I Got My Butt Massaged for 30 Days. Here’s How it Changed My Body.

This anti-cellulite massage is popular abroad, but does it actually lift things up?

I am one of those people who hates exercising but powers through it anyway. Lots of experts say all you need to develop a good habit is 30 days of doing it. This past January, I succeeded in working out for 30 days straight, which became a new healthy habit. 

While I lost a lot of weight and feel good about that, I didn’t realize how it’d transform my body in less welcome ways. All that weight loss resulted in some looser skin and more dimpling across my hips and thighs. As I googled possible cosmetic procedures for tightening up various parts of my body, a friend who works with models suggested I try something new(ish): the anti-cellulite massage maderotherapy.

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To learn more about the practice, I called up Vesna, a madero practitioner from Serbia. She said the massage therapy is popular in South America and Eastern Europe, and that many women, from stay-at-home moms to supermodels, get this type of body work done regularly. 

The massages and tools are mainly used on the upper thighs, particularly the buttocks, but they can also be used on the calves, the stomach, and the upper arms. Practitioners use a combination of hand massage with wooden rollers, brushes, and spatulas to mold the body. Vesna also had some more mechanical accessories, like vacuum suction machines, which all play a part in creating a more perfect body.

It’s hard to find concrete information about maderotherapy online. Some sites say the practice — which involves a variety of wooden tools to reduce the appearance of cellulite, and shape and sculpt your body — is a centuries-old cosmetic therapy used by ancient Egyptians. Others say it originated 20 or 30 years ago in Colombia or Brazil. A few years later, the practice made its way to the U.S., gaining high-end devotees like Gwyneth Paltrow.

“Doing treatments daily will provide the best results,” Vesna tells me. That seemed like a big commitment — who has the time to go to an extra appointment every single day? But since regular workouts really helped me see a difference in my exercise habits, I figured there was no way to test out the practice by just doing a random session here and there. Besides, a month of massages sounded pretty nice, so I booked 30 sessions of various types. I wanted to see exactly how much my body would change by doing 30 days of maderotherapy in a row.

Some practitioners claim maderotherapy helps you lose weight, eliminate cellulite, and that your body will be “forever changed.” I just wanted to see for myself if what I really needed was someone else pushing my skin and guts around to look more in proportion. Here’s how 30 days of butt massages panned out. 

Day 1:

Katka Lapelosova

I’m lying face-down on a massage table wearing nothing but a bra, panties, and socks. Vesna starts by covering my lower body with a warming gel which will help the tools glide over my butt more easily.

I’m a huge fan of a gentle, soothing rub down, but much to my dismay, there is nothing relaxing about this type of “massage.” It feels more like your body getting tenderized by extra-large meat mallets. Vesna starts off aggressively by rubbing my body with a tool called a “jumper,” which is a big wooden block carved with sharp points. It feels like someone is scratching my skin harder than a typical dry brushing, but she says this is to kickstart my circulation, which is critical for cellulite management. 

Then she whacks and rolls my legs with a curved roller, which has small disks stacked on top of each other. It looks like a child’s toy and feels like a torture device, same with the non-rotating rolling pin which is used to break up the “super hard lymphatic drainage areas,” whatever that means. 

Katka Lapelosova

The tool I definitely don’t like though is the spatula, which is used to push fat and muscles upward on my body after each round of rollers. The idea is to sculpt the muscles and skin upward, so they stay “lifted” and not sag like they would otherwise. But it hurts, especially when she runs the spatulas over my wide-set calves.

“The pain goes away,” she assures me, and it does, but I’m definitely not in a zen mode after the first treatment.

My body is raw and red when she finishes, but Vesna says this is a good thing, my blood circulation is working and that helps with skin elasticity and smoothness. I take her word for it, get changed, and wonder how I’ll manage to get through a whole month of this.

Day 2:

My legs, especially my thighs, feel as sore as they would after intense lunges and squats. I hope this means that my muscles have been “working” since soreness after a workout usually indicates I’m doing the moves right. I feel relief once we start the anti-cellulite massage process again and my muscles get stretched and kneaded.

