With age, the collagen that supports the skin breaks down, and areas that were once taut (knees, upper arms, stomach) start to look a little...baggy. Collagen loss also makes cellulite more apparent because the skin becomes thinner and less able to conceal the puckers created by the superficial fat and connective tissue just below its surface.
A machine that combines radio-frequency and infrared-light energy with suction and mechanical massage to stimulate collagen production and help metabolize the fatty deposits that cause dimpling. (It's similar in concept to SmoothShapes, but the added radio frequency can also offer a skin-firming effect.) Each treatment feels like an intense, slightly warm massage. Four to six weekly sessions can improve the appearance of cellulite for six months, says Anne Chapas, MD,assistant clinical professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, who also uses VelaShape to tighten skin on the hips, inner thighs, and abdomen. In a recent study, she treated the stomachs of ten postpartum women. Three months after four weekly treatments, an evaluation of five of the women showed four had an average reduction in abdominal circumference of 1.2 inches; one saw no change at all.
Cost: $2,000 for four treatments
Doctors also use Thermage to improve both skin laxity and cellulite. It uses radio-frequency energy to heat collagen below the skin's surface, causing it to contract so skin tightens over time. This spring the device will be available with a bigger handpiece so that large areas (like the stomach or thighs) can be covered more quickly than before. The treatment still heats the skin to the point of discomfort, though (even if you take a prescription-strength pain reliever). After one session, most patients notice improved tightness in the skin over the next three to six months—if you're an appropriate candidate. In a cruel twist, because Thermage works by heating collagen, you need to have enough collagen for it to act on. "It's most effective on skin with mild to moderate laxity," says Chapas. "If your skin is really sagging, Thermage will do very little, if anything, to improve it. That'swhywe usually don't use it on patients over 65." In one study, ten subjects ages 35 to 59 had their thighs treated with Thermage; six months later, about half had thighs that were 0.6 to 1.6 inches slimmer. Chapas has found that while Thermage can improve skin tightness for up to three years, cellulite results last only six to 12 months.
Cost: $2,500 to $4,500
Another radio-frequency device that can improve cellulite for several months, says David Goldberg, MD, director of laserresearch at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. It requires multiple treatments but is much less uncomfortable than Thermage; you won't need any pain medication. Ninety percent of the women whose thighs were treated in one study maintained results after six months. (All 30 subjects underwent six sessions at two-week intervals.) The mean decrease in their upper thighs was 1.2 inches.
Cost: $700 to $1,000 per treatment
Unfortunately, no topical treatment will firm your skin or get rid of cellulite. Sunscreen, however, can help prevent the UV-induced collagen loss that will make skin look saggier and more dimpled, so wear it. Always.
Cost: $32 for Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk
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