Cellulaze Back and Side of Thighs, Dr. Tina West - Chevy Chase MD

Washington Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews
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*Treatment results may vary

Hi. I'm 40, very athletic, active and fit (work...

Hi. I'm 40, very athletic, active and fit (work out every day). I'm 5'4" and about 110 pounds. I have some minimal yet stubborn cellulite (that seems to get worse each year) around the side of my outer thighs and back of my thighs (and a teenybit on my bum). It's made me feel self-conscious the last few summers, and I want to do something about it.

I consulted with Dr. Tina West and her staff and decided to go ahead with the procedure. I had to get some blood tests done beforehand. They prescribed me an anti-biotic to start using before the surgery. They did not suggest arnica to prevent bruising, although this is not a bad idea (too bad I thought of it just now; surgery is tomorrow.) I am quite nervous (about pain, bruising and being able to work out again asap), but hopeful for good results. I'm posting a few "before" pictures. Will post more later this week - hopefully I'll be up for that!

Day of Procedure, Nov. 19, 2013

This morning was the procedure. To start, they took some "before" pictures and did the markings with the grid. The staff also gave me some instructions and information, and a Valium to relax me as I was nervous. The Valium definitely calmed me, and the staff is super nice and professional. They and Dr. West made me feel very comfortable and safe. The worst part was the numbing process, a whole bunch of tiny incisions with a stinging sensation as they put in the numbing fluid. (My recent HSG exam was worse that that!) So the numbing process was a bit uncomfortable but totally bearable; they gave me squishy stress balls to squeeze during that portion.

Then it was time for the actual procedure. I felt nothing. I was totally numb at this point. I felt a little pressure where they were working, and it actually felt like a little massage.

At the end of the procedure, the drained me, and helped me get into my compression garment, which they stuffed with padding. I am squeamish and made a point not to look at my legs, I don't want to see them right now. I came home feeling pretty relaxed and pain-free, and slept for a good 5 hours - probably due to the Valium. It's now evening, and I am thinking I must still be fairly numb because I feel ok. I've taken four Motrin over the last eight hours, that's it. Possibly I'll be sore tomorrow when the numbness wears off. I am wrapped in lots of padding and a hideous compression garment that I have to wear for one week -- that and the inability to do my workout so far has been the worst part.

I'm so glad the procedure is over. We will see how the recovery goes/progresses. More to come!

Day 1 of recovery

I woke up feeling quite good. So good that I felt like I could workout, but I'll hold off a bit longer. :) No major issues and no real pain. I have posted a few pics of be without the bandages (got to take them off to shower and put on fresh ones), but the lighting was terrible, my apologies.

Anyway, I have had virtually no pain, just a few random "electric-shock"-like shoots of quick pain here and there, which I'm hoping will pass. It did not seem like I had a lot of drainage, btw. Just a little bit of pinkish drainage on the right side, a bit less on the left. Post-shower, I stuffed my compression garment with new, clean padding in case any more comes out. I cleaned the incisions today with hibiclens in the shower, then acquaphor.

My bruising appears to be really minimal thus far. I mean, it looks like I took a nasty fall while pole-vaulting or something, but it's not that bad. I am, however, super-duper LUMPY (I guess from swelling?) I'm checking with the Dr. to see how long it will take for the swelling to go down, and whether I should be icing.

I was supposed to switch today from a size small to an extra-small compression garment today, however, the XS didn't have a side zip and I think pulling it over the backs of my puffy legs would have hurt. So for now I'm still in the size small, with two pairs of compression running tights on top. Will try the x-small later in the week.

Evening, one day after procedure

Hubby came home and took some one-day after photos in better lighting; wanted to share so you can see what I mean about lumps & bruising. The skin is also really tight to the touch and kind of "plasticy" feeling, to be expected while healing from fresh surgery. I did feel well enough to go for a 30 minute walk (but then iced my legs for 30 min afterwards for safe measure and re-applied aquaphor). ,I also bought some jockey-brand thigh shapers and am now wearing them underneath the compression garment, which was starting to feel itchy against my skin since removing the blue padding. Feels so much more comfy now! The drainage seems to have stopped. Progress!

