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The prevailing cellulite theory? When the upper layer of skin isnt firm enough, fat pushes through and causes the dimpled effect, says New York City dermatologist Bruce Katz, MD. Whats more, poor circulation in the skin may exacerbate the problem. But there is hope for smoother legs: Techniques that stimulate circulation and collagen production produce the best results. Here, whats new.

Topical creams
Various ingredients—including caffeine, retinoids, alpha-lipoic acid, and antioxidant vitamins—claim to firm skin, smooth out bumps, and improve circulation. Products with caffeine and retinoids seem to produce the best results. “Caffeine most likely alters the water content of the skin and helps lessen the bulging effects, but the results are temporary and stop when you stop using the cream,” Dr. Katz explains. Try Zia Natural Skincare Ultimate Body Firming Treatment ($17.95) or Bliss FatGirlSleep ($38).

TriActiv laser
This noninvasive device combines laser energy (to increase circulation) with suction and massage (to stimulate collagen growth). An initial series of 10 to 15 sessions can sig­nificantly reduce the appearance of cellulite, Dr. Katz says. Its not a permanent solution, though, so monthly maintenance treatments are recommended. Each treatment typically costs about $125 to $150; its available at dermatologists offices and day spas.

Thermage CL
Radio-frequency energy heats the dermis and subcutaneous tissue, which, in turn, stimulates new collagen growth and helps improve the elasticity of skin. You should see progressive improvement from a single treatment over six months to a year. It requires no anesthesia; the most typical side effect is temporary redness. Youll pay about $3,000 for the single treatment; its available at medical spas and laser centers.

With SmartLipo, which uses local anesthesia, a laser is inserted into the skin via a small tube to melt fat and thereby eliminate cellulite. This treatment can actually result in a permanent solution, Katz notes, since it not only removes excess fat but also tightens skin by stimulating new collagen growth. One session, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, is needed; it should be performed by a derm or plastic surgeon.