Finally, Science Has Cured the Non-Disease of CelluliteS

Cellulaze! Cellulaze is a revolution. A revelation. The procedure, which requires only one doctor's visit, has been approved by the FDA for treating cellulite — an actual long-lasting "fix" for the problem. Except, of course, if we're being completely honest, we have to admit: Cellulite isn't actually a problem.

In a piece for the New York Times, Catherine Saint Louis graphically details how Cellulaze works.

In March, Selina [the 53-year-old patient] grimaced as Dr. Barry DiBernardo, a plastic surgeon in Montclair, N.J., injected anesthetic liquid into her thighs, which had been marked with a tick-tack-toe grid: dimples colored red and bulging fat green. After making a few tiny incisions, Dr. DiBernardo passed a side-firing laser with a red-lighted tip under her skin in various directions as five other doctors watched. It made a muffled pop-pop-pop sound, not unlike a rattlesnake, as Selina's fat cells broke. Periodically, as the laser scorched a connective fiber anchoring skin into a dimple, Dr. DiBernardo, a clinical investigator, would exclaim, "Oh, there, that was good, that got a good release."

Pop, pop pop. This "good release" — in which a laser singes connective fiber inside your body — costs anywhere from $2,500 to $12,000.

Here's the thing: We don't like the way cellulite looks, but it is completely natural and happens to 90% of women. Why have we deemed this completely natural occurrence a "problem"? It's not an illness. It can affect a post-pubescent woman no matter her age or weight. It's tough to think of a similar issue men face — balding is the only thing that comes close. Thanks to a steady stream of advertising, movies, TV and magazines, we're inundated with images of women, but between lithe models, Photoshop and swimsuit issues, we don't "see" cellulite in the media unless it's in a "bikini blunders" story, on other people on the beach, or on ourselves. Therefore, we're not used to confronting it. Our eyes register it as ugly, unsightly, a blemish, an ailment, an embarrassment. We think we're abnormal, and the flawless thighs in magazines and on the silver screen are normal. When they're the exception to the rule. In addition, only women deal with this. You see bald men in positions of power. Tabloids don't usually mock bald dudes. Think of moles. Moles are natural; magazine editors do not religiously circle celebrity moles and write snide comments about them. But cellulite, just as natural and common as balding or moles, is treated like a disease. Women search, pray, pay for a "cure."

For decades, our culture was obsessed with shocking "oddities." Sideshows showcased fat women, bearded women, tattooed women, conjoined twins, Little People. We've always loved a spectacle. Now the freak shows are on reality TV and in tabloids: Disastrous relationships, "Octomom," and yes, "Worst Beach Bodies." Leading us to believe that we're flawed, that cellulite is a "problem" in need of a fix.

The Times spoke with Linda Kiesel-Zabludovsky, who had "a lot of bruising" after Cellulaze, but in the end? "I was gleeful I'd done it," she said. Wanda Lamberty also had Cellulaze, and told the paper, "If I had to do it again, I wouldn't get it done." One leg retained a lot of fluid that had to be drained every two weeks for months; the doctor would put a syringe in her thigh to remove the fluid build-up and Lamberty had to take a lot of time off of work. And:

Four months after her Cellulaze treatments, Mrs. Lamberty said, indentations appeared on her leg that looked as if holes had been carved out by a potato peeler.

(It should be noted that Lamberty had her thighs treated free, as part of a test study, and the laser energy used was more than doubled. Beware of trials!)

This morning on Today, a doctor performed a Cellulaze treatment on live television. Hoda Kotb described what he was doing as like cutting the buttons on a mattress. The patient was awake and alert during the procedure — only a local anesthetic is necessary. Cellulite as a spectacle, cellulite "fix" as spectacle. Come one, come all, step right up and see the Amazing Cellulaze!

The question is: Years from now, will we look at our manic obsession with cellulite as a sad waste of time, energy and money — that says way more about the Human Psyche than it does about cellulite — the same way we shake our heads at the freak shows of yore?

Zeroing in on Cellulite [NYT]