I shouldn't have been surprised when I first noticed cellulite dimpling the sides of my thighs—80 to 90 percent of women have it and I'm well aware that it's completely normal (see: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cellulite). But I still thought that with all my marathon training and working out, I'd be the exception to the rule. No dice, as an afternoon of trying on new bathing suits proved earlier this year.
My realization certainly wasn't going to stop me from wearing a bathing suit or running in shorts, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have more of an...awareness around my thighs, especially as summer approached. I wasn't going to do anything about it, though, until I heard about CryoSkin through work (sometimes my job involves researching cellulite, which certainly doesn't help any insecurities).
A similar treatment to CoolSculpting (the fat-freezing procedure you've probably seen on ads...pretty much everywhere), CryoSkin is a noninvasive procedure that uses thermoelectric cooling technology to freeze and kill subcutaneous fat tissue, which is then disposed of naturally through your body's lymphatic system. Plus, targeted cold therapy jump-starts metabolism and circulation in the treated area and boosts your body's collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of cellulite.
"Cryolipolysis, the destruction of fat cells with cold temperature, is what CoolSculpting is based on, and there are numerous studies to show the effectiveness of CoolSculpting for the modest reduction of subcutaneous fat in certain areas," says Anthony M. Rossi M.D., a cosmetic dermatologic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The idea of using CryoSkin for cellulite, though, is a little harder to digest, says Dr. Rossi. "Cellulite is a very complex issue that requires releasing the bands that tether the skin down (which creates the dimples we see) and improving the skin texture and quality," he says. "CoolSculpting, for example, has shown slight improvement in skin quality, but it has not been approved or marketed toward cellulite." And as of now, Dr. Rossi points out, there haven't been any scientific studies done on the CryoSkin device or on whether using a different type of contact to cool the fat cells can decrease cellulite.
And from my own research, I was skeptical. People talk a lot about remedies for cellulite, but the reality is that there's no scientific evidence in favor of any cellulite treatment options. CryoSkin, which is offered at salons, spas, gyms, and cryo studios across the country (practitioners are trained in workshops with a CryoSkin Master Trainer), isn't yet approved by the FDA. But it has received a CE marking in Europe, a certification that's generally considered to be equivalent. (Dr. Rossi has never used CryoSkin himself, but notes that CoolSculpting—which does work differently—has been shown to be quite safe.) So I bit the bullet and booked an appointment.
At Modrn Sanctuary, a luxury spa in New York, I gamely took my pants off and lay facedown on a massage table covered in a Grecian-looking blanket—a typical workday, right? I was a little afraid my practitioner, Ashley Sanchez, would take one look at my skinny legs and laugh me out of the room, but she told me that because I was looking to tighten up my skin rather than lose inches, I was actually a perfect candidate for CryoToning, a 20-minute treatment that uses only cold therapy to cause vasodilation—or widening—in the blood vessels. "This will increase your blood flow, which causes your body to produce more collagen and break down cellulite, and your microcirculation, which improves elasticity and pore size," she explained.
Sanchez used what looked like an ultrasound wand set at -2 degrees Celsius to rub the back and sides of my thighs in upward motions—"to go against gravity," she said. It actually felt great; like getting a light massage with an ice pack (an especially delightful experience on a mind-numbingly hot summer day in Manhattan).
After 10 minutes on each leg, I hopped off the bed and turned my back to the mirror. I squeezed my butt several times in a way that I'm very glad was not captured in any smartphone footage, and it was clear: All the cellulite in the middle and along the sides of my thighs had vanished! There was still some dimpling right under my cheeks, but only when I really squeezed, as if I were clenching at the top of a glute bridge.
For the best results, Sanchez recommended I come back every month or two to keep up the results for the first six months. After that, I could need another two to three maintenance sessions for results that would last up to several years. At $350 per session, that's not exactly cheap.
It's been a few weeks now, and, for the most part, that cellulite is still gone. I have noticed some of my cellulite has reappeared like my technician warned—if I really squeeze (yes, I've been checking, don't @ me). With that price tag, I'm not sure if this is something I would continue doing regularly, but I would definitely splurge for the treatment before an important beach vacation or some other big event that might put my butt or thighs on display. Sure, others may consider it vain of me, but in my eyes, it's no different than a quick facial, spray tan, eyelash extensions—or any of the other beauty treatments women book for an instant pep in their step.
I know that cellulite is just a fact of life for the vast majority of women, but if I can afford a quick fix (even if it's only a short-term one!) that will make me feel better, why not? Just look at how far that mentality took the Botox industry...