What Is QWO Cellulite Treatment and How Does it Work?

by Riverchase Dermatology
June 30, 2022

Wondering how to get rid of cellulite? Until recently, there wasn’t a great answer. Losing weight can help, but it doesn’t make cellulite disappear. Tightening creams and certain in-office procedures can improve the appearance of this bumpy, dimpled flesh, but only for a while. But now there’s an FDA-approved injectable therapy that zaps cellulite for years: QWO cellulite treatment.

“It’s notoriously hard to get rid of cellulite,” said Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology. “QWO is exciting because it’s the most permanent option we’ve ever had to treat patients who are struggling with cellulite and want to do something about it.”

Intrigued? Here, Dr. Chimento answers the most common questions patients have about this advance in cellulite treatment.

How does QWO work?

First, it helps to understand what causes cellulite. 

The skin is connected to underlying muscle by a web of fibrous bands called septae. When fat just below the skin bulges through this web, it pushes against the skin. At the same time, pressure on the septae causes them to pull the skin down, resulting in dimpling. When skin loosens and thins with age, cellulite becomes more visible.  

QWO contains enzymes that break down the collagen in these bands. “It treats cellulite by attacking the septae and dissolving it,” Dr. Chimento said. “Destroying the septae releases the bulges and dimples of fat and redistributes the fat cells, gradually smoothing the treated area.” She compares the effect to removing the stitching that creates the textured surface of a mattress.

How long does QWO last?

Treatment results last for up to four years, and perhaps longer. 

“It’s possible that QWO could get rid of cellulite permanently,” Dr. Chimento said. “There just aren’t longer-term studies yet because it’s a relatively new treatment.”

Can QWO be used on thighs?

Currently, QWO is FDA-approved to treat cellulite on the buttocks only, though Dr. Chimento said that many providers are using it off-label on other body parts. 

“I doubt the injections will remain limited to the buttocks,“ she said. “It’s highly likely that the manufacturer is seeking FDA approval to treat other areas where cellulite typically appears, including the thighs and abdomen.”

What happens during QWO cellulite treatment?

The process is simple and fast, lasting 10 minutes or less. Depending on the size of your buttocks, you’ll need anywhere from 12 to 24 injections. While that may sound unpleasant, the needle used is so thin that the treatment causes little pain.

“I’ve tried QWO and I was surprised how comfortable it was,” Dr. Chimento said. “There’s no need to numb the buttocks beforehand.”

There’s also no downtime. After treatment, you can go about your normal life with no restrictions. You’ll repeat the injections two more times, with sessions spaced 21 days apart.

Does QWO have side effects? 

Side effects include warmth, tenderness and bruising in the treated area. It can take a couple of weeks for the bruises to fade, so Dr. Chimento recommends against getting QWO injections immediately before bathing suit season if you wear a suit that doesn’t fully cover your backside. Plus, it’s good to keep the treated area out of sunlight during healing to avoid hyperpigmentation.

To minimize bruising, Dr. Chimento recommends taking arnica pellets two to three days before treatment. For best results, continue taking arnica during the week following your injections, and apply an arnica gel to the injected area as well. Wearing a compression garment such as Spanx may also be helpful.

Who is a good candidate for QWO?

QWO is safe for most people. It’s not recommended for people with a bleeding disorder, autoimmune condition, cancer, infection in the treatment area or an allergy to the enzyme collagenase. If you’re currently pregnant or breastfeeding, hold off on getting QWO injections until you get your doctor’s okay.

How long does it take for QWO to work?

It usually takes about 10 weeks for QWO to work, but you may notice improvement much sooner. 

“Patients with moderate cellulite sometimes see a difference shortly after the first treatment, while those with severe cellulite may notice improved texture after the second treatment,” Dr. Chimento said. “Most of the people I’ve treated have been extremely happy with the results.”

Medically reviewed by Stacy Chimento, MD

Written by Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Nanuet, New York. She has written for Water’s Edge Dermatology, Prevention magazine, jnj.com, BCRF.org, and many other outlets.