WebMD BlogsHealthy Skin

How to Fight Cellulite

cellulite
Laurel Naversen Geraghty, MD - Blogs
By Laurel Naversen Geraghty, MDBoard-certified dermatologistJune 18, 2019

Dimples are adorable - until they start showing up on our buttocks, abdomen, or thighs. We’re talking about cellulite, of course. Also called edematous fibrosclerotic panniculopathy (say that ten times fast), this dimpled, rippled, or uneven skin topography develops when lobules of normal fat swell and protrude through fibrous bundles of connective tissue located within and beneath the skin. Cellulite is entirely normal and affects virtually all women - and plenty of men and children, too. Gender, genetics, hormones, the makeup and quantity of our body’s natural fat stores, the looseness of our skin, and inflammation are all thought to play a role in cellulite formation.

So what do we do about it? Many physicians would answer this: Absolutely nothing! This benign skin feature doesn’t represent a problem or abnormality, and doesn’t have to be viewed as one. Even so, if you feel cosmetically motivated to minimize cellulite, there are some treatments that might temporarily help - at least a little.

Products: Creams containing caffeine may mildly improve the appearance of cellulite temporarily by dehydrating skin cells for a few hours. For long term improvement, applying retinoids may offer a very subtle, very gradual benefit over months by slowly strengthening the skin. By evening out the skin’s tone and helping to mask shadows, self-tanner might help to minimize the appearance of cellulite a bit, too.

Surgical Methods: Subcision is a procedure in which a needle or other sharp tool is used to break up fibrotic bands of tissue within the skin, potentially improving the appearance of cellulite. In a study of 25 women who underwent an FDA-approved subcision procedure called Cellfina, 95.6% reported that they were satisfied three months afterward, according to an Oct. 2018 study from the Aesthetic Surgery Journal. Bruising, swelling, pain, and infection are potential risks, though no serious adverse events were reported in the study. Results may last as long as three years.

Energy Treatments: Different types of energy can be directed into the skin to help reduce cellulite, including acoustic (sound) wave therapy; laser energy (Cellulaze) to thicken skin and break down the fibrous bands that allow cellulite to form; radiofrequency (such as ThermiSmooth or Profound) to heat and break down cellulite; or a combination of infrared light, radiofrequency energy, and vacuum suctioning (VelaShape). Each of these treatments may offer at least a temporary benefit, according to scientific studies. But like with any medical procedure, there are risks, and it’s important to seek the care of a board-certified physician knowledgeable about the technologies.

Other Therapies: In carboxytherapy, carbon dioxide gas is directed beneath the skin to help reduce cellulite by a few proposed mechanisms, including by stimulating blood vessels and key components of skin remodeling. Endermologie is a spa treatment involving massage and vacuum suction over cellulite-prone areas; studies are mixed on whether it might help. There isn’t sufficient evidence to support the use of supplements, ionithermie treatments (which deliver a mild electric current to the skin) or mesotherapy (injections of herbs, enzymes, hormones, or other ingredients). And while cryolipolysis (CoolSculpting) and liposuction can reduce fat, they aren’t expected to improve cellulite; liposuction may actually worsen it, in some cases.

Exercise: Anyone can develop cellulite - even those with a normal or low body weight. But people who exercise regularly to maintain muscle strength and tone and reduce body fat may notice improvement in unwanted dimpling. And the endorphin high might just help us focus on all that our bodies can do, rather than on the fact that we may have developed a little cellulite along the way.

WebMD Blog
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Laurel Naversen Geraghty, MD

Laurel Naversen Geraghty, MD, is a Stanford-trained dermatologist, former Glamour beauty editor, and journalist who has written for The New York Times, Glamour, Allure, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and other publications. She has made many television appearances and co-hosted The Dermatology Show on Sirius-XM throughout medical school. Her personal skincare blog can be found on Instagram and Facebook.

More from the Healthy Skin Blog

  • teenager

    What Are These Little Pink Bumps on My Face?

    Seemingly out of nowhere, a tiny pink bump appears on your chin or your cheek. It might look a little like a miniature pimple - but not ...

  • acne scars

    A Dermatologist's Tips for Acne Scars

    You’ve battled breakouts – and you have the scars to prove it. Blemishes can be distressing enough, but the marks left behind can serve ...

View all posts on Healthy Skin

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More