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The Cellulite Treatment of the Stars:
November 12, 2008
Recently, the popular TV station, VH1, aired an episode of their show “The Fabulous Life Of…” which featured some of the newest cellulite treatments of the stars. One of these hot treatments is known as VelaShape, a revolutionary new way to reduce cellulite by employing elōs™ technology—a combination of Bi-Polar Radiofrequency (RF), Infrared Light Energy, plus Vacuum and Mechanical Massage (http://www.velashape.com/how-velashape-works). VelaShape has been sweeping Hollywood, getting segments on shows such as Keeping up with Kim Karadashian, Dr. Phil and Rachel Ray. But, with all this publicity, what consumer America wants to know is: is this finally the cellulite miracle-fix everyone has been waiting for?
Before we can cover how to treat cellulite one needs to know what is cellulite?
Cellulite is a plague to women of all ages and sizes. It is reported to affect 80% of women over the age of 20
(http://www.syneron.com/Solutions/Physicians/Applications/Cellulite_Reduction.html). It’s often described as an ‘orange peel,’ ‘cottage cheese,’ or ‘dimpling’ appearance on the thighs, buttocks and sometimes lower abdomen and triceps of otherwise healthy women. Although some men may get it, 90-98% of cellulite cases occur in women (http://www.drlenkravitz.com/Articles/cellulite.html).
To understand how this dimpling appears it is important to have a quick anatomy lesson.
The outermost layer of skin is referred to as the epidermis. Immediately under this is the dermis, which is richly filled with hair follicles, sweat glands, blood vessels, nerve receptors and connective tissue. Beneath the dermis is the first of three layers of subcutaneous (which means beneath the skin) fat. This layer is where the cellulite’s origin is thought to be. The uppermost layer of fat, composed of “standing fat-cell chambers”, is separated by connective tissue called septae. As these fat-cell chambers grow, they squeeze between the septae towards the dermis. This unevenness and irregularity of the subcutaneous fat gives the “cottage cheese” appearance we call cellulite.
The reason cellulite is rarely seen in men (obese and non-obese) is because the epidermis, dermis and uppermost part of the subcutaneous tissue are different in males. Men have thicker epidermis and dermis tissue layers in the thighs and buttocks. More distinctively dissimilar, the first layer of fat, which is slightly thinner in men, is assembled into polygonal units separated by crisscrossing connective tissue. Whereas women have connective tissue that runs parallel to the skin and allows growing fat cells to squeeze between, thus creating uneven areas on the skin
Now that we have a better understand of cellulite it’s time to see how VelaShape affects it…
VelaShape is a non-invasive treatment based on elōs™ (electro optical synergy) technology. Elōs™ works by combining Bi-Polar Radiofrequency (RF), Infrared Light Energy, plus Vacuum and Mechanical Massage to deploy targeted heat to adipose tissue (i.e. fat). “The combination of these energies increases the metabolism of stored energy, increases lymphatic drainage and reduces or shrinks the size of the actual fat cells and fat chambers. The net result is gradual smoothening of skin's surface with a noticeable reduction in cellulite” (velashape.com/cellulite-treatment).
The VelaShape website states that the treatments are safe, effective, virtually painless and have no downtime (people can resume daily activities immediately).
Click this link to watch a video of elos in action: http://www.syneron.com/assets/media/elos-in-action2.php
Is there evidence to support VelaShape’s claims?
The website provides testimonials (stated below) from patients who’ve received the treatment, as well as physicians who’ve preformed it.
Here are two examples, one from a patient and one from a physician:
"The VelaShape treatment feels like a massage. It's not bad at all. The thigh area feels tighter and toned."
-Diane, Michigan, USA
“In a study conducted in our center looking at the VelaShape™ for body contouring and cellulite reduction, subjects saw visibly noticeable reduction in the circumference of the treated areas as well as improvement in skin tone, texture and tightness. What was most impressive and exciting for patients was that results were seen in 4 or fewer treatments. The majority of patients saw results after just the first two treatments."
-Tess Mauricio, M.D., California, USA
The website also offers photographs of patients who used Velashape:
What does the scientific research say?
Since Elōs™ was invented in 2000 (http://www.syneron.com/Solutions/elos_Technology/Technology_TimelineHistory.html) there have been relatively few studies done to determine the true efficacy of the technology. Until 2004, most of the observations were considered preliminary research rather than published studies.
In the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, an article was published about a prospective, two-site, study of 35 women, aged 23-62, undergoing the effects of Elōs™ technology on cellulite. The women were divided into two groups: the first group (20 patients) received VelaShape treatments twice weekly for 4 weeks and the second group (15 patients) received treatments twice weekly for 8 weeks. The patients also came in for a follow up visit 3-4 weeks after their last treatment. The women were instructed to maintain normal lifestyle, diet and fluid consumption. To measure effectiveness, the circumference of the right and left medial thighs was measured at both the baseline and at the follow up visit. During the follow up visit, the physician also graded the level of improvement in skin smoothing and/or cellulite improvement using pre and post treatment photographs.
The results of this study showed that all patients experience a reduction in thigh circumference after 8 weeks of treatment and 70% experienced a reduction after only 4 weeks. The mean decrease in circumference was 0.8 inches, where some patients experienced reduction of over 2 inches.
Pre- and post-study digital photographs were analyzed by a blinded dermatologist who applied a standard cellulite grading score to the photographs. Results showed that 100% of patients had some level of improvement in skin smoothing and cellulite appearance, including 23% showed ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, 35% showed ‘good’ improvement. Over 90% of the patients reported that they would recommend the treatment to their friends. (Sadick, N. S., & Muhholland, R. S. (2004)
Although the study offered a comprehensive review of Elōs™, there seemed to be a few components of the study to be improved upon. Ideally, the two study groups would be of the same size, rather than 20 patients vs. 15 patients. Additionally, the study said it was a “two-site” study, meaning that the treatments were performed at two separate clinics. The study did not mention if one group was done at one site and the second at a different site. Because the sites were different it is possible that two separate physicians performed the treatments differently and this offers a confounding variable. Lastly, the follow up visit was only 3-4 weeks after the last treatment. For a prospective study it seems that the study should have included additional, more distant, visits to conclude the lasting effects of the treatment.
While preliminary research is lending itself to show that VelaShape and Elōs™ are proving true efficacy, consumer America should remember that this technology is still relatively new. Until further research is done to show the long term effects it might be advisable to hold off on the high price of VelaShape (which can cost as much as $1,200/session). Future studies to wait for are ones that follow a protocol of using same sized study groups, use consistent Elōs™ techniques on all subjects, and, if a prospective study, include a timeline that allows for lasting results to be monitored (i.e. 3 months- 1 year or more). Until such a time comes along, it’s safe to refrain from calling VelaShape cellulite’s miracle cure.
Kravitz, L. ( Jan. 12, 2008). Cellulite: Everything You Wanted to Know and More. Oct. 8, 2008, from (http://www.drlenkravitz.com/Articles/cellulite.html)
Sadick, N. S., & Muhholland, R. S. (2004). A prospective clinical study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of cellulite treatment using the combination of optical and RF energies for subcutaneous tissue heating. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, December 2004, 187-190.
Syneron™ (2008). Syneron. Oct. 9, 2008, from (http://syneron.com/Privacy_Policy.html)
VelaShape™ (2008). VelaShape. Oct. 8, 2008, from (http://www.velashape.com.html)
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*I realize I only used a limited number of sources but because of the nature of my topic, the only types of websites I needed were that of the product, the maker of the product, a resource about cellulite, and the study I evaluated.