QWO is the first and only FDA-approved injectable for treating moderate to severe cellulite. Here, three doctors weigh in on the pros, the cons, and everything in between.
It's estimated that anywhere between 80 and 90% of women have cellulite, and yet, so many of us are insecure about it. It doesn't matter what you eat, how much you exercise, or your weight — cellulite is one of those things that doesn't permanently go away, despite what many topical creams and lotions try to sell you.
However, if you are one of 49% of women who is bothered "a great deal" or "a lot" by your dimples, you'll be delighted to know that the first FDA-approved cellulite-treating injectable recently hit the market. Everyone, meet QWO.
Essentially, it's a cellulite-reducing injectable. Kim Nichols, MD, explains that QWO is an enzyme that, in liquid form, breaks down the collagen in the fibrous bands, which are the bands under the skin that pull down on subcutaneous fat and cause cellulite. QWO's enzyme works by targeting the buildup of collagen in those bands.
Bruce Katz, MD, of JUVA Skin and Laser Center, shares that QWO requires three sessions and that each takes about 10 minutes, depending on how many injections are required. Dr. Nichols adds that it ranges between 12 to 24 injection points per treatment and that the number is based on how many dimples the person has.
Currently, QWO is only FDA-approved for the buttocks area. However, both doctors say it can be used off-label to treat cellulite in other areas of the body, such as the thighs and stomach.
QWO is touted as a long-term treatment, but since it's only been around for a short while, we don't know for sure quite yet. Dr. Katz shares that he was part of the clinical trials for QWO and that so far, patients have seen results lasting two and a half years. "While we are in the process of testing it for five years, it seems as though results are long-lasting, though we can't say for sure without the scientific data," he confirms.
The treatment was designed for people with moderate to severe cellulite. Dr. Nichols says that someone with moderate cellulite would have about 10 dimples in the area. However, she stresses the importance of consulting an expert to determine if you have cellulite, skin laxity, or both. "A lot of women have both, but skin laxity is when you have that kind of loose-folding skin on the buttocks or the back of the thigh or the side of the thigh, and if you picked it up, there wouldn't be dimples there," she says, adding that most women of 40 have both. "[Skin laxity] is treated by other things, such as radio frequency, microneedling, or fillers."
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Dr. Nichols, who has done the treatment herself, says that it's relatively painless. Unlike how some fillers require a topical numbing cream before the treatment, she says that QWO uses very small needles and describes the feeling as "low discomfort."
Both Dr. Nichols and Dr. Katz say that bruising is a common side effect. However, Dr. Nichols explains that it's not caused by trauma, as most bruises are, but rather because when the enzymes break down the fibrous bands, the small veins around them get hit and cause bruising. "That gets significantly improved with the subsequent treatments — by treatment three, the bruising is pretty minimal," she furthers.
However, Thomas Su, MD, of ArtLipo Plastic Surgery, says that he recently corrected undesired flat spots on a patient "In her case, the dimple was gone but the area was flattened and sagging — I'm not sure that any injector could have 'controlled' the outcome for a better result," he says. Thankfully, Dr. Su was able to correct it by transferring fat from another place in her body into the flat spots.
As with all other in-office treatments, the price varies depending on geographical location and your doctor. Dr. Nichols shares that in the Northeast, she's seeing prices range between $800 and $1500 per treatment. "Most offices, such as mine, tend to package the three treatments with a discount," she adds.