Day 2 - recovery going nicely

Happy Day 2! I do believe the drainage has stopped. There was almost nothing in the gauze pads when I woke up this morning. I felt well enough to take a 20 minute walk (while wearing running compression tights) on the treadmill and do some light weights for my arms, nothing crazy. (And again, I sat on an ice pack for 20 minute afterwards for good measure as I did start to feel a touch sore during the workout). I did see some girls in shorts with welt and bruise-free skin and felt a little envious, but I'm thinking ahead to the positive results and how great it will look when it's all healed.

The doctor's office thinks I'm recovering nicely and normally so far. I'm still bruised but the swelling has gone down a lot. I will resume my daily vitamins, etc tomorrow, and return to work. I am using aquaphor on my incisions 3x day and taking arnica pellets. The doctor said not to use neosporin or any other creams as they may irritate the area.

For compression, I am wearing the jockey size small thigh shapers, a high-tech compression pair of running tights, and the crotchless delight garment the doctor's office gave me, in that order from bottom to top. Under the thigh shapers, I have thin gauze strips with just a little tape to protect the thigh-shaper material from the layer of aquaphor, and to give a little coverage to the still-tender skin.

I have to say, I think my recovery has been fairly smooth because the area that needed treatment was relatively small. I can only imagine that if I had needed to do the front of my legs or my butt, the procedure would have been longer and more uncomfortable, and the healing process would take longer and be a little tougher. As it is now, I have no problems sitting (as long as I'm gentle about it!), using the bathroom, or sleeping in my usual positions. That is making things a lot easier recovery-wise. So be mindful - if you do choose to do different/more body parts, I think the recovery time and process would so reflect.

Eight days later

To pick up where I left off, on day 3 I was able to return to office. I had to wear some tight leggings with my thigh shapers underneath and a long blouse (thank goodness for casual Friday!) I was definitely sore that day and throughout the weekend, although I felt good enough to do some low-impact cardio and other workouts that do not engage my legs.

I had my one week follow up on Monday, Nov. 25. Doc says all is healing normally. The black and blue is still there (but getting better) and I am still quite swollen. It's hard to tell now if there is any real improvement; doc says at 3 months is when I'll see some real results. Thankfully it's winter and I can hide the bruising with pants, leggings and tights.

Day 8- I did sprint and ran today for the first time. I wore the thigh shapers (loving those things, glad I bought three of them!) underneath my workout compression pants. Running felt ok, I am definitely sore still, but at least I was able to properly stretch for the first time since the procedure. I sat on ice packs for 30 minutes later on to negate that swelling that working out tends to cause during the healing process. I still must carefully ease myself into any seated position. The incisions feel tender sometimes but are healing nicely. Will post a few photos shortly.

Pics from days 6 and 7

Two weeks later

I have been traveling the last week and a half for work and the holidays. Flying was not an issue. I am still, however, quite sore, probably because I have resumed almost full intensity workouts. My soreness feels as if I have pulled both hamstring muscles. During a run, I feel stiff and achy but then it goes away with adrenaline. I am running a tad slower due to the soreness. After a run, I feel pain, not discomfort but pain. I have been icing after workouts, which helps. I guess it's too soon to have resumed my intense routines but with the holiday party season upon us, I had to get back to it!

My incisions are almost healed. Most of the bruising is gone. I wear the thight shapers every other day because the compression feels good for the soreness. I am still too swollen and don't see any difference yet. I have definitely had a few moments of wondering if this was worth it: the pain, downtime and expense; if i really needed this procedure (especially after looking at recent photos and thinking, "geez, it wassn't that bad at all!", and hoping that I did not make it worse. I am trying to be positive and patient, and looking ahead to great results, hopefully soon! Happy holidays!

Pics at three week mark

Three weeks out. I have continued with my full workouts but I do get a bit sore as a result. I'm also sore while and after I'm running so I use ice afterwords. I think/hope it is improving, though. I did my first yoga class today since before the procedure, and I was happy to be able to do most of the poses as I did pre-surgery with no "pulling" feeling so I know I am healing.

The funny thing now is that I feel soreness in new areas. Last week, it felt as if I had pulled my hamstring muscles. This week, I feel the soreness more in my outer thighs/abductors. I'm not sure why the sore spots are moving around - may just be my body healing section by section... Generally, I still feel a bit tender, sore and puffy but that is getting better.

