Cellulite conundrum

March 1, 2007

Liposuction can also be used to help improve the appearance of cellulite. But it, too, has limitations.

Dermatologists agree that cellulite may be one of the most vexing cosmetic problems.

Appearing like cottage cheese dimpling in the thighs, hips and buttocks, cellulite seems to be the one beauty battle that is hard-fought, but never quite won.

Cellulite occurs when fat cells protrude from around the connective tissue that attaches skin to muscle, and it tends to develop in almost 90 percent of women at some point. Many dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons agree that it is probably genetic and, while its appearance can be improved, it never quite goes away.

Some contain caffeine; others have different ingredients - but what they share is the ability to temporarily either dehydrate the skin or plump it up, reducing the visibility of dimpling. Newer products such as Ahava's Pure Spa Body Mud Mask are designed specifically for this purpose and can leave skin looking improved, but ultimately, the problem still lurks under the surface.

Numerous devices have been developed over the years to massage away this condition, which in appearance can resemble golf balls under the skin, but none has been able to produce permanent effects. The most efficacious of the bunch is technology used with the Endermologie system.

Endermologie is the brand name for a type of roller massage therapy that has been clinically proven to reduce the signs of cellulite. According to manufacturer LPG Wellness, the system's technology is the first noninvasive device approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for this purpose. It uses mechanical rollers and regulated suction to create symmetrical skin folds, temporarily stimulating circulation to the area.

Each Endermologie treatment lasts 30 to 45 minutes, and patients typically need a dozen or more treatments for visible results. After the desired effect is achieved, the patient needs to maintain the effects of the cellulite treatment with additional Endermologie sessions at less-frequent intervals.

Liposuction can also be used to help improve the appearance of cellulite. But it too, has limitations, depending on the surface area of the problem. It is virtually impossible to remove cellulite completely with liposuction. If this is the technique you decide to try, make sure you choose a highly trained physician to avoid developing skin with with a bumpy, uneven appearance.

So what can you do? According to North Carolina dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, M.D., you can ignore the myths that abound about cellulite and stick to basics, because basics help.

"A good, healthy diet that reduces fat will help. The less fat you have, the less likely it is to spill through the web of fibrous tissue that separates the skin from underlying layers of fat and muscle. Exercise that helps to burn fat may help minimize cellulite's dimpled effect," she says.

Forget about drinking more water or spending hundreds of dollars on creams that claim they can remove cellulite permanently. There simply isn't a quick cure. What you can do is discuss your options with a cosmetic dermatologist or dermasurgeon.