Cellulite Treatments: Do They Work?

This thinking is wrong-headed of course. Not to mention a psychologist's dream (how many years of therapy might it take to break through this ring of pathology? I'll never know — I've spent all my money on cellulite treatments!)


Google "cellulite" and you'll find conflicting information as to its origin. Many say it's metabolic waste — the result of poor circulation and ineffective lymphatic drainage. Others say it stems from wearing tight clothes and high heels. It can be hard for doctors to argue with these ideas, but they are only ideas. There's absolutely no scientific data behind them.

What dermatologists do know is that cellulite can be genetic (shout-outs to my Grandmas on both sides). In addition, many researchers also believe there is a strong hormonal component to cellulite development.

Dr. Bruce Katz, Director of New York's JUVA Skin and Laser Center and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, says that it's the thickness of your dermis — the inner layer of skin — and the pattern of the connective tissue beneath it which holds your fat cells together that matters.

If you are lucky enough to have a sort of cross-hatch pattern, your fat cells are held in with double reinforcements. Regrettably, this pattern is most often seen in men. Most women have connective tissue patterned like columns, says Katz. It's easier for fat cells to bulge out of columns than small openings.

In addition, men generally have a thicker dermis, which serves as a more effective natural girdle.

Taking Katz's words at face value, I have to assume that any results I might have observed from my treatment package were just temporary. I lost about an inch and a half from my waist, hips, and thighs — but that was only after being wrapped in plastic and sweating for over half an hour before the final measurements were taken.

Katz says something called "Laser-Lipo" is far more effective than the combination laser and fat manipulation technique he no longer likes to schedule. No clinical studies have been completed yet, but Katz says the relatively new liposuction technique not only dissolves fat, but the deeply penetrating lasers tighten and thicken the skin. This a very different from regular lipo, which can make cellulite look worse.

If Katz is right, it seems there might be real, lasting, hope — if you're ready to go under the knife.

Now that it's over, I'm thinking less about the (negligible) results and more about the psychological process I went through. The twice-weekly unveiling of parts of myself I'd never before consider unveiling to a stranger.

Although at first the deep massage did feel like a pummeling, as the treatments went on it stopped hurting bad and started hurting good. I fell asleep more than once.

My most shameful fat (and I use that word with full knowledge of all it's Freudian implications) was scrubbed, sqeezed, covered in goo and lasered by three cheerful estheticians. All that attention was surreal and, in the end, liberating.

What had been hidden all winter long, swathed in thick cotton tights and Spanx, was now exposed.

And no one was injured, no one laughed, the camera lens didn't crack.

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