How Legit Are Cellulite Creams, Really?
Somewhere between Auguste Clésinger and the advent of FaceTune, cellulite came to be considered a full-blown affliction — with a past more decorated than Kensington Palace and enough so-called miracle creams to line its halls. But the truth is, the telltale lumps that affect up to 90 percent (!) of women — which don't discriminate based on your genetics, weight, age, or skin color, if you can imagine such a notion! — are historically difficult to treat.
To better understand why, think of thigh dimples like the buttons on a couch cushion: these toggles, like the fat deposits you see on the area under your bum, have been pulled down, deep into the layers, to create puckers at the top. "What happens beneath your skin is a tethering of fibrous bands, which causes the dimples," says dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD.
Now, do you really think rubbing a topical ointment on the surface of a sofa will change its overall structure? Of course not — and the same can be said about any body lotion claiming its organically farmed coffee beans from Costa Rica are the cure-all for bumps on your ass.
"None of these creams work permanently because that would require them to physically restructure the fibrous bands that connect to the underlying structure of your skin. There are no exceptions to this."
To be clear: the caffeine found in most of these creams can have a temporary effect. "Caffeine can transiently make it better because it plumps the skin and masks the irregularity," says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, adding that gentle exfoliation boosts circulation, which yields similar results. It just won't last more than a few hours, at most.
"When you think about it logically, you will realize none of these creams work permanently because that would require them to physically restructure the fibrous bands that connect to the underlying structure of your skin," Dr. Downie says. "Women are wasting their money, because no amount of caffeine will do anything to break apart the tethered fibrous bands. There are no exceptions to this. Expensive prices will not make the ingredients work better."
But all hope is not lost. There are a few things you can do treat the area. "Anything that can restructure these fibrous bands would have to come from an [in-office] machine that can slice through the tethered band," Dr. Downie says. Both she and Dr. Gohara recommend Thermitight, a micro-invasive device that uses radio frequency and heat to attack fatty pockets. "It is one of the best treatments on the market for cellulite," she adds. "I use this machine in my office constantly. There is some bruising and downtime — you also have to wear liposuction undergarments for two to three weeks after — and it is an expensive procedure, but my female patients are typically very happy with the results."
Dr. Gohara also recommends Cellfina, an FDA-cleared in-office procedure that utilizes suction and a mechanical unit with a thin needle to cut the fibrous cords of connective tissue. It, too, leaves behind a trail of bruises, but she says it offers more promising results than creams. Maybe one day, gain will leave pain in the dust entirely. In the meantime, maybe you leave the exorbitant spending of things you don't need to the royal family's interior designer.