Ever since body awareness hit our species, women have been concerned about the demon of cellulite -- a lumpy, localised deposition of fat on certain areas of the body, especially the back of thighs and arms combined with water retention or 'edema' in those areas. Poor circulation, low BMR, hormone imbalance etc have all been implicated in causing cellulite. Once it sets in, its notoriously difficult to get rid of, despite stringent weight-loss measures, massages, steaming, creaming and whatever else you have up your sleeve.
Back in the day, women used rolling pins to try and roll out the pebbly unevenness! Primrose oil was also used to massage affected areas with some claims of success. Liposuction by a plastic surgeon remained the last resort with all its associated risks -- hospitalisation, bruising and sometimes even death due to a complication called fat embolism. Nowadays, thankfully, a few simple non-surgical sessions with a qualified dermatologist can put it right.
'Mesotherapy' is the spell that brings about this magic. It is basically defined as the technique of introducing medicines and active ingredients in the lower layers beneath the skin via tiny multiple injections administered by a special syringe or a 'meso-gun'. The advantage is that the medicines reach their target site directly, overcoming the problem of the skin barrier; which poses a problem for medicines of a large molecule size that cannot be absorbed through the skin. This treatment finds various applications in modern day cosmetology, whether its scalp mesotherapy for hair loss, meso-botox for skin tightening, mesotherapy for skin rejuvenation and pigmentation and so on. Fat mobilisation, however, is one of the most popular meso therapies. Various substances used in lipolytic (fat dissoling) meso are:
Artichoke extract: Derived from the humble vegetable, the active ingredient is called 'cinarin' and affects the metabolism of lipids along with insulin. It also helps in diuresis, ie removing excess water though the kidneys.
Caffeine: It's an alkaloid found in tea, coffee, chocolates etc. It inhibits certain enzymes and thus prevents fat deposition, simultaneously mobilising the existing fat in the adipocytes (fat storage cells) and encourages its metabolism.
L-carnitine: It's a 'fat carrier' that helps fatty acids to be transported across cell membranes to sites of oxidation in the cell where they are burnt for releasing energy.
Melilot and rutin extracts: These not only dissolve fat but also reduce inflammation, have anti-free radical action and activate venous circulation helping to drain the excess water the toxins trapped in the tissues.
These products can be used singly or in combinations decided by the doctor and are injected into the problematic areas via tiny injections (not much pain at all) every 10-15 days. Multiple sessions are required and not just the cellulite but general stubborn fat deposits around thighs, buttocks, abdomen and arms can also be treated. A double chin can dissolve away and even under-eye bags can be treated.
Lipolytic lasers (like lipolite) are also available at some cosmetologists; they are a non-surgical way to dissolve subcutaneous fat. 'Cavitation Lipolysis' is the name given to an ultrasonic technique wherein energy waves are used to bombard and break down fat cells and mobilise the lipids into the blood stream from where they are excreted out via the kidneys.
All these methods sound extremely simple and seem like a God-sent way to get rid of fat, but a word of caution -- a high level of professional expertise is required to execute these techniques and only a handful of dermatologists are well versed in them. To avoid side effects and complications, you must make sure that your doctor is thoroughly experienced in these advanced techniques. Also, these treatments help to get rid of localised, stubborn fat not responding to other therapies and are NOT a substitute for exercise, a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Dr Parul S Kolhe is an MBBS and holds a DDV & DNB in dermatology.