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Can You Beat Cellulite?

Massage

A treatment for cellulite called endermologie uses rollers and suction to knead the skin, improving circulation.

Treatments last for 10 to 45 minutes and are typically repeated twice weekly for several months. A package of 10 to 12 sessions runs $1,000 and up.

Despite the hefty price, Wanner and Sadick say there's little evidence that it works at reducing cellulite.

At the Doctor's Office

Wanner says a "dizzying" number of machines are available through doctors' offices that promise to treat cellulite without surgery.

Some cellulite machines, such as VelaSmooth, Venus Freeze, Thermage, and Accent XL, use radio wave energy. Others, including Smooth Shapes and Zerona, use lasers. A newer group of machines, such as the Acoustic Wave Therapy system, use high intensity sound waves.

Lasers and radio waves work by applying heat. The heat is meant to firm and thicken skin, and it may help to melt some of the bulging fat underneath. Acoustic waves are high pressure waves that aim to break up the septae bands that pull down on the skin, creating dimples.

Most of these technologies require multiple treatments. The cost can range from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on how many times you go and which technology you choose.

How much improvement can you expect?

Wanner says even using the best technologies, "about 25% to 50% of people may see an improvement of 25% to 50%, which may diminish over time."

From a Cosmetic Surgeon

In January 2012, the FDA cleared a new surgical treatment for cellulite called Cellulaze.

Cellulaze is a side-firing laser that is inserted under the skin using a few tiny cuts. Working in a grid pattern, a surgeon uses the laser to sizzle away the septae bands that are pulling down on the skin. The laser also cooks pockets of fat, reducing bulges. The company that makes the laser says it also helps thin, sagging skin on cellulite.

The surgery may take several hours, depending on the size of the area that's treated. The doctor injects a pain killer to numb the area before starting.

Recovery may take three to four weeks to get over bruising and soreness. Other side effects include temporary swelling, itching, and discoloration, similar to those seen with liposuction. Peak results are achieved six months after the surgery, which costs around $7,500.

Despite the initial discomfort, "patients have had a high degree of satisfaction, above the 90% mark," says Barry DiBernardo, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Montclair, N.J., and the lead clinical investigator for Cellulaze.

So far, the procedure has only been studied in about 50 patients, DiBernardo says. He says people see about a 65% improvement in their cellulite, on average, and the improvement appears to last as long as two years.

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