What is Cellulite?
Cellulite is the dimpled appearance that commonly occurs on the legs of women. Cellulite is a very frustrating problem for many women because it’s not generally something that can be improved with weight loss or exercise. At Imagen Body Sculpting & Cosmetic Center, we frequently see women who are thin or fit with insecurities about the orange peel appearance on their legs or their butt dimples, so what is the main cause of cellulite?
What causes cellulite?
The appearance of cellulite is a result of a combination of factors and complex pathophysiology. The causes of cellulite can be broken down into 3 main factors. First, everyone has pockets of fat cells. If there is excess fat stored in the cells, it may result in small bulges in the skin. Second, there are connective tissue bands (septae) that run between your skin and the tissues below. If there is tension on these tough bands, it will create a dimple. Tension can be caused by increased volume under the skin (weight gain) or by a sagging of the skin. Third, most women have some degree of skin laxity that contributes to their cellulite. As we age, we break down collagen, which leads to a worsening of skin laxity (looseness or sagging). This increases the tension on the fibrous bands causing puckering. This is the reason that many women experience worsening skin texture as they age. Skin laxity can also be caused by significant weight loss.
Does cellulite mean you’re fat?
Not necessarily. Many women who struggle with cellulite are at a normal or healthy weight. Some are even underweight or athletic. Cellulite is a structural problem and is not necessarily a result of poor lifestyle choices. That being said, excess body fat can lead to cellulite. In patients who are obese, it is common to see “cellulite” in other areas of the body, such as the abdomen and arms.
What is the difference between cellulite and fat?
While fat is a contributing factor to cellulite, it’s not the only factor. The fibrous bands of connective tissue and a lack of collagen in the skin (leading to laxity) are the biggest culprits in the appearance of cellulite.
Is cellulite hereditary?
Oftentimes, the answer to this question is yes. Because your DNA codes how your tissues are built, it is common to see cellulite as a problem within families. Because of differences in skin structure, some skin tones are more susceptible to cellulite than others and cellulite is rarely a problem for men! There is a difference in the direction of fibrous tissues between the sexes. Females have a vertical lie to their connective tissue, while males have more of a cross-hatch pattern. This crossed pattern reduces the ability of deeper layer of fat to bulge through, so they have less of the cottage cheese appearance compared to women. Estrogen also plays a role in cellulite. As women go through menopause, the decline in estrogen leads to a decline in the production of collagen and elastin fibers. This causes an increase in skin laxity and a worsening in the appearance of cellulite.
What areas get cellulite?
The most common areas for younger patients to have orange peel skin is on the back of the thighs and the buttocks. As we age, skin laxity plays a larger role and it’s common to develop the appearance of cellulite above the knees as well. Patients who struggle with obesity may see cellulite develop in other areas, such as the belly or arms.
Can You Get Rid of Cellulite?
While cellulite can definitely be improved with cosmetic procedures, it’s not generally possible to completely get rid of cellulite. Photographic filters and social media have contributed to unrealistic expectations in cosmetic surgery and dermatology. Your goal should be to smooth your legs to make you more confident wearing shorts or a swim suit (or nothing!), but you can’t get hung up on every single dimple or you’ll never be happy with your result. So are there any good treatments for cellulite? Read on for more on the treatment options!
How Do You Get Rid of Cellulite on Your Legs?
“How can I reduce cellulite on my legs?” is one the most common questions we get about cellulite. There are MANY treatments available for cellulite, some are better than others. In the past, advanced treatments for cellulite were only available in New York or Miami, but Imagen has brought the best of those treatments here to the heartland. Here’s a summary of the available treatments to smooth your skin’s surface (both those that we offer and those that we don’t):
- Laser treatment for cellulite
Cellulaze™ from Cynosure is an advanced, minimally-invasive device created to decrease the look of cellulite over the long term. With the development of Cellulaze, women finally have a treatment for cellulite that really works. Using the SmartLipo laser system and sophisticated SideLaze 3D® technology, Cellulaze™ releases areas of skin depression and increases elasticity and thickness of the skin. Unlike most other cellulite treatments that merely provide short-term improvement, Cellulaze™ can offer long-term results with just one session. The procedure is done under local anesthetic and consists of inserting a tiny cannula with a laser fiber which delivers energy directly under the skin. The laser energy melts the fat and releases the fibrous bands that cause that annoying dimpled appearance. The treatment also promotes collagen production, which has been clinically shown to improve skin thickness and elasticity, reducing the appearance of cellulite in the treatment area. This treatment is commonly combined with liposuction of the inner or outer thigh or the banana roll or inner knee to help contour the shape of your legs. Our patients experience minimal downtime, with most being back to normal activities after just 2-3 days!
- Radiofrequency treatment for cellulite
J plasma (Renuvion) is FDA approved (Food and Drug Administration) for tissue contraction. This means that the J plasma (Renuvion) procedure is like “shrink wrap” for your skin, tightening the loose tissues while stimulating collagen production so that your results continue to improve for several months. J plasma (Renuvion) uses radiofrequency combined with helium gas to make a plasma, which causes a temperature spike and tissue contraction. We often combine this procedure with Cellulaze. Treatments like Velashape, Thermi and Venus also use radiofrequency energy to improve cellulite. The downside to these treatments is the lesser depth of the treatment. Because they treat from the outside in (unlike Renuvion which treats from below the skin), there is less collagen stimulation and repeated treatments are needed to see significant results.
- Subcision treatments for cellulite
Fibrous bands are a significant contributor to the appearance of cellulite, especially in younger patients. Subcision is a treatment to cut through those tough bands, providing precise tissue release and allowing the dimples to smooth out your skin’s texture. Cellfina is one of these treatments. Unfortunately, the treatment does not address either of the other 2 components of cellulite (excess fat volume or skin laxity/collagen loss). Avéli is the newest of the subcision treatments. It uses a tiny hook to release the tough bands of connective tissue. We often combine needle subcision to the most stubborn dimples with collagen stimulating energy treatments to get better results.