Another "funny" thing is that a friend from the gym saw me in my thigh-shapers in the locker room (darn it, I was trying to hide the fact that I'm wearing them :) ) but she actually thought they look comfy and wondered if they work as a foundation for some of the winter knits/sweater dresses under which it's hard to know what kind of underwear to wear to avoid panty lines. I actually think they would work for exactly that, so maybe these thigh-shapers will have use beyond my recovery and compression needs! (I did not tell her I had cellulaze, just mentioned that I like the compression / support for my hamstrings!)

Here are a few pics - the bruising is I think all gone now on the left leg, but my right side (which had one more incision than the left) is still swollen a bit. I am not sure I really see any improvement yet, it may be too soon.

One month later (well, one month and two days)

I still have minimal soreness but it's getting better. The skin is less tingly and less sensitive, and is feeling more normal. I am still discolored on the right leg and a bit on the left. The incision holes are healing but not as quickly as I'd hoped. I've bought more aquaphor and will start using Maderma once they heal a little more.

As for the way things look, I don't see any real improvement yet. I think it's hard to tell with the discoloration. The skin is a little darker on the back of both legs than it was before. The swelling seems to have improved, particularly on the right leg which is taking longer to heal due to having had more incisions. I still see the dimple on the outside of the right thigh, no real improvement there. As for the left leg, there is a whole section of what I think is cellulite right under my left buttock, atop the thigh, that the doctor did not treat. I did ask her to mark it up the day of the procedure, but I recall she said it was not cellulite. I had had one valium at that point so I don't fully recall everything, but I do think it was cellulite and it's a shame it was not treated. Oh well.

Overall, I am just patiently awaiting the three-month mark when I hope to have some magical improvement show up.

Before & After Collage @ 3 weeks

I meant to post this last week. I had hubby try to capture the same lighting and poses as in the photos he took the night before the procedure. Not sure it's exact, but you can get a decent idea of three weeks out in this side-by-side comparison. I'll do another one of these soon, maybe at the 6 week mark.

Jan. 1, 2014 - 6 week update

Well, I don't know if it's the food I've been eating during the holiday seasons, or maybe I am working out too much and not resting enough, but I am quite unhappy right now about my whole appearance. I'm still bruised on the back of both legs. (I am quite a bruiser to begin with, so I am not surprised it's taking forever for this little bit of discoloration to go away).

The worst part of cellulite (on the side of my left upper thigh) was completely untreated and I'm feeling quite devastated about it - it looks even worse now than before. Not sure if that's due to swelling, or because it got moved around as the areas that were treated settle in.

Similarly, maybe it's because some of the treated areas are still healing and "settling" in but my butt, which was always "high & tight" seems to be a bit lower. This could all be simply holiday calories creeping in...but I have never had a problem with weight gain during the holidays, and I have been doing my usual workouts faithfully. We'll see how the healing progresses but it has taken a lot not to cry over this the last few days.

Two months out, not happy

Well, I have good news and bad news. Good news - (1) the dimple on my right thigh is definitely smoothing out. (2) I'm starting to see some improvement on the right leg overall. (3) I don't feel any pain or soreness anymore for the most part.

Bad news - (1) I'm still discolored on the back of my legs. (2) The incision marks are darks and ugly. I'm using ambi and maderma now, trying to fade them. (3) My left leg looks worse than before as one major portion was untreated. After feeling disappointed for quite some time, I emailed the doctor about this a few days ago and I'm going in on Tuesday (the day after tomorrow) for her to take a look. I think it was not treated due to an unfortunate series of miscommunications, but it is where the cellulite was the worst; odd sort of that that area would have been left untreated. (4) My rear end feels "loser" - I'm starting to wonder if cutting all those fibers to remove the cellulite also resulted in my muscles not being as supported. I feel a little "sloppier" and not as tight as I did before muscle-wise. Hoping once the healing "finished" and the fibers re-grow, they will be strong and my rear will be lifted again.

We'll see how things progress.

Two Months Out, corrected -[Ignore my spelling errors/typos (i.e. "loser" - should have been "looser") :)]

Well, I have good news and bad news. Good news - (1) the dimple on my right thigh is definitely smoothing out. (2) I'm starting to see some improvement on the right leg overall. (3) I don't feel any pain or soreness anymore for the most part.

