A typical concern many patients have about the post-operative period after their surgery is what they should expect from scarring and how they can reduce the appearance of unwanted scars. While some procedures produce little to no scars, other more invasive procedures, such as the tummy tuck, do leave a large scar. Surgeons will always do their best to place incisions in hidden areas and to cut carefully and discreetly, but there are certain aspects of healing that result from your own unique genetic makeup and how you care for your body after surgery.
Below is a guide on scarring, what patients can expect to see after surgery, and how they can potentially reduce the appearance of their scars over time.
How Does Scarring Happen?
Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after any injury. Scars form when the dermis, or the deep, thick layer of skin is damaged. When deep incisions are made during a plastic surgery procedure, the dermis is split apart. During recovery, the body forms new collagen fibers to mend the damage, resulting in a scar. The new scar tissue will have a different texture and quality than the surrounding tissue.
What Are Factors That Affect Scarring?
A scar’s appearance and its treatment will depend on multiple factors. The depth and size of the wound or cut and the location of the injury matter, as do your age, genes, sex and ethnicity. Those with darker skin tones have a higher chance of developing more prominent scars than those with lighter skin tones. Additionally, younger skin typically heals more quickly than older skin, resulting in less prominent scars. Lastly, your genetics will give you a good idea of how well your scar will heal – people with a family history of poor scar formation may be at increased risk themselves. Keloid scars are an especially problematic type of scar that can run in families.
What are Some Possible Scar Complications?
As mentioned above, usually because of a genetic predisposition, there are complications that can develop from surgical scarring:
– Keloid scars: Most common among patients with darker skin tones, these scars are the result of an overly aggressive healing process. They extend beyond the original injury and over time, they may hamper movement. Treatments include surgery to remove the scar, steroid injections or silicone sheets to flatten the scar. Smaller keloids can be treated using cryotherapy, which is a treatment that involves freezing therapy using liquid nitrogen. You can also prevent keloid formation by using pressure treatment or gel pads with silicone when you are injured.
– Hypertrophic scars: These are raised, red scars that are similar to keloids but do not go beyond the boundary of the injury. Treatments include injections of steroids to reduce inflammation or silicone sheets, which flatten the scar.
What Can I do to Reduce and Care for my Scars?
While the thought of scarring can be scary, there are some simple things you can do to reduce the appearance of your scars. Additionally, there are many inexpensive products you can purchase that will help reduce the appearance of your scars over time:
– Avoid Sun: For at least three weeks after surgery and possibly more, you should avoid direct sunlight on the area of your scar. Sunlight can result in hyper-pigmentation, causing your scar to look more prominent. If you must go out in the sun, wear sunscreen and protective clothing over your scar.
– Hydrate: Your body is made primarily of water and being well hydrated is necessary when you are healing from surgery. Be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water a day and possibly more if you are active in order to ensure your body has the fuel it needs to recover properly.
– Prevent Infection: Good incision care, which includes preventing infection, is one of the best ways to prevent scarring after surgery. Be sure to clean your wound and change your bandages as directed by your surgeon.
– Use Special Creams or Ointments: Special ointments and oils can help fade scars over time. Mederma is a popular over-the-counter cream that works very well for fading scars if used every day. Additionally, CBD oil is known to reduce pain, inflammation and scarring. Ask your surgeon about purchasing CBD oil at Mia Aesthetics to use during your recovery.
– Lasers: Lasers can be used improve the color or contour of a scar. Maximum results often take more than one treatment. While the laser will likely not remove the scar entirely, they can remove the outer layer of skin’s damaged surface and decrease any redness, resulting in an overall smoother and less prominent appearance.
– Injections: You may get steroid injections to treat scars that stick out, such as keloids or hypertrophic scars. Your doctor may use this on its own or with other treatments.