Cellulite Treatments: What Works—and What Doesn’t

Beauty/Skincare, Featured Article
on May 9, 2011
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With more than 80 percent of women (and an unlucky 10 percent of men) suffering from dimpled dermis, the search for a cellulite cure-all rages on. Technology can’t be introduced or improved upon fast enough to satisfy those of us who want to rid ourselves of our cottage cheese covering. With all the new products and big promises, how do you know what works?

First off, any cellulite treatment that promises to permanently erase the problem should be viewed with a heavy dose of skepticism—especially (and unfortunately) low-cost, over-the-counter creams. “Over the counter creams do not improve cellulite, only skin’s texture,” says Dr. Misbah Kahn, a board certified dermatologist in New York who is internationally known for contributions to cellulite treatment. “Cellulite is located several millimeters, even centimeters, under the skin’s surface and is several centimeters, or even inches, thick. It’s unrealistic to expect a cream applied topically to improve the deeply situated cellulite.”

Topical retinoid-based creams that stimulate collagen production and antioxidant-rich products that keep collagen from getting destroyed can help skin look smooth when applied on a daily basis, Kahn says, but they have no significant impact on cellulite.

She’s equally skeptical of body wrap treatments. Although they can reduce the edema (the build up of fluids) that contributes to the dimpling effect of cellulite, she says, “They have temporary effect and fluid accumulates soon after the wrap is removed.”

More promising, though, are high-tech (and often high-dollar) cellulite treatments delivered by dermatologists. Kahn, for instance, uses a combination of liposuction and lasers to zap cellulite—a cutting-edge procedure that runs $10,000 to $15,000. Don’t have five figures to spend on smoother thighs? See our guide to the latest cellulite treatments.