Nearly 85% to 90% of all women – and a small number of men – will develop cellulite in their lifetime. Although cellulite typically appears on the upper thighs, it may also appear on the buttocks and upper arms. Cellulite is a normal and natural pattering of fat that can affect people of all shapes and sizes.
What is Cellulite?
Cellulite is a term used to describe the small dimples or lumps that can form on the thighs, hips, buttocks, and/or abdomen. The dimpling of cellulite, also known as gynoid lipodystrophy, is often caused by alterations in subcutaneous fat layers – fat that rests beneath the skin. The condition is more prevalent in women, but has also been seen in a number of men.
There are no physical or uncomfortable symptoms of cellulite. Often, the only symptom is dimpled or bumpy flesh. Some people tend to describe the condition as having cottage cheese skin or skin akin to an orange peel texture.
Many people may not notice cellulite until they pinch or manipulate the skin where their cellulite is located. However, cellulite that is more severe may cause areas where your body peaks or valleys to look rumpled or bumpy.
Cellulite is most common on the thighs and buttocks, but can also be found on the breasts, lower abdomen, and upper arms.
Grades of Cellulite
Cellulite may be placed in three different categories depending on severity. These are called grades.
- Grade 1: Slight, superficial depressions (orange peel) in the skin, often accompanied by a sagging appearance.
- Grade 2: Characterized by more than 5 medium-depth depressions (cottage cheese) and a slightly more “draped” or sagging appearance.
- Grade 3: More severe drooping or sagging of the skin with 10 or more deep depressions.
What Causes Cellulite?
It is believed that Cellulite forms when fibrous bands (called septae), connective tissue which connects the skin to the underlying muscle, begin tightening irregularly. This can pull down the surface of the skin and potentially cause the skin to break down, allowing the natural fatty tissues beneath the skin to be pushed upward – resulting in the appearance of cellulite. Although it may be more noticeable in people who may be overweight, it can also occur in very lean women. Weight loss alone typically does not help you get rid of cellulite altogether.
Genetics may also contribute to the dimpled appearance of cellulite, as can the hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy.
Is Cellulite Permanent?
Unfortunately, skin dimpled with cellulite is often a permanent condition. However, there are many treatments that may reduce the appearance of cellulite. Treatments for cellulite vary from at home remedies to slightly invasive surgeries to reduce cellulite. Some of the most common treatments for cellulite include:
- Deep massage therapy
- Cellulite creams
- Weight loss
- Exercise to thicken the skin
- Acoustic wave therapy
- Laser assisted treatments
- Body contouring
- Ultrasonic liposculpting
- Radio frequency assisted lipolysis
- Subcision (vacuum assisted precise tissue release)
How to Treat Cellulite
Non-Surgical Skin Tightening
Cellulite or the appearance of cellulite caused by age-related skin laxity can effectively be treated with one-time, radio frequency assisted skin tightening treatments such as BodyTite or Renuvion. Non-invasive (i.e. purely external) treatments like Exilis or ThermiSmooth can also be used in cases of mild cellulite or sagging skin.
BodyTite and Renuvion are minimally-invasive procedures that “coagulate” or shrink tissues via a small cannula inserted under the skin. They are very similar in their use and it may come down to surgeon preference which one is recommended for you. Dr. Mark Peters of NuBody Memphis recently won 1st place in InMode’s Expert Clinician Award Program for his achievements in using BodyTite for cellulite removal, and NuBody Concepts Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Rosdeutscher has been one of the first plastic surgeons to introduce Renuvion in the Nashville area.
Cellulite removal is an outpatient procedure that can last 1-4 hours depending on how many areas you are having treated. It can take 1-5 days of recovery depending on the specific treatment you receive.
There are many laser treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cellulite. These often show good results for reducing the appearance of cellulite. These treatments often mix massage therapy, liposuction, or light therapies that may help increase the effectiveness of the laser treatment. It can liquefy fat cells, cut connective tissue to loosen puckering, boost collagen growth and skin tightening, increase blood flow, and lessen fluid retention. Expect results to last at least 6 months.
BodyTite is a non-surgical body contouring procedure delivering skin tightening results previously only achieved through invasive surgical procedures. BodyTite is powered by directional radiofrequency, and is also referred to as radio frequency assisted lipolysis (RFAL). BodyTite has shown promising results in cellulite reduction
Renuvion is a non-surgical procedure that tightens the skin by up to 60%. It can be applied to abdomen, buttocks, flanks, thighs, arms & more to help reduce cellulite. Using radio frequency energy powered by helium plasma, Renuvion applies bursts of highly controlled heat to the underlying tissues to tighten the skin. It is an ideal alternative to more invasive surgery for patients with moderately saggy skin. It is also an excellent alternative to CoolSculpting.
Side Effects of Cellulite Treatments
Depending on the treatment option you pursue, you may experience slight bruising, irritation, and swelling at the site of the treatment. You may see results as early as the first week after treatment, yet most people experience the best results around the 2 – 3 week mark. Although the treatments help reduce the appearance of cellulite for a period of time, it is difficult to get rid of cellulite all together. Additional treatments may be required to see the best long-term results.