Problem 5: Lumps & Bumps
Some dimpled thighs can be adorable. But you probably don't find yourself cooing over yours. Cellulite is a fact of life for about 90 percent of us, and as of yet, there's not a lot we can do about it. "Cellulite isn't just regular shapeless fat like you might find on your stomach," says Ranella Hirsch. "In the thigh area, women have fibrous strips of tissue under the surface of the skin that create a sort of tic-tac-toe pattern. Any fat is pushed up against this grid, which is what causes dimpling."
A few high-tech machines are approved by the FDA for a temporary reduction in the appearance of cellulite (there is no indication how long results might last). The most promising at the moment are the VelaShape (which combines radiofrequency and infrared light energy, suction, and mechanical massage) and SmoothShapes (a hybrid of laser, light, massage, and suction). Most doctors say a series of treatments will noticeably smooth bumps—but consistent maintenance is necessary. VelaShape requires a touch-up every three to six months, SmoothShapes at least once a year. "You definitely have to keep going back, with no end in sight," says Heidi Waldorf, who doesn't offer the treatments in her practice for this reason. "But if your cellulite really bothers you, and you have endless time and money..." (Four weekly VelaShape sessions cost about $2,000; a package of eight SmoothShapes treatments—the company recommends two a week for one month—runs $2,400 to $3,400.) Liposuction is a one-shot deal, but even this invasive procedure won't necessarily improve cellulite. "Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it makes cellulite worse," says Waldorf. You can suck out some of the fat, but you can't do anything about the fibrous bands that create dimpling. (This is also why all the squats, lunges, and leg lifts in the world won't help cellulite.)
For the time being, doctors advise staying away from any cellulite treatment that involves a needle. Mesotherapy is a catchall term for injecting who-knows-what into cellulite in an effort to liquidate it. "It's not regulated," says Francesca Fusco. Lipodissolve involves injecting a specific ingredient that has been shown to dissolve fat (in test tubes). "There have been reports of some very scary side effects, though," says Fusco. "It's promising, and some very respected doctors are conducting studies, but I wouldn't recommend it anytime soon."
Topical cellulite creams contain ingredients (usually caffeine or a derivative) that act as diuretics, removing moisture from the skin, which makes it firmer for a few hours. (So: Rub it in, get to the beach, and get back fast?) Some of these creams also contain retinol, which helps refine the surface of the skin and can boost collagen production. Over time retinol improves the texture of your skin (but not your cellulite). Bottom line: Practice acceptance—and find a great pair of shorts.
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