A new cellulite therapy is now available in Canada, but is it worth the hype—and discomfort? We get the scoop.
As the powerful buzzing behind me increases, I squeeze my eyes tight, turn up the volume on the music blaring through my headphones and anxiously stuff a twelfth Starburst into my mouth. On this Saturday morning in January, I’ve found myself in a less-than-flattering position: lying on my stomach with my backside exposed, waiting for dermatologist Dr. Mark Lupin to take a motorized micro-blade to the cellulite on my thighs and butt.
So what is it?
Cellfina is a standardized system that uses subcision (a cutting technique originally endorsed for improving acne scars) to break up the fibres that stitch the skin to the connective tissues. And most exciting for anyone who has religiously slathered on firming creams or dry-brushed their booty into oblivion: It has long-term results.
“There are so many treatments for cellulite that don’t work at all or are temporary,” says Dr. Lupin, listing liposuction, lasers, massage and ointments—all therapies that target fat instead of the fibrous septae, which are the root cause of dimpling. “I was reluctant to offer a procedure for cellulite unless it really worked. Cellfina works and has three-year data to prove it. Nothing else comes close.”
Who's a good candidate for the procedure?
“Women with firm skin and a few dimples do well,” says Dr. Michael Kaminer, one of the inventors of the system. “When I see skin laxity combined with dimples, that’s when I caution my patients about expectations.” The buttocks also perform the best, with the backs of the thighs coming second and outer thighs least responsive. The reason? “The round dimples on the butt tend to have a single fibrous septa that’s the culprit,” says Dr. Kaminer. “Whereas the cellulite dimples on the thighs are more linear, so we believe there are more fibrous septae holding them down.”
Images: Andrea Karr
What happens during the treatment?
When it’s my turn to go under the micro-blade, Dr. Lupin circles my dimples with a marker and I lay down on the table for a nurse to wipe me down with an iodine solution. Dr. Lupin then suctions my flesh and injects each one with multiple needles filled with anesthetic. Once my buttocks are numb, he punctures my skin in each area and uses a slim blade to severe the fibrous septae at a depth of either 6mm or 10mm. He cuts about 40 or 50 bands (for 40 or 50 dimples), and then I spend the next two days lying in my bed at the Fairmont Empress in a diaper (in case of anesthetic leakage, not blood!), all the while bemoaning my tender tush, watching the Food Network and snacking on room service.
How good are the results?
After about four months, I have about a 50 percent improvement in my cellulite, though I could see progress for up to a year as the collagen rebuilds. My butt isn’t perfect, but that isn’t the promise of Cellfina. “If you go in with the expectation of a Barbie-doll smooth bum, that’s not realistic,” says Dr. Lupin. “You want to be the best version of who you are. You want to feel less self-conscious in your gym clothes. It’s all about happiness and satisfaction, [not perfection.]” I may not be perfect, but I now have the confidence to bare my bum in a thong on the beach—and did so in a trip to Mexico in April. It was utterly freeing.
Images: Andrea Karr
What about the Body Love movement? Shouldn’t we all be learning to love our cellulite?
Body positivity is trendy right now with celebrities sharing images of their acne, stretch marks and cellulite (see model Ashley Graham’s recently released swimsuit campaign with photos that haven’t been retouched) on social media. And rightly they should. Cellulite is natural and affects up to 95 percent of women—it isn’t something to be ashamed of.
That said, it’s one thing to champion body love and another to actually feel comfortable in your own skin. We all make little alterations to ourselves to feel more beautiful, whether that means wearing jewellery, choosing a flattering top, colouring our hair or straightening our teeth. I don’t see why treating cellulite should be any different. It’s a personal choice, and one that each woman can make for herself based on her opinions about beauty, her issues (or lack thereof) with her appearance, her financial situation and more. I would never get braces because I like my crooked teeth, but I don’t like my cellulite and I think it’s OK that I chose to change it.
Cellfina by the Numbers:
Length of Procedure: 30 to 60 minutes after numbing
Pain Level: 6/10 during numbing, 2/10 during subcision
Downtime: 2-3 days, plus 3-4 weeks of bruising and minor discomfort
Number of Treatments: Usually 1, but up to 2
Typical Satisfaction Rate: 8/10 (with 10 being the best possible outcome)
How Long It Lasts: At least three years (although four-year data will soon be available)
Cost: $4,000 to $6,000