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Dr. Patrick Treacy discusses "The History of Cellulite"
In America, it is called 'mattress skin', in Australia it is 'cottage cheese skin' and in France it is called 'peau d' orange'. There is no doubt, wherever women gather together the possibility exists that they are talking about cellulite!
For a start, many may be surprised to learn that the term cellulite is not actually a medical term and there is some dispute about the etiology of the condition. Some people claim that French and Italian doctors used the term cellulitis over one hundred years ago to describe a condition of fat deposits located under women's skin, which give a dimpled or peau d'orange appearance. The condition was extremely common and most physicians of the period considered it to be normal and were more interested in the fact that Felix Hoffman had just invented Aspirin. The decades passed, the world went to war twice and conventional medicine was not interested in treating a condition, which did not reflect an underlying illness.
Even in the early seventies, the condition was still largely unheard of. However, all that was about to change in 1973, when New York beauty salon owner Nicole Ronsard wrote her book 'Cellulite, Those Lumps, Bumps and Bulges you couldn't lose before'. In America the game was up….the condition cellulite was now out in the open and the world would never be the same again! Worse still, as more and more women found out that they too had these lumpy deposits all over their bodies, many charlatan doctors and fly by night companies started offering all kinds of dubious cures and preyed them upon their insecurities. One Italian chemist called Gianfranco Merizzi invented a new tablet that contained ginko, soya, fish oil, evening primrose oil, bioflavins, and many of the other normal suspects with a promise that it would cure the dreaded condition. The CEO of the company, Rexall even went on CNBC in March 1999 claiming 90% success rate for their product. Of course, they could not provide any scientific evidence to validate their results when challenged.
Another company, Relax-Cizor, then appeared on the market with a type of new cellulite machine, using iontophoresis paddles and Faraday current to remove the offending dimples. It wasn't long before they ran foul of the FDA who charged them with fraudulent advertising. They forgot to mention that the machine also was responsible for inducing hernias, creating abnormal cardiac rhythms, and inducing miscarriages. The machine was apparently repackaged and later sold in Europe where laws are considered not as stringent. It never ceases to amaze me how these companies can flourish on this side of the big pond and nobody seems to question them whenever they use eighteenth century terminology like Faraday current or iontophoresis to describe a simple thing like electromagnetism or electricity. Imagine trying to sell the latest personal computer to someone using Pascal or Babbage terminology. It is fair to say most people would immediately recognise the spoof!
However, this was not the case with cellulite because nobody had bothered to scientifically evaluate what exactly the problem was. In 1996, Dr. Neil Solomon from the Johns Hopkins University decided to look more closely at the science behind the phenomena of cellulite. In a paper of this period, this doctor concluded that under the microscope cellulite looked no different from ordinary fat. In 1998, some researchers at the Rockefeller Institute examined the situation more closely and they concluded that there was no significant difference between the appearance or function of fatty tissue or the regional blood flow between people who had cellulite and those who did not. They also stated that there was some characteristic within female skin that made them more prone to developing the condition.
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Dr. Patrick Treacy is Medical Director of Ailesbury Clinics Ltd. He is Chairman of the Irish Association of Cosmetic Doctors and Irish Regional Representative of the BACD. He is a Medical Advisor to the UK's largest cosmetic website Consulting Rooms.