May 30, 2023

Womam's hand on her knee, the other on her leg

I always thought I’d look cute with dimples—who doesn’t? Unfortunately, those dimples showed up not on my face, but on my rear end. Lucky me.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m in good company—upwards of 90% of women have cellulite—but I’d be lying if I said my cellulite didn’t bother me at times. It’s only natural to feel embarrassed given the way it’s been demonized throughout the years.

But cellulite isn’t so much a problem as it is a fact of life; it just kind of…shows up on our bodies, not so different from leg hair. And, like that leg hair, you can minimize and manage it if you want to. Or, you can let it do its thing and leave it alone. You do you.

If you are interested in minimizing the appearance of cellulite, allow me to introduce you to VelaShape, a non-invasive body contouring treatment for temporary cellulite reduction and circumferential reduction of the thighs and abdomen.

We spoke to Claire Chang, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at UnionDerm in New York City, and Amit Om, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and member of Apostrophe’s team of doctors, about what exactly VelaShape is, how it works, and how much it costs. Read on for everything you need to know about VelaShape.

What Is VelaShape?

VelaShape is a non-invasive body contouring treatment cleared by the FDA for temporary cellulite reduction and circumferential reduction of the thighs and abdomen. While most cellulite treatments use a single modality to treat the appearance of dimpled skin, VelaShape uses a combination of four modalities: radiofrequency energy, infrared light, gentle suction, and mechanical massage.

According to Chang, the key use of bipolar radiofrequency and infrared light, in tandem with vacuum suction and deep tissue massage, gently heats fat cells and the connecting tissue, which increases blood circulation and stimulates collagen and elastin production to tighten and firm the treated skin.

Tissue is (gently) sucked into the handpiece, bringing the skin closer to the energy source to stretch out fibrous bands under the skin and cause the breakdown of fat cells, explains Om.

Both Chang and Om are quick to note that not everyone may be a candidate for VelaShape. While it’s important to consult with a qualified, trained provider, VelaShape generally works best for people at a healthy body weight, with mild to moderate cellulite. If you notice some dimpling and cottage cheese–esque bunching of the skin when standing, you might be a good candidate.

It’s not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or people with any sort of implanted electronic device (pacemaker, defibrillator, etc.).

Treatments take between 15 and 30 minutes and require zero downtime afterward, making it an advantageous option for those with a busy schedule. That being said, both Om and Chang note that multiple sessions are needed to see results. They suggest between four to six rounds of treatment, scheduled one to two weeks apart, with Om noting that patients likely won’t see results until after at least three sessions. Maintenance treatments are suggested every three to six months.

Benefits of VelaShape

While results aren’t permanent and require maintenance treatments approximately every six months, benefits of VelaShape include:

  • Improved appearance of cellulite: Chang explains that VelaShape helps reduce the appearance of cellulite in the buttocks, thighs, and abdomen, which diet and exercise cannot improve.
  • Reduced thigh circumference: The body contouring component of VelaShape leads to a reduction in thigh circumference, with clinical trials reporting a reduction of up to one entire dress size after completion of the treatment sessions.
  • Smoother, firmer skin surface: VelaShape promotes collagen regeneration, which in turn helps smooth skin tone and texture in treated areas, says Om. This results in smoother, firmer skin.

How to Prepare for VelaShape

The first step to preparing for VelaShape is, of course, consulting with a qualified provider to ensure the treatment is right for you. Once that has been established, there’s fairly little prep work to be done.

Remove any hair from treatment areas at least a week in advance, as it can cause excess pulling by the machine, warns Om. He also says that patients should arrive to their appointments with treatment areas free of any makeup, lotion, or perfumes.

Meanwhile, Chang suggests staying hydrated in the days prior to treatment, and warns against treating any areas with active rashes or wounds.

What to Expect During VelaShape

Treatments last between 15 to 30 minutes per session, depending on the area being treated. Providers apply a thin gel to the skin before using the VelaShape handheld device.

In terms of sensations, both Om and Chang liken it to a deep tissue massage with mild heat. Om says that most patients tolerate it very well—a good number even enjoy the experience. While patients can expect light to medium pressure on the treatment area, no numbing of any sort is needed. Patients generally describe the treatment as painless, with no recovery time.

Potential Side Effects and Aftercare

One of VelaShape’s greatest benefits is that it involves little to no side effects or aftercare. Patients may experience mild pain, redness, or bruising in treated areas, according to Om, though Chang notes that the risk is fairly low. There’s also a small chance of swelling in treated areas.

Aftercare is barely needed, if at all, with patients able to head straight back to work after a midday treatment (for those who have the luxury of a VelaShape lunch break). If there’s any discomfort, Om says that massaging treated areas should do the trick. In rare cases, patients will ice areas if swelling is present, and occasionally take mild pain medications (think over-the-counter Advil) if needed.

Otherwise, aftercare is as simple as scheduling (and attending) follow-up treatments and keeping up with biannnual maintenance.

The Cost

Naturally, both Om and Chang note that the cost of VelaShape varies based on treatment area and clinic. While pricing typically starts at around $850 per area, Om suggests looking into package options, which can result in discounts.

VelaShape vs. CoolSculpt

Both VelaShape and CoolSculpt are non-invasive body contouring treatments that cause little to no downtime. That being said, there are a few major differences between the two that are important to note.

While VelaShape focuses on reduction of circumferential fat and cellulite in the buttocks, abdomen, and thighs, it’s not primarily designed to treat fat. CoolSculpt works to reduce fat cells, specifically in stubborn problems areas like the chin, love handles, bra area, inner and outer thighs, and upper arms.

Another big difference between the two is the technology used. VelaShape uses heat deep within the fat cells and the connecting tissue to allow for regeneration of new collagen and elastin. CoolSculpt uses, you guessed it, a patented cool technology to freeze fat cells (but not the connecting tissue), which the body then excretes naturally.

VelaShape vs. Cellfina

Cellfina and VelaShape both target the appearance of cellulite, but do so in vastly different ways. As we know, VelaShape is non-invasive and non-permanent, and requires three to six treatments to get results with biannual maintenance. Cellfina, meanwhile, is an invasive subcision technique. Using a needle, Cellfina breaks up connective tissue beneath the skin that can cause the lumpy appearance of cellulite. Results can be seen in just a few days and last up to a year.

The Final Takeaway

It’s your classic catch-22: VelaShape is easy, quick, and non-invasive, but it’s also temporary, fairly expensive, and requires constant upkeep. Obviously what this comes down to is personal preference. Cellulite is natural—not to mention incredibly common—and it has no bearing on body weight or health. But if it bothers you and you’d like to do something about it (albeit something less intense than, say, liposuction), research your options, talk to your doctor, and go for it! If not, rock that cellulite—because, at the end of the day, Kim Kardashian has cellulite too, and if it doesn’t stop her, it shouldn’t stop you.