Cellulite: non-invasive treatment round-up 2010

Let’s face it – if modern medical science had an effective treatment for cellulite, the world would beat a path to its door. Even slender women can have the dimples and irregular skin contours with this cosmetic issue. So what can be done about it?

Modern cellulite treatments really began with the Endermologie and later, the Synergie machines. Both of these combine massage by the treatment head of the machine with a gentle vacuum on the area being treated. The Endermologie machine has mechanical rollers, the Synergie does not. While these machines both temporarily help with cellulite, I feel their best application is to reduce swelling following liposuction.

The next major breakthrough was the addition of some form of energy to the treatment head. Energy can be applied to the skin and subcutaneous fat using ultrasound, radio-frequency (RF) energy or infra-red energy, or all of the above. All methods achieve the same goal – heating of the tissue, with activation of collagen production and tissue shrinkage. Early pioneers in this area were Thermage (RF energy) and Titan (infra-red). Some people got a reasonable improvement, others had little response – and frankly, it was hard to predict who would get which result.

Now, manufacturers are offering machines that combine treatment types. BTL’s Exilis machine combines RF and ultrasonic energy. Smoothshapes combines mechanical massage with laser and light. Velashape II uses RF, infra-red and massage. The Vaser Shape MC1 combines modulated ultrasound and massage. Viora’s Reaction combines several different RF frequencies and vacuum.

These companies, and the many others that are on the market, all have glossy websites that show some lovely before-and-after photos. All the machines work, to some degree. Most have FDA clearances, showing their safety. Each company has pitchmen-physicians that love and use their particular product. Often, there are corporate-sponsored studies that document some improvements due to treatment.

Yes, there are visible improvements in cellulite. However, I feel that the results shown are fairly mild, for most of the machines. It’s better, but it’s no magic wand. And of course, I’m sure the manufacturers are showing their very best results ever on their webpages. Scientifically, we don’t really yet know which machine or treatment method is best – as there aren’t any comparison, head-to-head type studies. We don’t really know exactly how much energy or which ultrasonic or RF frequency is optimal. We don’t really have a good handle on who will respond effectively to the treatments, something that is rarely discussed on a manufacturer’s webpage!

I’m still waiting for the “new, improved world-champion” cellulite treatment device to come along. Currently, I’m continuing to evaluate the new technologies that are on the market – and I promise to keep PSB readers updated with any new or exciting developments I find here.

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