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Caution Cellulite: Bumpy Road Ahead: Part 2

Caution Cellulite: Bumpy Road Ahead: Part 2

Most cellulite products come in the form of lotions and creams with a vast array of either exotic-sounding or lab-synthesized ingredients. Beyond topical products there are devices such as endermologie, medical treatments such as lasers and mesotherapy (a procedure involving repeated injections, which is claimed to break down fat). As far as skin-care products are concerned, the litany of options is mesmerizing.

Yet there is almost no uniformity between anti-cellulite formulas. It would appear, if the claims are to be believed, a wide variety of unrelated extracts can deflate or break down fat and/or restructure skin. Looking at the research, however, most suggest there is little hope anything rubbed on the skin can change fat deposits or radically reduce the appearance of cellulite. (Sources: Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 866-872 and The European Journal of Dermatology, December 2000, pages 596-603)

Lotions and Creams: A review of the more popular anti-cellulite products may be found in the full-length report (see link below).

A Bevy of Anti-Cellulite Ingredients: A review of the more typical ingredients contained in various anti-cellulite products may be found in the full-length report (see link below).

Mesotherapy: Mesotherapy is a procedure, which has been claimed to dissolve fat from the repeated injection (and I mean lots and lots of injections) of various substances into the fat layers of skin. Mesotherapy got its start 50 years ago in France through the work of a physician who was trying to find a cure for deafness. (Source: Dermatological Times, December 1, 2004)

Some of the substances being injected are homeopathic and some are pharmaceutical. Strangely, there isn’t necessarily any consistency, and the cocktail of ingredients can vary from practitioner to practitioner, which makes this treatment very hard to evaluate.

The most typically used substance is phosphatidylcholine, but it can also be combined with deoxycholate. A handful of studies have shown this can successfully reduce fat when injected into the skin, with one study demonstrating this for the undereye area. Theoretically, the reduction of subcutaneous fat may be caused by inflammatory-mediated cell death and resorption.

However, mesotherapy isn’t without risk. One study explained, “Side effects included burning, erythema and swelling at the injection site. At follow-up averaging 9 months, 50 percent of patients reported persistence of benefit, 20 percent experienced some fading, and 30 percent [received no benefit at all].

Finding out if this would work for you isn’t inexpensive. Mesotherapy costs $300 to $500 for each treatment and about ten to fifteen sessions are recommended, so it actually ends up being more expensive than liposuction. (Sources: Journal of Cosmetic Laser Therapy, December 2005, pages 147-154 and March 2005, pages 17-19; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, November 2005, pages 1127-1130; Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, July 2003, pages 162-70; and Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, July-August 2003, pages 315-18) Learn more about mesotherapy in our complete report (see link below).

Endermologie: Developed in France in the 1980s, the FDA approved this high-powered, handheld massage tool in 1998. It consists of two motorized rollers with a suction device moved over the skin, somewhat like a mix between an old-time, wet-clothes ringer and a vacuum cleaner. (By the way, European women are confounded by cellulite, too, even though they tend not to have the weight problems Americans do. But remember, weight and cellulite are not directly related.)

While claims abound, legally, those advertising endermologie treatment are only permitted to promote it for “temporarily improving the appearance of cellulite.” Of course, somehow the word “temporarily” is never seen in the ads or Web sites promoting this device. Finding out if this works is time consuming and pricy. Anywhere from ten to twenty treatments are recommended plus one or two maintenance visits per month are required to preserve any results. There is no typical cost, and depending on where you go, prices can range from $75 to $200 per session. More information on endermologie is available in the complete report (see link below).

