness / fashion industry’ defines unrealistic beauty standards, which the cosmetic industry promises to achieve, with temporary (and ineffective) treatments that you will depend on forever.