Endermologie: Can You Knead Fat Away?

endormologieEndermologie is a treatment in which a machine rolls, pulls, suctions, and massages parts of the body in the attempt to reduce the appearance of cellulite. There isn't a shred of evidence that these machines have any effect on cellulite, fat, collagen, or skin. The procedure itself would actually be laughable if so many women weren't taking it seriously and spending their hard-earned dollars on treatments. Most shocking is that there are even some physicians who advertise that they offer Endermologie treatments!

What may catch your attention is that these machines are often advertised as being FDA-approved as Class I medical devices for the treatment of cellulite and are therefore safe, effective, and approved by the FDA for that purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth. While Endermologie machines are Class 1 Medical Devices, that is hardly noteworthy. According to the FDA (www.fda.gov) "Class 1 Medical Devices are subject to the least regulatory control … Foreign establishments … are not [even] required to register their product with the FDA…. Examples of Class I devices include elastic bandages, examination gloves, and hand-held surgical instruments." It is shocking to consider that examination gloves are equal in quality control to Endermologie machines. The FDA attributes no efficacy value to Endermologie machines.

Salons and web sites touting Endermologie's amazing results often refer to the existence of thousands of studies demonstrating its effectiveness. But those studies simply don't exist. If anything, the published research proves just the opposite. The authors of an article in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, November 1998, concluded that "Endermologie treatment does not cause fatty tissues to be broken down, mobilized, or excreted . . . Although adipocyte [fat] injury occurs, there is no net decrease in subcutaneous tissue thickness." The only research showing any improvement was published in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (July 1998), stating that "From our observations we conclude that LPG Endermologie system is [a] mildly effective method for fat mobilization and contouring." But this study only observed 22 women, it was not done double-blind or with placebo, and there was no other analysis done on whether or not anything took place under the skin. Further, a rebuttal article challenging this study was published in this same journal in November 1998, concluding that no real improvement took place. And finally, a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (September 1999, pages 1110-1114) concluded that Endermologie treatment is not effective in improving the appearance of cellulite. If other research exists I have yet to be sent any despite requests to companies selling these machines.

Wasting money on seductive beauty treatments that don't actually work seems to be a weakness for lots of women the world over. The false hopes these products and procedures provide are definitely alluring, but there are so many better ways to spend our time and money. Endermologie is simply a sad reminder of our vulnerability around spurious promises of youth and beauty.

Paula Begoun