Vesna breaks out the vacuum therapy machine today. It’s an apparatus that uses suction to redeposit fat tissues and boost lymphatic drainage, which allegedly helps reduce cellulite. It’s a strange sensation, having your skin sucked and pulled around. It doesn’t hurt, but, afterwards, I feel even sorer than when I get the regular massages.

I do notice that my leggings don’t cling to my body as tightly as they used to, and I’m starting to see more muscle definition on my thighs especially. 

Day 5: 

Katka Lapelosova

Today we start the butt lift process. This uses the vacuum therapy machine but with the addition of these huge glass cones that go directly on my butt cheek, to aid in creating a smooth, round Kardashian-esque tush. I was skeptical because I’ve done cupping with small cups pulling up the skin on my back, and I hated the discomfort. As this involved one giant cup per cheek, so I anticipated a harsher experience, but the vacuum pumps and sucks my butt rhythmically. I kind of dig it more than I thought I would.

I end up with two perfectly round, red circles on my butt, but they fade away in less than 30 minutes. My butt also feels incredible — firm and tight like I’ve done 60 squats. I didn’t even know it could ever feel that way. But I guess that’s what happens when you vacuum seal your butt for a half hour.

Day 14:

Katka Lapelosova

I’ve been getting my ass aggressively woman-handled for two weeks now. The soreness and pain has subsided for the most part, I think my body has gotten used to the body work by now. We go through a rotation of hand massage, tool massage, vacuum sucking, and butt lift cupping. 

Some days it’s just one treatment and I’m out the door in 40 minutes, other days it’s all three, and I’m there for nearly two hours. How do celebrities with their massively busy schedules find the time to do this every day? 

Day 20:

I don’t think maderotherapy helps you lose weight, or at least I can’t really prove that it does. I did measure my waistline, thighs, and upper arms in the beginning, and while I’m noticing there is a small difference inch-wise in each area, I don’t know if I can attribute that to the massages or just the continuation of my regular workouts. Without more solid science behind how madero impacts physical activity, I can’t chalk up my weight loss to the introduction of this bodywork too much.

Day 22:

Katka Lapelosova

I’m at the point of familiarity with Vesna where she now knows all of my deepest, darkest secrets. Well, maybe not all of them, but we chat enough that we’re getting into some pretty honest conversations, some of which feel very strange as she rubs skin that is inches away from my vagina. 

“Do you think you’ll ever fall in love again?” she asked me one day.

I sigh, forlornly. “What even is love, really?” I have no idea what I’m saying because I finally feel relaxed, which makes me feel a little loopy.

Kind of like how you pick a favorite side of the bed, I also have favorite madero tools. I’ve been doing this for so long, I feel connected to them. The jumper and the curved roller are where it’s at — the combination of spiky carvings and rolling motions feel great. The spatula, which just puts too much pressure on my sensitive skin areas, can go to hell. 

Day 28: 

Katka Lapelosova

I catch myself looking in the mirror in my underwear more often because I actually like the way I look for the first time in months. I’m finally seeing the sculpt and definition in my muscles from head to toe. I try to time the massages so they happen after I work out, and now I’m at a point where the intense rubbings and wooden tool batterings actually feel soothing against my aching muscles. 

I especially see a difference in my ab area, where it looks like I may be developing a little six pack. I’ve done crunches nearly every day and never got to that level. Maybe all I needed was someone to literally move my body and reshape it?

Day 30:

It feels weird knowing I won’t be getting my butt rolled, sucked, and squeezed anymore. Thirty days later and $570 poorer, I part ways with Vesna. 

It’s been over a week since I finished my month of anti-cellulite massages. I don’t think I’ll continue doing daily treatments, but I would definitely consider a few leading up to a beach vacation. The butt lift machine literally picks up your cheeks and makes your ass look amazing, but it’s only temporary, of course. Since it’s covered most of the year otherwise, I don’t think paying for behind lifts is worth it unless I have a reason to bare it.

In terms of cellulite reduction, I think the combination of dry brushing and oil-slicked skin gives off the illusion that the cellulite has somehow disappeared, but I know it’s still there. It’s good to know maderotherapy can be used like a “fake it til you make it” aesthetic technique, falling somewhere between the healthy skin of the superfit and those changing their bodies via plastic surgery.


Katka Lapelosova
Kat is a born and raised New Yorker exploring the world as she writes, eats, and everything in between. Read more
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