Bad news - (1) I'm still discolored on the back of my legs. (2) The incision marks are darks and ugly. I'm using ambi and maderma now, trying to fade them. (3) My left leg looks worse than before as one major portion was untreated. After feeling disappointed for quite some time, I emailed the doctor about this a few days ago and I'm going in on Tuesday (the day after tomorrow) for her to take a look. I think it was not treated due to an unfortunate series of miscommunications, but it is where the cellulite was the worst; odd sort of that that area would have been left untreated. (4) My rear end feels "looser" - I'm starting to wonder if cutting all those fibers to remove the cellulite also resulted in my muscles not being as supported. I feel a little "sloppier" and not as tight as I did before muscle-wise. Hoping once the healing "finished" and the fibers re-grow, they will be strong and my rear will be lifted again. We’ll see how things progress.

Follow up appointment update, Jan. 23, 2014 (delayed due to snow storm) - 9 weeks

I saw my PS for a follow-up and she was great, right off the bat, about the area I had feared was not treated. She wants me to be happy (as she wants all her patients to be) and this made me feel better. We also went through my before and after pics (she took some on the spot and printed them out so we can compare). So there is some minimal improvement that I could see, after viewing the pics, especially in the right leg. As for the left leg, there is a little bit of smoothing out right under my left butt cheek, which is great and was not there even last week- so I'm still progressing / healing and I have to remind my self of that. The doctor showed me the grid and the photos of the markings and she is positive she treated the area I was concerned about. Just because it didn't get black and blue does not mean it was not treated - different spots can react differently to the treatment. It made me feel better to know this. So in any event, we will keep an eye on my progress and if, in six months, I am not seeing any results on the left leg area that still looks lumpy, she will re-do it.

As for the incisions, the doc was kind enough to give me a few laser pulse "zaps" to help fade the scars. They look like little welts now, like min-mosquito bites, but I think it will get better quickly and will help. Will post more photos soon.

Over all, I feel very relieved, and I left the appointment feeling hopeful that more healing and progress is still to come.

Some photos...

Here are some photos of the incision marks on Jan. 25, 2014 (about two months out) on the day the dr. "zapped" them with a laser to help the healing. They look like bee stings/welts but then flattened back out the next day or so.

Three Months Out - cellulite looks a little better, I think.

I took some photos on Feb. 19, 2014 -- the three-month mark of my Nov. 19, 2013 procedure. Oddly, I'm still discolored slightly (bruised?) underneath both butt cheeks, but it's definitely getting better. I seem to have some "lines" under my butt cheeks - almost like forehead wrinkles - that I'm not sure were there before but I'm not going to worry too much about them yet. It's probably b/c I sit down all day, lol. :) I don't have any pain or numbness issues. The incision marks are still pretty dark but they are slowly improving a little (still using mederma and ambi).

As for cellulite improvement, I'm not sure I see a LOT of improvement, but I do see a little. The dimple on my right leg is *almost* gone; it's not as deep as it was before. My right leg is generally smoother. So some improvement there. My left leg appears to be a little smoother than it was even at the two month mark, but I still have lumpiness on the area that I was not certain had been treated. It may continue to improve, I'm not sure, and frankly, it's getting hard for me to tell whether there is any major improvement.

I think it's too soon to say it was "worth it," but I will do another update in a few months - and I promise it will be with a camera better than my 5-year old iphone. :)

Progress Photos - Two and half months out ; three and half months out.

Here are some photos from early February (about 11 weeks post-op) and again in early March (three and half months post-op). I do see minimal improvement on both legs, but not quite where I want it to be. With the right camera & lighting and the right time of the month (i.e. when I'm not bloated), I think I look smooth and it was worth it (minus the one area on upper left thigh that still has cellulite). In my same bedroom a month later, feeling bloated due to that time of the month, and using my crappy iphone camera with no flash, you can see some cellulate. Not sure if improvement is visible.

Four months later... Some improvement, but not sure it was worth it.

