Before spotting them all over your thighs, you probably thought dimples were cute. Whether you describe the texture of your skin in your problem areas as cottage cheese or orange peel, the root of the problem is the same: cellulite. It’s one of the most widespread beauty problems affecting women, with millions of dollars being poured into the quest for a reliable treatment or cure. While historically cellulite has been treatment resistant, this is changing, and quickly.
What is Cellulite?
Cellulite is the dimpling appearance of skin that occurs when fat in the lower layers of the skin pushes through the connective tissue above it. Bands of tissue fibers pull the skin down, forcing bulging between the bands – much like the appearance of a Chesterfield sofa. As skin weakens with age, there is less of a supportive network to keep the fat below from bulging upward. The pillowy bumps are fat protrusions, and the depressions are the connective tissue fibers.
Why is Cellulite a Female Problem?
According to board certified plastic surgeon Dr. M. Bradley Calobrace, there are two main reasons women experience cellulite while men usually do not. “It has to do with the fact that there’s a higher percentage of fat and there’s thinner skin,” says Calobrace. Men have more collagen and elastin in their skin than women do, as well as thicker skin, providing a greater strength and elasticity.
- A higher percentage of body fat than men
- Thinner skin than men
In young women, collagen production is high, keeping skin firm and supported. As collagen production decreases, the skin weakens. Pregnancy and weight fluctuations also cause skin to lose strength, making cellulite a widespread problem for women over the age of thirty.
Lipo Alone Is NOT the Answer
While cellulite is often mistaken as merely the presence of excess fat, the problem has just as much to do with the quality of a person’s skin as it does the presence of fat. In fact, even extremely fit women may begin to notice the appearance of cellulite as their skin quality declines – and some may unfortunately carry the burden of cellulite while young and in shape.
Liposuction is a great surgical tool to remove unwanted deposits of fat and contour the body, but it is ineffective against cellulite. “So many patients come in to see me for liposuction,” shares Dr. Calobrace. “And when I ask them what bothers them most, it’s the cellulite.” He goes on to explain to his patients that liposuction does not help with cellulite. “Often, it can make cellulite worse. If you take fat out, you’ve got more skin. More loose skin creates even more of a problem.”
One non-surgical procedure that Dr. Calobrace has found to actually treat the appearance of cellulite is Cellfina. The device works by breaking apart the fibrous bands of connective tissue that give skin the dimpled appearance. “Cellfina is a small procedure done in the office, under local,” says Calobrace. “We’ll take all those little dimples and we’ll cut them, we’ll release them. It sort of takes the little tufting out of the sofa and makes it better.”
“Anything that involves heat can also help with cellulite,” explains Dr. Calobrace. “By driving thicker collagen, inducing collagen synthesis, making the skin thicker, all of which will help cellulite.”
Treatments involving heat therapy:
- Stimulate collagen production
- Build thicker skin
- Minimize cellulite
Using radiofrequency controlled heat, ThermiSmooth is a non-invasive procedure that melts fat, tightens skin and stimulates collagen production in the skin. Another procedure, TruSculpt, also uses radiofrequency heat to melt fat and reduce cellulite.
Unlike liposuction, which cannot reduce the superficial fat that contributes to cellulite, non-invasive fat reduction treatments can melt away superficial fat, actually improving cellulite. While CoolSculpting is a popular fat reduction treatment that may reduce superficial fat, it does not have the added benefits of heat therapy which also work to improve the quality of skin at the same time.
Combination Therapy for the Best Results
Although there isn’t one universal cellulite solution, there are several treatment options that will work for the right candidate. The key to success is selecting an experienced plastic surgeon who is familiar with all of the latest technologies, so that they can match you to the right treatment plan for your unique body.
“By using combination therapy we can finally arrive at a benefit for patients with cellulite. We start with figuring out the right treatment plan for them based upon what kind of skin problems they have,” says Calobrace. “If they have extra fat, we also deal with the fat, by either liposuctioning or doing something to melt away a little bit of the fat. We find the right formula for that particular patient.”