Thigh Anxiety

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Aah, summer. Breezy skirts, comfy shorts and, yes, the time of year when we publicly peel off our layers of clothing and are forced to come to terms with our cellulite. Cellulite is the bane of virtually every female, no matter her age or weight. It makes women’s thighs look like orange peels and turns their hips into dimpled disasters. It’s basically lumpy fat that presses up against connective tissue, creating a dimpling effect. An estimated 90 percent of women — more than 45 million — will have cellulite at some time in their lives, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

We all know that exercising and eating less will go a long way toward getting rid of the stuff, but is there anything that requires less, well, work?

Enter the spa and beauty business and a wide range of anti-cellulite treatments. American women spend about $500 million a year on these treatments — scrubbing, massaging, lasering and slapping on lotion. All these treatments may help ease women’s anxiety, but do any of them work?

Here, a dozen burning questions and answers about cellulite and how to treat it.

Do I blame toxins or my mother for my cellulite?

For decades, toxic buildup has been blamed, but the culprit is mostly genetics and hormones. Sorry.

If I’m thin, why do I still have it?

“Some of the thinnest people in world have the pebbly thighs,” says Dr. Emily McLaughlin, a Fort Worth plastic surgeon. “The problem with cellulite is there is nothing good historically to treat it because the fat is very close to the surface. If we could fix cellulite, it would be a home run.”

What about lotions like Bliss’ Fat Girl Slim or its Cellulite Fighting Serum? What’s in them and does that help?

No controlled studies have been done to show the effectiveness of the ingredients in these creams, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Aminophylline, a prescription asthma medication used in some thigh creams, has raised the FDA’s concerns. Women with asthma should avoid this product, the FDA says. If you use the products on a daily basis, you may see some smoothing of the skin, but results are subtle and short-lived.

I’ve also seen shoes that specifically promise to help fight cellulite. What about those? Any hope there?

It’s called the Masai Barefoot Technology or MBT shoe, and the sole is designed to improve posture and stride. The makers say it increases muscle strength and circulation, which then reduces cellulite. The shoe, which looks like a chunky (ugly) athletic shoe, costs about $250. Jennifer Campbell, an exercise physiologist at Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, started wearing the shoes to relieve low back pain during her pregnancy. “I wear them every day and I haven’t noticed a huge change in cellulite,” she said. If the shoes lead you to work out, which in turn leads to more lean tissue and less body fat, then maybe you might reduce cellulite. But simple day-to-day wear alone is not going to do it.

OK, so let’s talk about spa treatments. I heard that pop singer Britney Spears had a laser toning treatment to get her legs and thighs stage-ready. What is laser, and does it work?

The new laser treatments show promise but they’re still too new to know if the results are long-lasting, says Dr. Angela Moore, an Arlington dermatologist. So far what’s available can improve the appearance of cellulite but cannot make it go away permanently, she says. Laser toning, which zaps fat with light energy, is among the hottest treatments.

The new Tri-Active system combines a low-energy laser with a cooling system to reduce inflammation and a suctioning massage to break up toxins, said Jeff Robinson, owner of the Perfect Touch Spa in Fort Worth.