SPA SERVICES: Topical Cellulite Treatment

In the first of this three-part series on body contouring, we explore how topical treatments can sleeken your clients’ outer lines—and bolster your bottom one.



Cottage cheese tush. Orange peel thighs. Let’s face it: Cellulite is not a pretty topic. And its appearance on the surface of one’s skin can elicit a range of responses, from annoyance to horror, and from self-consciousness to self-disdain. Many women, and some men, will spend thousands of dollars and hours trying to eradicate it.

Cellulite goes by a number of scientific names, among them “adiposis edematosa”, “demopanniculosis deformans”, “status protrusus cutis” and “gynoid lipodystrophy.” Most clients describe it as “that appearance of fat deposits under the skin, giving it a dimpled or lumpy look.” Cellulite usually presents on the buttocks, thighs and lower abdomen, and occasionally on the breasts or upper arms. The condition is caused when fat cells accumulate or enlarge in between the connective cords that attach skin to muscle. The fat cells push up against the skin as the connective tissues pull down toward the muscles, producing the dreaded “mattress effect.” It occurs mainly in females. And it’s almost inevitable. The Mayo Clinic reports that at least eight in 10 women will have some cellulite during their lifetimes.

What triggers cellulite formation is not completely understood. It is more likely to occur with aging, when the skin loses elasticity. Weight gain can result in cellulite. Estrogen, insulin, noradrenalin and thyroid hormones may also contribute to cellulite production. Genetic markers related to metabolism, poor circulation and/or tendencies toward distribution of fat under the surface of the skin all factor into cellulite formation. Unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles may also contribute to the condition.
High-tech equipment and medical procedures to combat cellulite are constantly in development. However, you don’t need a fancy new machine or an on-staff MD to help clients beat the battle of this particular type of bulge. There are dozens of topical treatments available for in-spa services and to stock on your retail shelves.

To get the skinny on exactly how they function, DAYSPA asked some companies that make them to talk about the most effective cellulite-fighting ingredients, both brand-new and tried-and-true, in today’s topical arsenal. Plus, we’ve grilled a couple of spa owners about how they use and promote these sveltifying must-haves. Read on—it’s smooth sailing ahead!

Sleekret Agents
Many ingredients that help reduce the appearance of cellulite originate in plant and sea life. For all its products, Phytomer calls on sea grape extract, a buckwheat family fruit that grows on flowering seaside plants, and helps to rebalance the messages that genes send to fat cells and fibroblasts—those cells found within connective tissue that secrete collagen.

“Fat cells receive too many messages to store fat, and not enough messages to burn it,” says Angela Eriksen-Stanley, Phytomer’s director of education. “This leads to expanded fat cells that create a disorganized subcutaneous layer in which clusters of fat create a dimpled surface on the skin. Left to their own devices, fibroblasts don’t receive enough messages to produce collagen IV, the type of collagen that keeps those fatty clusters organized and structured.” Sea grape might be considered a “message facilitator.”
Other key ingredients: halopteris scoparia, a brown seaweed extract that further stimulates the synthesis of collagen fibers for firm and toned tissue, says Eriksen-Stanley, and palmaria palmate, a red seaweed that boosts blood circulation into cellulite (which is typically oxygen- and nutrient-deprived), and helps to drain excess fluid trapped in adipose tissue. These ingredients are all put to use in Phytomer’s Acti-Gene Contour Cellulite-Reducing Bi-Gel.

Marine algae and guarana, a plant in the maple family, are key ingredients in pronalen firming, a proprietary herbal complex that helps to metabolize fat cells. Myriceline, a flavonol derived from the southern bayberry, reduces lipid storage, discourages new lipid deposits and activates destruction of accumulated fat. These two ingredients join forces in Environ’s Body Profile Gel. Master educator Candace Noonan explains that the gel should be used twice a day at home, as well as during professional treatment. “We can enhance its effectiveness in a spa wrap treatment,” says Noonan. “Heat softens and swells the skin to afford maximum absorption. With both home and in-spa application, these ingredients can improve the look, feel and appearance of the skin.”

Seaweed was one of the earliest discoveries in the fight against cellulite and, as mentioned, it is still used in many of today’s formulations. Now, however, it’s combined with other ingredients to create powerhouse formulas, notes Guinot’s director of education, Elizabeth Murchison. “Seaweed, enzymes, caffeine and vitamin E are still some of the best ingredients, especially when joined together,” she says. Guinot offers its Double Slimming Targeted Treatment for recently formed cellulite, and Silhouette Refining Stubborn Cellulite Gel for the more persistent variety.

Caffeine is another commonly used cellulite buster. “When applied to affected areas, it speeds
the metabolism, helps increase blood flow and facilitates the swift burning of fat in the adjoining areas,” says Flora Vergnolle, owner of Provence Cosmetics, whose Bio-slimming Wrap and Bioslimming home-care products provide clients with a complete anti-cellulite regimen.

The ingredient, according to Vergnolle, also plays a part in the fat-burning process itself. “Cellulite generally accumulates in areas with poor circulation, and the mix of high concentrations of caffeine with active ingredients—such as cedarwood, eucalyptus, rosemary essential oils and horse chestnut extract—help to stimulate micro-circulation, increase drainage of excess fluid and shrink fat cells,” she explains. “Those same ingredients also help soften and break down the cellulite.”

At Pevonia, chemists combine highly micronized green coffee extract with actives such as chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and phenolic acid. “We layer our Cellu-Smooth Green Coffee Wrap Treatment with a fast-absorbing niacin gel and green coffee concentrate serum,” says Pevonia’s corporate educator Melissa Morris. “This works to control fat infiltration, release toxins, and slim and firm target areas.” The company’s take-home products, such as Smooth & Tone Body Svelt Cream and Gel, help to support the fat-burning process between treatments.

