All you ever wanted to know, minus the marketing hype
Summer is here at last, after a very long delay, and the yearly buzz about bum lifting, surgical or non-surgical, can be heard all over the Instagram and the internet.
But how much of this buzz is true and how much is hype? What works and what doesn’t? Are those miraculous before and after pictures fake or real? Shall I do surgery, fillers or radiofrequency?
Our 24-item guide on bum lifts, written by skin tightening and cellulite specialist Georgios Tzenichristos, of the LipoTherapeia clinic in London, is here to help.
C for CAUSE: What causes buttocks to go south and skin to go soft? Lack of exercise, especially of the "gluteus maximus" muscle, excess calories, sitting down for long periods of time and the normal ageing process all result to:
Loss of collagen on your connective tissue and skin, which would normally keep your bum lifted and your skin tight
Fat accumulation and water retention, that weights your buttocks down
Cellulite that makes skin puffy and lumpy
Dieting and liposuction can also leave your bum with excess, saggy skin
G for GLUTEUS: Gluteus maximus is the only muscle in the body that you cannot have too much off: the bigger it is, the nicer the shape of your bum. Use the “one-legged squats”, “donkey kicks” and “pelvic thrusts” we mention below to lift your bum from the inside.
S for SQUATS: Squats with dumbbells are great for building the gluteus maximus muscle, but they can also build up the quads, leading to bulky thighs in some women. So although some squats are good, a lot of squats aren’t.
D for DEADLIFT: Deadlifts with a barbell isolate the butt muscles more than squats, but they are quite a dangerous exercise for the less experienced lifters, so they are not the best choice for most women. I would skip them for one-legged squats, pelvic thrusts and donkey kicks, outlined below.
O for ONE: One-legged squats (or even one-legged leg presses on the machine) place more emphasis on the butt and less on the quads, thereby helping lift your butt, without giving you bulky thighs.
D for DONKEY: "Donkey kicks" are also great to isolate your butt muscles, leading to a natural non-surgical bum lift (but, like all butt exercises, they still do nothing for your skin and cellulite on the bum). Make sure you do donkey kicks with ankle weights - 2-6 lbs are fine for most women.
P for PELVIC: Pelvic thrusts with a barbell are another great way to specifically build your gluteus muscles and thereby lift your bum, without bulking up your thighs
E for hip EXTENSIONS: Hip extensions is another great exercise to isolate the gluteus muscles and you can do it with a strong resistance band or on the hip extension machine at the gym
T for TIGHTENING: While it’s great to build the gluteus muscles to lift the bum from inside, it’s important to also tighten the skin and connective tissue (fascia) underneath it, in order to lift the bum from the outside. The best way to achieve this is with high-power monopolar radiofrequency.
C for CELLULITE: Unfortunately cellulite cannot be helped either with gluteus exercises, filler injections or with butt lift surgery. For cellulite on the butt you need to follow a strict healthy diet and exercise regime and, if possible, have a course of high-power monopolar radiofrequency.
M for MONOPOLAR: High-power monopolar radiofrequency treatment is the only way to tighten up your skin and thereby lift your bottom from the outside. This is because it acts deep and is strong enough to affect the fascia and deeper layers of the skin. Low-power RF is a waste of time. The same applies to bipolar or tripolar radiofrequency, both of which act too superficially. High-power monopolar radiofrequency is also the only treatment to effectively reduce cellulite on the buttocks, so you kill two birds with one stone.
B for BIPOLAR: Bipolar RF is by definition too superficial to act on the deeper connective tissue or even the deep skin layers, so it is a waste of time and money for bum lifting
T for TRIPOLAR: Tripolar RF is basically a variation of bipolar, so it is again to superficial to achieve anything of significance
L for LOW power: You will be surprised to learn that most “bum lift” and “cellulite” machines out there are of such low power (anything below 200 Watts is low power for the buttocks) that they are just about good enough for the thin and delicate tissues of the face. Even those ridiculous £800-a-session ones are 120 Watts: definitely not fit for purpose for the thick and robust tissues of the buttocks.
F for FAKE: The vast majority of “before and after” pictures on Instagram and on the web are fake, especially those used to sell miracles and hype (see below). Take “before and after” photos with a big pinch of salt.
M for MIRACLES: Have you seen those crazy claims on Instagram and on the internet about “bubble butts” without surgery or injections? Let’s just make it clear that it is biologically impossible to add fat or volume to the butt in order to create the “bubble butt” look, without surgical fat transfer or filler injections. So these miracles (like all miracles, for that matter) do not exist.
H for HYPE: Have you seen those ridiculous claims on Instagram and on the web about amazing “transformation” just a few minutes after one session, complete with fake before and after pictures to "prove" them? These are also biologically impossible, as the structure of the body cannot change either in sixty minutes or after just one session. Time (several weeks) as well as repeated stimulation (5-10 weekly sessions) are needed. These claims are the definition of HYPE, so don’t fall for it.
C for CELEBS: What celebs pretend to do on Instagram or PR stunts is not always what they really do to lift their bottom. One day you see them having an “instant” non-surgical bum lift, the next day they have actual BBL surgery. Don’t fall for the hype.
B for BBL: If you want a “bubble butt”, Brazilian butt lift (BBL) surgery is the fastest and most impressive option. It is indeed three times more dangerous than normal lipo or any other cosmetic surgery, but if done by a good doctor it will give you amazing results that will last for about five years. But it is not forever as many people think: fat in your butt will gradually accumulate and, unless you exercise a lot, connective tissue will also weaken and gravity will eventually win.
F for FILLERS: Filler injections can help create a “bubble butt” or “Brazilian butt” look without surgery, but they are temporary (lasting about a maximum of two years) and not nearly as good as BBL surgery. And they do not lift the bum nearly as impressively as high-power monopolar radiofrequency does. Repeated injections are also needed, that raise the cost considerably, but if you want a round bum without exercise or surgery, fillers are the only game in town.
E for EMS: EMS stands for electrical muscle stimulation (or electromagnetic muscle stimulation) which is supposed to build up the gluteus muscles. Unfortunately, EMS is way too ineffective, time-consuming and expensive, compared to one-legged squats, pelvic thrusts or donkey kicks, done at the comfort of your home. Pit 60 minutes of EMS against 20 minutes of gluteus exercises and the exercises will win day for £0 per session, as opposed to hundreds of pounds per session for EMS. Again, don’t fall for the hype.
B for BANANA: Banana rolls are the rolls of fat under the buttocks. Some women hate them and want to remove them with liposuction, but that could lead to a more droopy bottom. The banana rolls play a valuable role in supporting the weight of the buttocks above them. The best way to deal with them is to lift the bum with gluteus exercises and have monopolar radiofrequency treatment both on them and the buttocks.
B for BIG: Big buns? That could be a problem with most non-surgical “bum lifting” treatments around, which are too weak or too superficially-acting to have any effect for larger bottoms. Try having high-power monopolar radiofrequency for best results.
H for HIFU: HIFU is hyped as a skin tightening technology but in reality it is a “scar tissue-ing” technology, with too many complications, risk and pain involved. Skip and replace with high power monopolar radiofrequency which is stronger and much, much safer.
So there you have it: 24 tips on how to achieve that lifted, round bum look with either exercise, non-surgical treatments or surgery, without falling for abundant hype.
Enjoy the British summer while it lasts!
Georgios is the director of LipoTherapeia, the only aesthetic practice in London specialising only in skin tightening and cellulite reduction (www.lipotherapeia.com, 0207 118 2014).