I'm shuffling down the hallway of a posh plastic surgery clinic in white socks and a paper gown, clutching the back slit so I don't inadvertently moon anyone. Stephanie, the doctor's assistant, directs me toward a pedestal in the photography room where I turn to face the wall, relieved I don't have to make eye contact for this next part. She proceeds to give my behind a full-on photo shoot, capturing it from every angle and dimming the lights midway to emphasize each lump and bump.
The only thing getting me through this festival of awkwardness is a glimmer of hope I'm holding onto with the same tight grip that kept my gown closed. At the end of this humbling tunnel lies the possibility that I will be cured of that most pesky of female ailments, cellulite.
Too good to be true?
Toronto Plastic Surgery is one of only four Canadian clinics offering Cellfina, a cellulite-banishing treatment launched in the U.S. about three years ago. With the help of a tiny blade, it slices the bands that pull down on skin and create the divots known as cellulite. It requires a single hour-long procedure, involves zero downtime and smoothes dimples for at least three years.
"That's how long the FDA trials ran, but my particular feeling is it that it should be a pretty permanent result," says Dr. Mitchell Brown, a plastic surgeon and the clinic's co-founder.
He first heard of Cellfina a few years ago and immediately reached out to its makers to bring it up north. For years, his patients had asked if there was anything he could do to iron out the dents that made them self-conscious at the beach or sometimes peeked through their skinny jeans.
"Everything else previously didn't work well," he says. "This works."
Unfortunately, it doesn't work for all women. Cellfina treats only a very specific kind of cellulite, namely localized dips, like those of a golf ball, rather than what is charmingly called "a generalized cottage cheese appearance." Because of this, almost 60 per cent of patients who come in wanting the treatment get turned down.
As Stephanie shows me photos of my bum in a hot pink thong (should have thought my underwear choice through), she announces that I am unfortunately of the untreatable cottage cheese variety. My hopes are as crumpled as the skin on my thighs.
At the end of this humbling tunnel lies the possibility that I will be cured of that most pesky of female ailments, cellulite.
Who does it actually work on?
Ann Spenceley*, on the other hand, was one of the lucky few to get the green light. She flipped through a Cellfina pamphlet one day while waiting to get another procedure in Brown's office and was instantly intrigued. Following a consultation shortly after, she decided to take the $4,500 plunge toward smoothness.
"I'm 54 years old and have probably had cellulite for 40 years, just like my mom," Spenceley says. "I work out avidly five days a week. You know when they say in Pilates 'What area do you want to work?' I'm always the one who says 'glutes!' I eat extremely well. I've had the same body weight most of my life, and I've never found anything made a difference. It was still always there and always embarrassing in a swimsuit."
The morning after the procedure, Spenceley gingerly rolled down the compression shorts she was instructed to wear overnight and was amazed to find the dimples already seemed lifted. Her bum was bruised for about two weeks and she had some trouble driving, likening the pain to "a very bad sunburn," but says she'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.
"All those years tugging my swimsuit bottoms down to hide the cellulite...I don't think I'll be doing that this summer," she says. "I wish I could have done this earlier."
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What about the rest of us?
The figures vary, but most studies estimate between 89 and 98 per cent of women will have cellulite at some point in their life, a fact attributable to the way fat attaches to our muscles, says Brown. So what can my cottage cheese sisters and I do about it?
"Other solutions that I believe as a clinician are worth the money and are likely to work? None," declares the doctor. "It's like asking for a solution for stretch marks. We haven't figured that out yet."
Perhaps sensing my despair, he offers up some reassurance. "Genetics and the way we're made are what make us unique. We've figured out so far how to change certain things and not others. Five years ago, Cellfina didn't exist, so we have to hope that five years from now, someone will come up with a good idea that will treat other types of cellulite."
Until then, every time I feel that urge to tug on my bikini, I'll try to remember I'm far from alone in this predicament. And since there's nothing to be done, there really is no use obsessing about it. Here's to enjoying the summer, dimples and all.
*Name has been changed