Non-ablative Lasers and Light Systems: Ever since the FDA approved TriActive Laserdermology (Cynosure Inc, Chelmsford, MA) as a Class II medical device that “temporarily reduces the appearance of cellulite,” lots of companies have wanted in on the action.
TriActive combines a diode laser (at a wavelength of 810 nanometers) with localized cooling, suction and mechanical massage (sort of a cross between a laser and an endermologie machine). Treatment protocol varies, but generally the process is three times a week for two weeks and then biweekly treatments for five weeks. As a Class II medical device, this laser can be sold and used without physician supervision, which means a growing number of salons and spas are advertising its success and changing the FDA classification of “temporarily reduces” to a more alluring “reduces” cellulite. (Sources:; Securities and Exchange Commission Information,; and Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, June 2005, pages 81-85 and June 2004, pages 181-185)

Another device approved by the FDA is the VelaSmooth system (Syneron Inc, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada). It combines near infrared light at a wavelength of 700 nanometers, continuous wave radiofrequency and mechanical suction. Twice-weekly treatments for a total of eight to ten sessions have been recommended. One of the only studies demonstrating this machine’s efficacy included twenty women, and eighteen of the twenty personally thought they saw improvement.

Yet the actual measurements only showed a 0.3-inch reduction in thigh circumference. Hardly sweeping results by any standard, making it clear larger-scale studies are needed, especially before you decide to spend $1,000 or more to see if these kinds of machines can get you what you want, namely smoother thighs, not a lighter wallet. (Sources: Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, December 2004, pages 187-190; December 2004, pages 181-185; June 2005, pages 81-85)

Electrical Muscle Stimulators (EMS) and Iontophoresis Devices: According to, “Muscle stimulators are a legitimate medical device approved for certain conditions” to relax muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, prevent blood clots and rehabilitate muscle function after a stroke. But many health spas and figure salons claim muscle stimulators can remove wrinkles, perform facelifts, reduce breast size, reduce a “beer belly” and remove cellulite.

Iontophoresis devices are prescription devices that use direct electric current to introduce ions of soluble salts (i.e., medications) into body tissues for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes. The FDA considers promotion of muscle stimulators or iontophoresis devices for any type of body shaping or contouring to be fraudulent. (Source:

Body Wrapping: Many salons and spas offer a cellulite/weight-loss service where the body is tightly wrapped or dressed in special garments with or without a “specialty” cream or lotion applied first. Promising to reduce inches off your body, the cost for these treatments range from $65 to $500 depending on the salon and whether the clientele is elite enough to warrant the steep price.

Scientific-sounding information makes this process seem legitimate, but in the long run all it is doing is temporarily compressing your skin (you could probably do this yourself with plastic wrap), which will then return to its original shape in a matter of time, how much time depends on your skin’s response. Impressive results often are delivered after measuring several parts of the body and adding up small incremental changes, which in total, end up sounding far more impressive than they really are.

Infomercials, Internet sites and some multilevel marketing companies sell at-home systems claiming to eliminate toxins and squeeze water-logged fatty tissue dry. You can’t squeeze toxins out of a cell. While you may be able to squeeze water out of a cell, the same pressure would concurrently injure other cells, which isn’t good for your skin. Plus, the water content would return to whatever level is natural for the body fairly soon due to homeostasis.

All in all, there is no research whatsoever showing body wrapping does anything positive and it will not get rid of fat or cellulite. (Source: Federal Trade Commission,

Skin Patches: Learn more about skin patches for cellulite in our complete report (see link below).
Liposuction: Liposuction has been used to reshape and reduce the appearance of accumulated fat layers and cellulite. However, the primary function of this procedure is to remove fat in localized areas, not cellulite. In cases, where liposuction involves the removal of large quantities of stored fat, it can sometimes worsen the appearance of cellulite by creating unsupported and slackened skin, which allows any remaining fat (and some always remains) to show through.

For original article and to view the reports noted above, visit Paula Begoun’s site. Reprinted with permission. (c) Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007 by Paula Begoun and Bryan Barron. This publication is the property of Paula’s Choice, Inc. (“Paula’s Choice”), and/or its owners or affiliates.

Paula Begoun is the author of “Don’t Go To The Cosmetic Counter Without Me”.