- Mesotherapy and Injectable treatments for cellulite
Qwo cellulite treatment is the first injectable treatment for cellulite. The idea behind Qwo is that it uses collagenase (an enzyme which breaks down collagen) to dissolve the collagen fiber bands that cause dimpling. Like subcision treatments, it only treats the one cause of cellulite. We don’t use Qwo at Imagen. All of our cellulite treatments aim to INCREASE collagen production, leading to skin tightening. An injection that breaks down collagen would be counter to all of the other work we are doing. Kybella is another injected treatment that is used for volume or fat reduction, but again, doesn’t have an effect on the skin laxity associated with cellulite. Carboxytherapy uses tiny needles to inject carbon dioxide into the area of cellulite, increasing blood flow to the area and improving skin health.
- Volume replacement treatments for cellulite
If you just have 1 or 2 deep dimples that bother you, you may consider a long lasting filler, such as Restylane Lyft or Voluma. If you have several deep dimples, you may be better off with Sclptra, which builds volume by stimulating collagen production. That means you get improvement in the dimples and collagen production in the skin as well!
- Massage based treatments for cellulite
Lymphatic massage, deep massage and treatments like vacuum-assisted Endermologie use physical stimulation to increase blood flow to the subcutaneous tissues. This helps to increase lymphatic drainage and reduce fluid retention. These treatments can be helpful in the short term, but will require repeated treatments to maintain results.
- Acoustic wave therapy or Shockwave treatments for cellulite
There are a number of acoustic wave devices available for use or purchase. These devices use vibration and sound waves to stimulate blood flow and neovascularization (production of new blood vessels). The shock wave treatments help to reduce fluid retention and improve the general health of the skin in the treated area.
- Other treatments for cellulite reduction
Generally, plastic surgery is used for skin removal. If your loose skin is severe, you may benefit from a more invasive treatment like a thigh lift. This will help to tighten the skin but will result in a visible scar. You will need to have an evaluation with a plastic surgeon for this sort of treatment. Some patients ask about CoolSculpting (cryolipolysis) as a possible treatment for cellulite. Unfortunately, because the area of volume reduction is larger (not individual dimples) and there is minimal skin tightening, we do not consider cryolipolysis as a treatment for cellulite.
We would love to discuss what is the most effective treatment for cellulite in your case in a complimentary consultation.
Ready for the next step? Make your consultation!
If you are interested in learning more about Cellulaze, liposuction, Renuvion or other body contouring treatments, please call us at402-347-4433 and one of the friendly voices at our front desk would be happy to schedule your free consultation today. At your complimentary consultation, our team (led by Dr Frank Soto Leon) will discuss your goals and the expectations for your cellulite treatment as well as cost and financing. If you are not in Omaha, Lincoln, Council Bluffs or the surrounding Nebraska/Iowa metro, we also offer facial rejuvenation treatments like Botox, hair removal and virtual consultations as well!
**Disclaimer: Individual Results May Vary
Cellulite Frequently Asked Questions
Am I a Good Candidate for Cellulite Treatment?
Anyone with dimples or cellulite who wants to achieve smoother skin may be a good candidate for cellulite treatment. Women who are having difficulty getting rid of cellulite through exercise and diet are ideal candidates for cellulite treatment. You should be willing to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan to prolong your results. If you have chronic or underlying medical conditions causing or contributing to your cellulite, you may be advised to visit with your primary healthcare provider or dermatologist before undergoing cellulite treatment.
<strong>How Long Does it Take for Cellulite to Go Away?</strong>
Cellulite reduction treatments will vary in how quickly they reduce the appearance of cellulite. Some of the faster treatments are non-invasive, such as topical creams and massages. Unfortunately, the results are also short lived…easy come, easy go they say! Treatments that break down the fibrous banding can lead to an improvement in the dimpling right away. Treatments that depend on collagen production will take the longest to produce full effect, but will also have longer lasting results. Typically, collagen producing treatments will take 3-6 months to give significant improvement.
So how do you get rid of cellulite (mostly)?
There are many cellulite treatment options available. Many of the noninvasive and over the counter products for the treatment of cellulite, such as skin care products, creams and massages, can help temporarily, but even with the best cellulite cream, the improvement is minimal. Generally these cellulite treatments work by improving the hydration of the skin or by causing mild swelling, which helps to mask the appearance of dimpled skin. Creams containing Retinol or Retinoic Acid can improve skin quality, reducing the cottage cheese appearance. Aminophylline cream purportedly works by drawing water out of the skin, decreasing swelling and making the skin look more smooth. The upside to noninvasive treatments is that they are generally the fastest way to get rid of cellulite (though it will be short-lived). There are also minimal side effects associated with treatments applied to the surface of the skin. Since this is the fastest way to treat cellulite, if you have a big event (wedding or vacation) coming up and you want to look good, these can definitely help in the short term. Be sure to hydrate (drink plenty of water), crepiness in the skin will contribute to the appearance of cellulite!
What helps reduce cellulite over the longer term?
Because there are 3 components causing cellulite, the best cellulite treatments will address all of those components. Reducing the volume in the fat cells, either by general weight loss or with treatments designed to target fat cells, will help reduce the stress on the fibrous bands. Other treatments use energy or small blades to cut through the fibrous bands, releasing the tension and lessening the dimples. One of the most important (though commonly overlooked) aspects of cellulite treatment is to improve the tone and quality of the skin. Collagen supplements and collagen stimulating treatments are a vital part to getting a really smooth, dimple free appearance to your legs.