Niacin and its derivative, niacinamide, also help dilate blood vessels and push toxins through the connective tissue and into the lymphatic system so they can be flushed out. These are active ingredients in M’lis’ Contour Body Wrap Cream, used in anti-cellulite wrap treatments. “We also use cassia, from the cinnamon family, to create a warming tonic, which assists the process,” says Kimmie Matsunaga, M’lis manager and corporate educator. “And we use cucumber extract, which tightens the skin and binds moisture.” A take-home maintenance lotion with the same formulation, but diluted with extra aloe, is for clients’ daily use.

Definitions Skincare has gone with a proprietary technology called Lipocare for its five cellulite-busting backbar products (four of which are also recommended for retail). The Thermal Lipocyte Melting Mask uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a co-enzyme carrier that energizes cells and drives biological processes such as muscle contractions, muscle re-education, protein synthesis and membrane transport. The mask also employs creatine, a nitrogenous acid and natural substance that stimulates ATP and thereby, muscle toning. According to the company, it also strengthens skin’s protective mechanisms to prevent the accumulation of toxins. “Recommended treatment starts with our Resurfacing Body Polish, applied to dry skin and then removed so the cellulite mask can penetrate more deeply,” says Tag Ceder, president and founder of Definitions. “The thermal effect of the mask helps to tighten skin, and fill in the dimpling.”

Many ingredients that help reduce the appearance of cellulite originate in plant and sea life.

Smooth Selling
There are some key considerations when it comes to promoting an anti-cellulite program at your spa. The first: client expectations. Although many topical products claim to reduce the appearance of cellulite, note that none expressly promise to remove or prevent it, nor should they. New developments and new studies push the possibilities further every day but, at this point, no spa owner should promise something that she can’t guarantee.

Another thing pros are unlikely to deliver? Dramatic visible change after one treatment. “If clients commit for three months, we can help them reshape,” says Tamara Friedman, owner of Tamara Spa & Wellness in Farmington Hills, Michigan, who adds, “After all, you can’t exercise for one day and see results, and the same principle applies here.”

To increase the odds of results, Friedman strongly suggests that clients who sign on for her Anti-Cellulite Niacin Wrap commit to a schedule of weekly or biweekly treatments. To sweeten the deal, she offers a discount on a prepaid series of six, along with a homecare product kit with instructions.

In fact, all manufacturers recommend that clients receive a series of cellulite-busting treatments, along with steady take-home care. “We recommend that spa owners sell treatments in a series, and retail everything except our thermal melting mask for use at home,” says Definitions’ Ceder. “Clients must be instructed to use the cellulite cream every day, and the body polish on alternating days. The more dead skin they can slough, the better the ingredients can penetrate.”

For the client seeking maximum results, some in-spa treatments can be performed every few days. “We recommend six to 12 treatments, three or four days apart,” says Matsunaga of M’lis. “Pros have success promoting this plan for people preparing for events, weddings, reunions and vacations. And always remind clients that the more they use take-home products, the better their results will be.”

Although many topical products claim to reduce the appearance of cellulite, note that none expressly promise to remove or prevent it, nor should they.

Skinny Verbiage

Another consideration is how to word and promote an anti-cellulite program. Some clients want to attack the problem realistically, so using the word “cellulite” will grab their attention and spur them to action. For others, “inch loss” is more palatable. Cellulite wraps promote loss of excess fluids, so language that emphasizes “body contouring” is valid too, and may broaden your services’ and products’ appeal. Still, other pros prefer the word “detox,” as the process of attacking cellulite involves moving toxins through the lymphatic system. So, selling it as such might tap right into your clients’ goals. Surveying a focus group of core guests could help you settle on the most appealing verbiage for your unique clientele.

“We love our ‘Ultimate Shrink Wrap’,” shares Angela Cortright, president and founder of Spa Gregorie’s, with locations in Newport Beach, Rancho Santa Margarita and Del Mar, California. “The name alone allows you to visualize the cellulite melting from sight, and it’s a clever and fun way to help clients envision themselves literally ‘waisting’ away.”

Cortright has also found it helpful to piggyback cellulite services with sunless tanning home care. “Tanning immediately helps eliminate the appearance of cellulite on the surface of the skin,” she explains. Not surprisingly, Spa Gregorie’s sees an uptick in requests for topical contouring treatments as soon as bathing suit season looms on the horizon. “People are getting back into working out, and starting to really focus on improving any imperfections,” Cortright says.

Maudine Moovey, a staff endermologist, adds, “All topical treatments for cellulite are temporary, so clients have to keep the circulation moving by being diligent about getting services. In the beginning this could mean once or twice a week, but we always explain that upkeep of services usually needs to be once a month.”

At Tamara Spa, Friedman takes a whole and holistic approach. “After we perform these treatments, people feel better,” she says. “Their energy level goes up. People who eat a lot of sweets or who smoke or use prescription medications are slowed down by those toxins. We explain fully that these services will help free that waste from their connective tissue.”

To create a realistic plan, Friedman factors in the amount of cellulite each client has, as well as her age, weight and lifestyle. After forming an in-spa and homecare plan, she treats the journey as a partnership. “We give them homework,” she says. “We recommend that guests receive lymphatic drainage massage, watch their intake of carbs and drink lots of water, and that they exercise daily,” she says. “We grill them about what they’ve been doing at home. If they say they’ve been eating cake and ice cream, I tell them not to waste their money on a treatment. We don’t do miracles. But if a person is dedicated, we will see results.”

Andrea Renskoff is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

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