Most women are aware of cellulite - they’re familiar with the cottage cheese bumpiness that appears on the backs of people’s hips, thighs, and behind. It’s unsightly, and no one appreciates it, but what is it exactly, why do people get it, and what can you do about it?
Cellulite is nothing to worry about medically. It’s normal fat that exists below the skin. The reason the skin looks dimpled or puckered is because the fat pushes against the connective tissue below it. Women tend to have more noticeable cellulite than men. This is because the distribution of fat, muscle, and that connective tissue differs in men and women. People with very thin skin also tend to have more cellulite. Menopause tends to thin out women’s skin as well.
Why do people get cellulite? There are many factors. First of all, genetics play a part. If the other women in your family have cellulite, it’s more likely that you will as well. If you have more fat on your body, you’ll be more likely to have cellulite, and cellulite is more obvious on lighter-skinned people - although people of all races around the world experience cellulite. Other risk factors include a poor diet, yo-yo dieting, a slow metabolism, a sedentary lifestyle, and dehydration.
As with other obvious signs of the aging process, the appearance of cellulite is worsened by smoking, tanning, and gaining and losing weight as with pregnancy. All of those affect the elasticity of the skin and will make you look older sooner.
People try many things to get rid of cellulite, but most of them have not been shown to be effective. Skin creams and dietary supplements can do nothing to remove subcutaneous fat, and they can’t restore the connective tissue below the skin either. Liposuction works very well to get rid of deeper fat and remove problem bulges, but many surgeons warn that it may make cellulite actually seem more prominent.
Previously we’ve discussed some common misperceptions about liposuction, particularly the ideas that liposuction is a form of weight loss or that it will eliminate having to maintain a healthy weight after the procedure is done. It is important to note that the results of a liposuction procedure are typically long term when patients follow the proper guidelines and do not gain significant weight later on.
There are other common myths about liposuction as well, so here we’ll talk specifically about what liposuction involves. A number of different body sculpting procedures exist, but the one that actually demonstrates results, true liposuction, involves the creation of small incisions and the insertion of a cannula for targeted fat removal. The incisions a surgeon makes are small and strategically placed so that any visible scarring will be minimal. A cannula is a hollow rod attached to a tube that is used to suck the targeted fat from a patient’s body.
Because the incisions made are small and no muscles are cut or tightened, the recovery time for this procedure is shorter compared to other body contouring surgeries like tummy tucks. Don't let the small incisions lead to thinking results are minimal, as up to 5L of fat can be safely removed per session. After swelling resolves, the patient will notice a smoother silhouette and find that her clothes fit better and drape or hang more attractively. Liposuction is an excellent option for people who have noticed stubborn pockets of fat in their otherwise trim bodies. It’s the best way to target and eliminate problem areas in a minimally invasive way.
What kind of fat will your surgeon remove? Liposuction gets rid of subcutaneous fat, not visceral. Visceral fat is the fat that is located in your mid-section on the inside of your abdominal wall. It surrounds your internal organs and is the type of fat linked to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. A patient with a significant amount of visceral fat will be noticeably thicker (think beer or potbelly) through the abdomen than the rest of his body. Men have more visceral fat than women.
In comparison, subcutaneous fat is what is found in love handles, in thighs, and in the rolls around your lower abdomen. It’s what you see jiggling underneath your arms and what may remain after you’ve conquered the bathroom scale.
One of the common impressions people have about liposuction is that it is a magic answer to being overweight. People often think that losing weight can be accomplished simply and easily via surgery, either bariatric or liposuction. But for people who are truly overweight or obese, liposuction is not the answer, and it’s important to understand why.
While both men and women have common trouble spots for weight gain, when a person puts on a great deal of weight, it won't all be in one spot. He or she will be heavier in the face, the arms, the legs, the abdomen - over the entire body. So to take weight off evenly for a completely slim and graceful appearance, regular dieting or exercise must be done. Bariatric surgery, as a form of enforced dieting, will also accomplish this.
Liposuction is not a weight loss program. Liposuction is a solution for removing fat from targeted areas after general weight loss has been accomplished or when diet and exercise alone fail to create the body silhouette the patient is looking to have. The ideal candidate for liposuction is a patient who is young, has some stubborn fat deposits, and whose skin is still elastic.
The last point - about skin quality - is important because liposuction will not do anything about stretched out skin caused from pregnancy or weight gain. Liposuction is the removal of fat deposits, not loose skin. With a large enough weight gain, skin will stretch beyond its ability to return to its original condition. In these cases, there is an additional need for a tummy tuck or other targeted surgical removal of loose skin.
Timing is important for any surgery as well. Liposuction shouldn’t be done right after you have a baby, even if you’re sure your pregnancy days are over because your body hasn’t returned to its normal state, and, until that happens, you will not know where you need to focus your attention, whether through diet, exercise, or surgery.
We are all familiar with weight loss in America - both the successes and the failures. Unfortunately for many people, even the most disciplined, diet and exercise will not get rid of the last layer of stubborn fat that remains. To accomplish that they will need surgery; however, patients who are considering liposuction as a way to fix their figure problems want to know that the procedure will have long-term positive effects.
Liposuction is the surgical and permanent removal of fat cells. Your plastic surgeon will make a small incision in the area or areas you’ve chosen to target for body sculpting, insert a thin tube called a cannula, and then vacuum out the fat cells through a flexible pipe. After liposuction, those fat cells are gone and will not return. This means that any weight gain after the surgery will occur much less in those areas, as there are fewer fat cells remaining there to expand with new fat. It doesn’t mean that weight gain anywhere is off the table. To maintain your improved figure, diet and exercise will continue to be important parts of your lifestyle.
At Bancroft Feldman we advise our Houston area patients to have realistic expectations of their liposuction procedure. Those fat cells are gone and will not grow back, but if a patient goes on to gains a significant amount of weight after their procedure, new fat cells can form, and new figure problems will emerge.
Many people who are not satisfied with the appearance of their abdominal area wonder about the options they have for improving or revitalizing their bodies. Here we will explore the differences between some of the more common plastic surgery procedures: liposuction and the abdominoplasty or, as it’s more colloquially known, the “tummy tuck.”
But, first, what do these procedures have in common? They are both used to remove abdominal fat and return the body to a more youthful looking state. Often as people age and experience life events like childbirth, their bodies change as well, and the abdominal area often takes the brunt. While many of our patients are active people who exercise regularly and moderate their eating patterns, some types of wear and tear can’t really be erased with simple diet and exercise modification. And while once clothing may have covered up many smaller figure issues, the fashions of today are more designed to showcase rather than hide.
The plastic surgeons at Bancroft Feldman are adept at turning back the clock in cases like these. Let’s break down the options.