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April 19 2014

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Cellulite In The Summer: What You Need To Know

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Every time summer rolls around, a few things seem to happen like clockwork: Many of us embark on detox programs or intensified exercise routines in anticipation of the months ahead when clothing becomes decidedly more minimal; we suddenly start paying fastidious attention to our toes—buffing, moisturizing, and polishing those nubby nails after months of hibernation beneath woolly socks; and cellulite becomes top of mind, as studies show nearly 90 percent of women will develop it at some point. It’s a subject that’s hard not to obsess over—not simply because denim cutoffs tend to leave it slightly more exposed than full-length skinny jeans, but because it’s about this time every year that we are bombarded with new potions and treatments claiming to possess the ability to eradicate those lumpy, bumpy spots forever more. But as anyone who has ever dutifully slathered on these firming gels or applied any number of molding and kneading techniques to their nether regions can attest, temporary results are usually the most you can hope for. So, what gives?

The fact remains there is no—none, zero—proven, long-term treatment for cellulite, which, to get a little scientific, is actually composed of fat cells that bulge up and through the web of connective tissue beneath the skin, causing dimpling primarily just in women since men’s collagen is angled rather than vertical. “Skin becomes less elastic with age, so cellulite becomes more obvious,” says dermatologist Dr. Sapna Westley. “Poor circulation can also be a factor—when blood flow slows, collagen separates, allowing fat to come up to the surface of the skin, creating an orange peel effect,” she continues, pointing out additional triggers like family history, the thickness of your skin, hormonal changes, diet, and lifestyle. All of those cellulite-focused creams with big promises? Faking it, according to Westley, who explains that said miracle salves are designed to tighten the skin and minimize the appearance of lumps by drawing out excess moisture, which camouflages dimples only temporarily. On the labels, you’ll find ingredients like blood flow-stimulating caffeine, which can have a diuretic effect, collagen-boosting and skin-thickening retinol, and DMAE, an antioxidant derived from fish that, when combined with amino acids, stimulates the muscles to contract. “But the question remains how much of any of these ingredients is really being absorbed into the skin to cause any long-term effect,” Westley says.

At Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa, where a new holistic-minded anti-cellulite body treatment that focuses on manual massage was just added to the menu, treatment director Regine Berthelot claims that the best results are achieved with repetition. “The treatment uses a technique called ‘le palpe roule,’ a kneading of the tissues to target water deposits and break them up—on the whole body, not just the trouble areas, because if there is blockage in the ankles, the entire leg still needs to be massaged,” she explains. “After the first treatment you will feel better, and perhaps lighter, and the silhouette will be smoother.” But similar to fitness regimens, Berthelot recommends getting the service up to three times per week to see less cellulite, combining the spa treatment with the use of topical products while sipping on draining teas.

If that seems like a lot to ask, there is also the newly FDA-approved, minimally invasive treatment Cellulaze, wherein a pencil-thin laser fiber is inserted beneath the skin to simultaneously separate connective tissue and melt fat. “Cellulaze is showing more promising long-term results because it works on the three main issues that can anatomically improve cellulite: thickening skin, restructuring connective tissue, and melting fat,” says Westley. “So far, studies have shown improvement in skin elasticity and thickening lasting from three to 12 months, but more studies will be done as this procedure is still relatively new and gaining in popularity.”

While some may cringe at the drawbacks—you have to take local anesthesia and healing time involves bruising and a Spanx-like compression garment—countless women will likely be more than willing to go under the proverbial laser if less cellulite is the result. Owning it, of course, is also always an option.

Photo: Mario Sorrenti for Vogue Paris, May 2010

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