The 7 Best Ways to Get Rid of Cellulite
We'll say one thing for cellulite—it doesn't discriminate. For the 80 to 90% of adult women affected by it, the dimpled, puckered-looking skin has long been considered impossible to remove. And there's still nothing (aside from winning the genetic lottery) that can prevent it from happening.
1. The sure bet: Cellulaze
The science: This in-office procedure attacks cellulite from every angle. After inserting the tip of a laser just beneath your skin, your doctor will use the laser's energy to sever the stubborn fibrous bands responsible for puckering, melt the fat, and stimulate collagen growth to tighten skin.
The outcome: If you're looking for a once-and-done solution, this is it. A typical patient will see a 25% increase in skin thickness, a 29% increase in elasticity, and noticeably less cellulite. But it's no quick fix: The $1,500 to $8,000 treatment can take up to 5 hours to complete, a month before you're swimsuit-ready (bruising can linger for a few weeks), and 6 months to a year before the growing collagen achieves its peak skin-tightening effect, says Elie Levine, MD, director of plastic surgery at Plastic Surgery & Dermatology in New York City.
2. The insta-fix: Cellfina
The science: This handheld device is the newest minimally invasive cellulite treatment cleared by the FDA. Using a blade about the size of a needle inserted 6 mm beneath the skin's surface, a doctor snips the tight, pucker-causing septae.
The outcome: The dimple-reducing effect will be apparent within just 3 days and should last at least a year. Unlike Cellulaze, which requires local anesthesia, with Cellfina you'll need only a numbing cream, and your bill may be a little easier to swallow—in the neighborhood of $2,500 to $5,000. But because Cellfina hasn't been around as long, its long-term efficacy is not as proven. Results have been promising so far, but the procedure basically banks on the hope that the severed bands won't eventually bounce back. "The septae have a tendency to re-form in the same way," Levine cautions.
3. The spontaneous-beach-weekend savior: Radio Frequency Waves
The science: FDA-cleared devices like VelaShape, VelaSmooth, SmoothShapes, and Thermage use radio frequency waves to tighten skin by stimulating collagen growth and heating up the fatty adipose layer beneath the skin, which increases blood circulation. (When cells don't get enough oxygenated blood, the fibrous bands tethering skin to muscle thicken and pull even more.) Finally, the devices follow up with massage, suction, or vibration, which helps move excess fluid and fat (both of which contribute to cellulite bulging) into the lymphatic system so they can eventually be peed out, Nazarian says.
The outcome: With RF, you will see some immediate improvement and can show off the results the very next day (no bruising!). However, the transformation won't peak until you've had a month of twice-weekly sessions, each costing $300 to $600. (Womp womp.) What's more, you'll need a maintenance treatment every few months—forever. Go 6 months without and you'll lose most of your gains, Nazarian warns.
4. The best excuse for a standing spa appointment: Massage
The science: Vigorous massage increases blood flow, which protects the fibrous septae tugging your skin downward from hypoxia-triggered thickening. It also cuts down on water retention, which can contribute to bloated fat cells says Kristen Ma, an Ayurvedic practitioner and aesthetcian based in Toronto. To see any results, you'll need at least a weekly appointment, says Ma—and make sure it's a deep-tissue rubdown. Nazarian agrees that massage can offer modest, temporary cellulite improvement, but she underscores that it works best when combined with RF devices that actually melt the fat, so it can be worked out during the session.
The outcome: Massage can decrease the visibility of cellulite, but you'll have to keep a standing weekly appointment in the books—once you stop, the lumps will reappear.
5. The jillionth reason not to skip your workout: Strength Training
The science: While you can't lose cellulite by dropping pounds (sigh), lower-body strength training may help. Building muscle provides a firm foundation for overlying fat and skin, though side effects such as muscle's higher fat-burning capacity and exercise's circulation-increasing effects may help, too, says Wayne Westcott, instructor of exercise science at Quincy College.
The outcome: According to research published in Fitness Management, 80% of women who worked their major leg muscles 3 days a week with about 30 minutes of resistance exercise reported some improvement in the appearance of cellulite after 6 months. "They looked smoother, firmer, and more toned," says Westcott. Your cellulite won't be a thing of the past, but this much we can vouch for: You will be more confident showing off your legs. Though you might not see major results for months, you can rebuild 2½ pounds of new muscle in just 10 weeks of training.
6. The holistic helper: Dry Brushing
The science: Dry brushing—working a stiff body brush in circular motions from hands and feet toward the heart—stimulates the flow of both blood and lymphatic fluid just beneath the skin's surface, says Ma. "Poor lymphatic circulation can lead to inflamed nodules of cellulite," Nazarian adds. The technique also promotes collagen growth, which can make skin firmer and, ultimately, lumps less noticeable.
The outcome: The 10-minute practice will give skin a smoother appearance and reduce dullness, if you brush regularly, but won't deliver the "what cellulite?" results of an in-office treatment.
7. The slow and steady solution: A Topical Cream
The science: There's evidence that topicals with caffeine, like Vichy Cellu- De-stock ($40, vichyusa.com), can help, and topical retinoids can strengthen skin so it puckers less. Ask your derm for a prescription-strength option for the biggest impact.
The outcome: Using a caffeinated cream twice a week lessens dimples, but only until you quit. Retinoids are more lasting: With regular use, they can thicken the skin by a fraction of a millimeter.