Cellulite Treatments: Do They Really Work?

So you have cellulite? Well, you’re not alone! Approximately 85 percent of post-pubescent women have cellulite, and they've given all kinds of names to this unsightly, yet normal-and-natural phenomenon: cottage-cheese thighs, orange-peel thighs, cobblestone thighs, etc. Cellulite is caused by fibrous bands that connect skin to muscle--a concept that's important to understand in order to really understand cellulite treatments.

There are a number of injections, supplements, creams and other topical agents that claim to eliminate or reduce the appearance of cellulite. Some women have advocated rubbing coffee grounds or other caffeine-related products to help reduce the appearance of cellulite--a practice that may or may not work in varying degrees. For the long term, a definitive, permanent, non-surgical cure has not yet been found.

Two companies—Cynosure, Inc. and Sound Surgical Technologies, LLC—claim to have a surgical, minimally-invasive solution to cellulite. Cynosure’s solution comes in the form of a treatment known as Cellulaze, whereas Sound Surgical Technologies' solution is a treatment known as VASERsmooth. Despite some differences in how each treatment works, the end result of both techniques is the reduction in the appearance of cellulite, not necessarily complete removal.

How The Treatments Work

  • Cellulaze
    A small probe is placed directly under the skin, and laser energy is then emitted through the tip of the probe's tube. The laser energy breaks down fat and disrupts the fibrous bands that pull down on the skin, and which cause that bumpy, cobblestone-like appearance. Along with the disruption of the bands, Cynosure, Inc. states that the procedure itself stimulates collagen growth, which in turn thickens the skin—giving it a tighter appearance.
  • VASERsmooth
    Similar to Cellulaze, a small probe is placed directly under the skin. Ultrasonic energy is emitted through the end of the probe to help emulsify fat and cut the fibers that are pulling down on the skin, causing dimpling. Sound Surgical Technologies also claims that their procedure gives the skin a tighter appearance.

    How the Treatments Are Done

    Both procedures are considered minimally-invasive and are performed under local anesthesia. Incisions are made to gain access to the bands, which are disrupted with either ultrasound or laser energy. Results can be seen immediately, but some of the visual improvement is due to the filling out of the skin due to swelling. Final results occur approximately 3-6 months after treatment, when the swelling has subsided.

    Not So Fast…

    There are a few things you should consider before going forward with surgical cellulite treatment.
    1. If you are obese, this procedure is not for you; rather, it's for women whose weight is reasonable for their height. A BMI of 19-30 is the ideal range for surgical cellulite treatment. Even at that range, deciding if Cellulaze or VASERsmooth is an appropriate procedure should be done on a case-by-case basis.
    2. If your skin is very loose, you should not expect a significant amount of skin tightening. For example, if you have dimples and uneven texture on your thigh skin—and pulling up on your upper thigh skin gives it a smooth, youthful appearance—your skin is significantly loose, and only a thigh lift will give you the best contour. Cellulite improvement will also be minimal to none—with either the Cellulaze or VaserSmooth treatments—if your cellulite is due to sagging skin. If you go into it with this understanding, then proceed. But if you’re expecting smooth, tight legs, the optimal procedure is a thigh lift, which is an invasive procedure.
    1. If you only have cellulite when your skin is squeezed, or only notice it when you’re sitting but not standing, don’t waste your money on surgical cellulite treatment. Consider yourself blessed! If you’re one of the fortunate women who fall in this category yet you still opt for surgical treatment, you will surely be disappointed: the end goal of cellulite treatment is to get an improvement in the appearance of cellulite when standing. You already have that result!
    2. On the other hand, if you have significant crevices and dimples, don’t expect your legs to be completely smooth with absolutely no evidence of cellulite after the procedure. At the most, expect perhaps a 50 percent improvement. You will still have cellulite. It just won't be as severe as before. If your surgeon tells you that you'll have complete resolution, you should find another surgeon who will speak the truth.


    Whatever your degree of cellulite, do not expect complete resolution of your cellulite. If this is your expectation, a result of 50-70 percent improvement—considered a great result by plastic surgeons—will not satisfy you! Think of VASERsmooth and Cellulaze as cellulite reducers not cellulite removers/erasers/eliminators.

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