Well, I think how good my butt/legs look on any given day ties somewhat to how bloated I am and what time of month it is. Now that I'm taking regular close-up photos of these body parts -- something I had no reason to do before cellulaze -- I am seeing a direct correlation between my cycle and the days my legs look crappier in photos than others. :)

That aside, I've posted some pictures (with my infamous crappy iphone) from today, just three days shy of the FOUR month mark. You can see there is some smoothness and improvement, but I can't yet articulate a final percentage on it. My husband thinks I look pretty much the same - although he never complained about my body to begin with and always thought I looked fine; I think I'll keep him. :) It's fair to say, right now, I have about 50% less cellulite than before; but having started with minimal cellulite and maybe expecting perfection, I hope you can understand why there is slight - but not major - disappointment.

In person, with my own eyes, I see that the dimple on my right leg is just barely noticeable (it used to be very noticeable) and there is definite overall improvement on my right leg. The left leg is harder to see improvement on, mainly due to that area that appears to have been untreated that is still lumpy. However, I do think there is some improvement and my skin appears smoother overall, especially on the back of my left leg under my butt.

The discoloration, believe it or not, is not 100% gone. I'd say I've got about 2-3% discoloration left. By discoloration, I mean areas on the skin that are browner, more purple, or redder than the rest of the skin around it. It is really taking forever for my skin color to go back to just one color but fortunately I doubt anyone would notice this but me. I am heading to Miami this weekend, and hopefully a little tan with help take care of that!

The incision holes are still pretty dark but getting smaller week by week. Ambi, maderma, and strategic use of sunscreen in Miami this weekend will hopefully even out a bit of that darkness as well. I am a slow healer and easy bruiser, so these issues with discoloration and the incision holes are not a surprise to me.

As for how I feel, fantastic. Thankfully I have no tingling or numbness or floppiness issues at all, just a little in the beginning but now I feel totally normal. No tightness in the skin or weird veins or anything - thank goodness. I ran a half marathon yesterday and it was a personal best for me for a half. I was concerned before that my butt had "lowered" a little post surgery, but I did not do cellulaze there, and I'm not sure any connective tissue from my thighs that may have been supporting my butt were impacted. I just don't know. It seriously could be b/c I'm getting older and gravity is having its way with me. I'll just adjust my workouts and work on bubbling it back up. I am ok with it (i.e. not obsessing over it anymore). But anyway, for those of you dealing with floppiness, tightness, or tingling issues, please have faith that it will go away and that we all heal at our own pace. And please ask your doctors for options if you are frustrated.

So far, was it worth the $4400? Assuming you're not a millionaire** and are just a normal person on a budget (like me), I'm not sure it was for just 50% improvement. At this time, I would recommend that people like me, who are fit and overall healthy with minimal cellulite to start with, skip cellulaze. I say this because when the cellulite is minimal to begin, for $4000 or $5000 - which is a good chunk of money - you want it to be perfect, not just barely half-way better. I think people with more cellulite to begin with are more likely to achieve a reduction that brings them down to having minimal cellulite, and thus will truly see a benefit and "feel" that it was worth it.

**If you are fortunate and blessed to (a) be a millionaire, and (b) have minimal to almost no cellulite, and you want to give this a shot, hell, go for it!

Ok, so here are today's four-month-mark photos.

Happy healing, everyone!

Before & After

Hubby and I spent a weekend in Miami, and I tried to recreate the photo he accidentally took last summer of me in my teeny black bikini where the sunlight captured my cellulite in all its glory. What do you all think? I think overall, there is some noticeable improvement. My 40 year-old sun-worshipped skin is never going to look like it did when I was in my 20s, but my cellulite does better overall and the areas that were treated definitely look smoother. My husband also says he notices a difference, too (and no one checks out my butt more than he does) :) So overall, I'm pleased. Not sure it was worth the expense, but at this point I am happy to see these results. Getting a bit of a tan also helped reduce the appearance of those black marks - I put some heavy duty sunscreen on them so the skin around could get a little color without darkening the spots.

Comparison Pic

Washington Dermatologic Surgeon

Dr. West and her entire staff are very pleasant and professional. I felt like they care about me as a person and a patient. They were very responsive (especially Tracy, she is awesome) to all my many questions and concerns. They even offered to re-touch the spot I feel does not show any results if after some more time passes, I'm still not happy. Dr. West is also is very adept at the procedure. I felt like I was in very good hands, and did not feel at all that she was "too rough" or anything with the laser; the actual laser use seemed to go smoothly, no pun intended. I would recommend Dr. West.

4 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
5 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
4 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
4 out of 5 stars Wait times
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