May 11, 2001 (New York) -- "Eliminate cellulite in 48 hours. Say goodbye to chunky thighs, lumpy hips, and bumpy buttocks forever."
Sound too good to be true?
Well, it probably is.
That's the conclusion made by several leading plastic surgeons speaking this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in New York City.
Wonder treatments abound: pills, herbs, cream, massage, packs, wraps or ultrasound. But still, no nonsurgical treatment permanently cures cellulite, the dimpling of the skin that often appears on the thighs and buttocks of as many as 85% of all women (and very few men). Caused by genetic predisposition, hormonal changes, and weight gain, cellulite refers to ordinary fat deposits interlaced with fibrous tissue bands, giving cellulite its dimpled appearance.
In the future, gene therapy or hormonal treatments may be options for women plagued by cottage cheese thighs and/or cellulite in other areas of their body, experts say.
In the meantime, buyers beware.
"You have to be aware that there is so much out there that is touted as new, but so far there is nothing that has been shown to have any lasting effect on cellulite," says Richard A. Mladick, MD, a plastic surgeon who practices in Virginia Beach, Va. "As soon as you stop treatment, any benefit disappears within a short period of time."
Unfortunately, the lack of proven results isn't stopping women from spending tons of money to rid their bodies of unsightly cellulite, especially as beach season nears.
"Aestheticians are touting salt rubs, plant rubs, and other treatments, but none demonstrate any lasting improvement," Mladick says. "If someone has cellulite from weight loss, you can correct it in the abdomen and thighs by thigh lifts and tummy tucks. Total body lifts also work," he says. Body lifts tighten loose, fallen skin and fat to produce a more youthful skin tone and natural contours.
Another option is endermologie. This nonsurgical treatment uses rollers and gentle suctioning to deep massage the affected areas over a series of sessions and may produce a temporary "smoothing out" effect, says Brian M. Kinney, MD, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in Los Angeles.
But endermologie "works like diet and exercise. If you stop, it doesn't last," Kinney tells WebMD.
Herbal remedies may work, but they have not been studied in the same fashion that drugs are studied, and as such, their benefits are unproven and their risks are unknown, he says.
"Exercise and diet may be a useful [addition] to another treatment, but they do not work. I wish they did."
In the next five to 10 years, gene therapy may put a permanent end to cellulite. "New research in families where there is no cellulite has identified genes that may cause cellulite. In the future, gene therapy may help treat cellulite," Mladick tells WebMD.
In its simplest terms, gene therapy involves removing a defective gene and replacing it with a nondefective copy of the gene, in the hopes of correcting the abnormality or disease.
Also on the horizon are hormonal treatments, but to date, no evidence supports their use in treating cellulite, Kinney says.
Women with what Kinney calls the "Bay Watch body syndrome" are approaching doctors and wanting to look perfect "in slow motion, magnified, and practically naked from any angle," and although doctors have done wonders with body contour surgery, they are having trouble correcting local defects such as cellulite.