QWO cellulite feature
Ageless Beauty

QWO: The First FDA-Approved Injectable for Cellulite


It’s like that party guest you didn’t invite who brings the whole vibe down, but you can’t really get rid of it. 

Or can you?

The FDA has approved an injectable that might provide the miracle cure to that dimple-skin look that so many of us despise.

But before we get to what that is, let’s first break down what cellulite is and why it’s been such a thorn in our thigh (or better said, ON our thigh) for so long.

What is cellulite?

Normal skin vs. cellulite - cellulite composition

I’m going to get a bit technical here but bare with me. Cellulite is a change in the contour of the skin. It’s associated with the thickness of the skin and in the fat cells and connective tissue below it. It’s all about how your body is built beneath the surface. Some think it builds up in people who don’t exercise or are overweight, but it has more to do with what’s happening under the skin than anything else.

As women go through puberty, there are changes in the way their fat is organized. Something called septae, which are fibrous bands that attach the skin to the muscle and hold down fat tissue, leading to the “cottage cheese” look in the skin. It’s much more likely in women than men. In fact, according to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, cellulite has been reported in over 90 percent of women after puberty, in all races and ethnicities. It often appears on the buttocks, thighs, lower abdomen, and arms. 

And most of us want it gone.

So how do we get rid of it?

There are all kinds of home remedies that promise results, and odds are you’ve tried one or two. Or more. And odds are the results were less than ideal. There are topical products, a massage is an option, or treatments using radiofrequency, including EmTone and Velashape. There are options, including Cellfina, where a device uses needles in the skin to break up the fibrous bands. That can cause trauma and downtime for the patient.

There’s also Cellulaze®. That’s a laser-based surgical option that uses local anesthesia, and the goal is to cut fibrous bands and stimulate collagen. In general, nothing has swept the market as the miracle we’re looking for. Now, though, there’s QWO, and it’s attracting a lot of buzz in dermatologists’ offices and among people who want the cellulite gone for good. It’s considered groundbreaking because it works to get rid of cellulite at its source. 

What is QWO?

Cellulite injection

Essentially, QWO is the first injectable treatment for cellulite in the buttocks approved by the FDA. It’s made of enzymes that target those structural causes that lead to cellulite under the skin. According to its creators, “when it’s injected into the treatment area, it releases the fibrous septae enzymatically by specifically targeting Types 1 and 3 collagen, which may result in smoothing of the skin and an improved appearance of cellulite” (which essentially means the dimples will disappear).

The backstory on the drug is that it’s actually called Collagenase (under the name XIAFLEX) and has been used for years to treat Dupuytren’s contracture, a condition that affects the hands and bends your fingers inward. So the medicine isn’t new, but this particular use is. The company behind it, Endo Aesthetics, took the medicine, brought it back as QWO, and “conducted the largest clinical trials in the history of cellulite investigation in the United States.” Its efficacy was tested on 843 patients, aged 18 to 78, with different skin types and ethnicities. It got FDA approval and is now becoming available in dermatologists’ offices and medispas. 

What’s the procedure like and what’ll it cost?

This part resembles what we’ve all seen on TV about plastic surgery. You stand, and the doctor will circle all the problem spots that need to be treated. Then, you lie down, and your problem spots get an injection. You can get up to 12 injections on each buttock during each session. The session takes about 15 minutes, and to get the best results, they say you should have a total of three visits, depending on the progress, with the sessions at least three weeks apart. Each visit is quick enough to be comparable to popping in to get Botox during your lunch break. Most docs charge about $700 to $1,000/treatment, for a total of $2,000-$3,000 for most patients.

Does it hurt, and what are the side effects?

Bruise on thigh

Patients say the shots don’t hurt, but you can expect severe bruising afterward. If you’re on board so far, a quick Google search shows images that may have you reconsidering. The bruising is possible because QWO can sometimes break down the tiny blood vessels in the skin or tissue. That doesn’t happen in all cases, but enough to note. And a small percentage of people who experience severe bruising may never heal.

Other side effects include hardness, itching, redness, discoloration, swelling, and warmth in the treatment area. Severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, are possible. Also, since it’s so new, it’s hard to say what the long-term implications are. Also, it’s important to be sure to use a reputable source when having this done to make sure it’s injected at the proper angle and the proper depth.

Does it work?

Well, reviews are mixed on whether it works. 

In the clinical studies, researchers could see visible results in 10 weeks. That was using three treatments, 21 days apart. Women didn’t require any post-treatment downtime, and bruising lessened after each treatment, with most side effects lasting less than three weeks. When you look up reviews online, they run the gamut from flat out “WOULD NOT RECOMMEND” to “MY BUTT HAS NEVER LOOKED BETTER.” You’re likely to find women who say it made a huge difference, and the cellulite has yet to return. But you’ll also find others who make it clear they’re unhappy with their outcomes and would not recommend the procedure to others. One site showed results as split, with 47% saying yes, it works, and 50% saying it doesn’t. 

When it comes down to it, you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the cost and the risks and just how much you want to say “See ya’” to that cellulite!

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