How to Get Rid of Cellulite
There's no evidence cellulite is unhealthy or bad for you. It's just one of the ways the body naturally stores fat. However, if you want to know how to get rid of cellulite, we've created a guide to the vast array of noninvasive treatments that may help you smooth it out.
Can you get rid of cellulite?
It's not exactly possible to make cellulite disappear entirely, but you can reduce its appearance. That's because it's a skin condition caused by the way the body stores subcutaneous fat—or the topmost layer of fat—particularly in areas like the thighs and buttocks. (It also tends to affect women far more than men—see a full explanation behind the mechanics of cellulite.)
If you're bothered by cellulite, though, you can make the dimples less apparent by eliminating or reducing the size of fat cells, which removes the bulk that's pushing outward into the skin. Alternatively, boosting collagen production can help strengthen the bands that contain the fat cells and smooth out the skin.
In-office noninvasive treatments
Thermage and VelaShape
Radio-frequency waves heat tissue to reshape its subcutaneous collagen—one of the proteins responsible for youthful skin's tautness. This cellulite treatment also promotes fresh collagen production. These two effects together can minimize the appearance of cellulite for a while and produce even longer-lasting skin-tightening effects. Thermage is one of the most well-known brands.
- How many sessions does Thermage require? Just one treatment is all it takes to see an improvement in cellulite.
- What does it feel like? Early forms could heat skin to uncomfortable levels, but the latest technology includes a cooling mechanism. Pain medication—often administered by the provider beforehand—and the tool's vibrations help ease discomfort, which has been described as both a stinging sensation and a soreness. Throughout the procedure, the provider asks for feedback on the intensity of the heat. Some areas, such as the face, may hurt more than others.
- How long does it last? Up to a year. Results continue to improve in the six months after the treatment as the body produces more collagen.
- How much does Thermage cost? The average cost of a Thermage treatment is around $2,000. Be sure to check Groupon for deals on Thermage and similar treatments.
VelaShape employs radio-frequency waves alongside infrared light and vacuum suction. It takes about three sessions, but unlike Thermage, it should only feel like a warm deep-tissue massage. The results last few weeks; maintenance requires periodic treatments—about 3–4 biweekly sessions.
VelaShape relies on four technologies to not only slim down bodies, but also soften the appearance of cellulite. Here's how it works.
Laser-Lipo and Zerona
During these noninvasive body-contouring treatments, laser beams penetrate through the skin and into fat cells. The heat energy purportedly breaks down the walls of fat cells, draining them of their contents. Patients can help their bodies process the contents by exercising. One of the most popular forms of laser body contouring is i-Lipo, which employs laser-emitting pads placed directly against the skin. Read more about i-Lipo and how it works.
- How many sessions does i-Lipo require? You'll need 6–8 treatments for maximum results, but many clients see a difference after only a few appointments.
- What does it feel like? It doesn't hurt, and the most you should feel is a warming sensation where the pads are. Read our interview with the owner of a med spa that offers i-Lipo.
- How long does it last? Results last for a few weeks at a time, so multiple periods of biweekly treatments may help maintain them.
- How much does i-Lipo cost? The cost of i-Lipo varies greatly depending on the area being treated. Expect to pay about $2,500–$4,500 on a single treatment area (or considerably less with a Groupon.)
Zerona is a similar laser-lipo procedure, except that the client is positioned under the device's adjustable laser-emitting arms. This allows simultaneous treatment of the waist, hips, and thighs.
Unlike liposuction, Zerona is a noninvasive treatment that uses laser energy to penetrate fat cells. Once the fat cells release their contents, they shrink, resulting in lost inches.
CoolSculpting hits fat cells with a targeted cold front, chilling them until they crystallize. Dead, frozen fat cells are easier to metabolize than those at body-temperature. Zeltiq is currently the only CoolSculpting brand available. It's the company's signature treatment, available only via their trademarked, handheld cooling device.
- How many sessions does CoolSculpting require? Typically only one treatment per area.
- What does it feel like? You'll experience cold and then numbness. Some applicators include suction, so you might feel a pulling sensation.
- How long does it last? The slimming process is gradual—full results don't materialize for two or four months.
- How much does CoolSculpting cost? Like most treatments on this list, the cost for a CoolSculpting session fluxuates between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on treatment area. Don't forget to check Groupon for deals on CoolSculpting.
CoolSculpting relies on freezing temperatures to kill fat cells and slim the body. Here's how the procedure works.
Most body wraps follow roughly the same protocol: the spa attendant first administers a body scrub and then applies the wrap's primary ingredient, typically a moisturizing agent. The next step is to swaddle the client in a thermal blanket and leave them to relax for roughly half an hour. Wraps tend to vary from spa to spa, but common ingredients include seaweed and caffeine, though the exact mechanism by which they work is sometimes disputed.
- How many sessions do body wraps require? Just one for the short-term effect.
- What does it feel like? Like you're in a cocoon. You'll probably feel warm and perspire.
- How long does it last? Though the process temporarily minimizes the appearance of cellulite by plumping up the skin, it doesn't actually affect fat cells. That means body wraps can work well for a special occasion but not for a long-term fix.
- How much do body wraps cost? Expect to pay about $100 for a body wrap, or much less with a Groupon.
How to get rid of cellulite at home
Diet and exercise
Diet and exercise come highly recommended by doctors. Aerobic exercise and strength training—combined with healthy eating—can reduce the body fat that contributes to cellulite. Avoid yo-yo dieting, which can make cellulite more apparent.
Many topical creams are explicitly designed with cellulite removal in mind. The key to finding a cellulite cream that works is browsing product reviews before you buy. Anecdotal evidence suggests some creams visibly improve cellulite over two months or so.
- Aminophylline creams may help reduce fat deposits or at least dehydrate the skin, pulling it taut and alleviating imperfections.
- Retinol creams are also widely used to promote collagen growth for a smoother, more toned look to skin.
With the help of a dermatologist, our beauty editor who uses a prescription retinoid answers all your questions about the anti-aging ingredient.