Ashley Graham, Demi Lovato, Olivia Munn and Lizzo are among the stars who have posted cellulite-revealing selfies on social media while speaking out to celebrate being perfectly imperfect. “I have cellulite,” Amy Schumer has said, “and I still deserve love.”
Others in the spotlight continue to search for minimally invasive solutions to get rid of that stubborn dimpled skin — found primarily on thighs, buttocks and the stomach. Cellulite is most prevalent in women (because of the distribution of fat, muscle and connective tissue) and occurs when fibrous, lattice-like connective cords pull down, pocketing fat in between. So all the topical creams, massaging and dry brushing in the world won’t make a difference.
But recent advances in nonsurgical skin-toning and tightening devices, along with Qwo — the first FDA-approved injectable enzyme treatment for cellulite on the buttocks — offer an array of promising cellulite-busting tools.
Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Harold Lancer, whose overall practice clientele includes Margot Robbie and Beyoncé, focuses on three key treatments. To address more superficial rippling on large areas, the doctor turns to the Emsculpt Neo machine, a combo of radio-frequency and electromagnetic energies that “help tighten some of the ‘underwires,’ or fibrous attachments between the skin and the sub-fat lining, called fascia, besides reducing some of the superficial fat,” he says. Lancer also uses Morpheus8’s latest M8 radio-frequency microneedling technology that penetrates “deep enough to heat up the indentations and irregular contour of cellulite-prone skin.” For smaller regions, such as above the belly button or on inner arms, he looks to Venus Legacy radio frequency to tighten skin fibers. Larger “saucer-shaped depressions” call for subcision, a surgical procedure with low risk of side effects that uses local anesthesia and specially designed needles to cut the individual cords one by one. Treatments are followed by injections of hyperdiluted Sculptra filler.
“The way people talk, you would think that cellulite was the scourge of Western civilization,” says L.A. dermatologist Ava Shamban, whose overall client list includes Angela Bassett and Molly Sims. She underlines that the “button mattress appearance” of cellulite looks more pronounced on “loose, saggy skin,” which is a separate issue.
Like Lancer, Shamban utilizes several modalities. “We really hammer the cellulite — whether it be an injectable enzyme [Qwo] to dissolve the bands in two to three treatments or subcision to release the bands; Radiesse or Sculptra injections to fill in dimpling; then Emtone thermal radio frequency or Morpheus8 to tighten skin,” she says.
As for the pros and cons of Qwo, Shamban says, “The nice thing about Qwo is that it is fast and doesn’t hurt, even in people with lower pain thresholds, and it works. The current downside is bruising [which lasts about two weeks], so this isn’t something you can do right before filming or getting in a bikini, but the company is actively researching how to minimize it. We’ve found that compression helps, and we can treat some with a laser, as we do for Botox or filler bruises.”
Shamban mentions two other new FDA-cleared cellulite therapies for buttocks and thighs: Resonic, a device using advanced rapid acoustic waves to break up the fibrous tissue, and Avéli, a hooklike apparatus that requires local anesthesia and severs the connective tissue bands. She has not used either one yet and considers Avéli “too invasive” for her practice.
Beverly Hills dermatologist Simon Ourian, whose overall practice counts clients such as Lady Gaga, Eva Mendes and Megan Fox, turns to acoustic wave treatment for cases with large amounts of cellulite dimpling. “We use trans-acoustic therapy to bombard the area and release a lot of the weaker tissues, so we are left with maybe 10 or 15 dimples that we can better treat,” he says (starts at about $3,000 for legs). Then he likewise uses a mix of subcision, filler, Emsculpt Neo, and radio-frequency devices such as Morpheus8. The newest laser, ultrasound and radio-frequency treatments, he says, “work aggressively to shrink-wrap the skin. If we create enough heat, the ropes in the skin become stronger, collagen sheets become tighter, and they pull the whole skin down to create a firmer elasticity.” Multiple-modality packages at these doctors can run from $5,000 to $18,000 for two or more visits. On its own, a three-session treatment with Qwo is around $3,000 to $4,000, depending on size of area.
But while these tools help tackle cellulite, there is still no single, simple solution. Exclaims Ourian, “We are all looking for that holy grail!”
This story first appeared in the Aug. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.