Many plastic surgery patients have similar questions and concerns, regardless of what procedure they’ve chosen. One of the most common is: “will I have scarring?”
The answer to this question is yes. Plastic surgery, like all surgical procedures, creates scars where the incisions are made. However, plastic surgeons are experts at minimizing and hiding scars to reduce their appearance and provide the best aesthetic outcome.
Your surgeon will do his or her part to prevent visible scarring. As a patient, there are also things you can to help ensure that your scars heal well. Let’s take a look at why and how scars form—and how you can minimize them after your procedure.
Plastic Surgery Scars: Exceptionally Discreet
When other surgeons perform a procedure, they’re usually not very concerned about the amount of scarring that will result. Why? Because other types of surgery are mostly medically necessary. It’s more important to treat the medical problem than it is to worry about what the resulting scar will look like.
With plastic surgery, of course, it’s completely different. The whole point is to make the patient look better and feel more confident about themselves. So while scarring does occur after a plastic surgery procedure, surgeons make the incisions very carefully and hide them whenever possible.
In fact, many plastic and reconstructive surgeons offer laser and surgical options for minimizing scars left by other procedures or traumatic injury. A skilled plastic surgeon can often make obvious scars smaller or camouflage them in the body’s natural shadows and creases. To minimize scars, it’s important to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon who knows the best techniques for concealing and camouflaging them.
How and Why Scars Form
To understand how to minimize surgical scarring, you should know how scars form in the first place. When an injury to the skin occurs, such as a scratch, scrape, cut, burn, or incision, the body immediately begins the healing process.
When an injury affects the dermis (the deeper layer of skin), the body produces new collagen fibers to replace the skin over the wound. Since a surgical incision reaches the dermis, these collagen fibers begin to form after surgery.
Because the collagen is produced at a different time from the collagen in the surrounding skin, the fibers may run in different directions and the amount of collagen in the area may be higher. This leads to an irregular appearance of the skin, which we call a scar.
Most scars are flat and become paler over time, however, when the body produces too much collagen a raised scar can form. Depressed or “icepick” scars (typically caused by acne) and scars from stretch marks are not typically caused by surgery.
Tips to Reduce Scarring
Stop Smoking Before (And After!) Surgery
If you are a smoker, then you should quit at least a month before surgery, and preferably as far in advance as possible. Not only does smoking increase surgical complications, but it also negatively affects healing and can make unfavorable scarring more likely to occur.
Follow All Your Surgeon’s Post-Op Instructions
Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions on wound care, including how to keep them clean and covered and what steps to take in order to minimize scarring. Following these instructions carefully will help ensure that your incisions heal well.
Use Topical Products or Silicone Sheets
There are some products you can use to keep the area hydrated and minimize scarring as your incisions heal. Be sure to check with your surgeon before you use any products on your healing incisions. They may be able to recommend a topical product or silicone sheets to help prevent unfavorable scarring as you heal.
Be Diligent About Sun Protection
Sun exposure causes melanin production in the skin, darkening it and causing changes in skin pigmentation like a tan, freckles, or age spots. Although you should always be careful about sun exposure, it’s especially important after surgery.
Your skin will be very sensitive after a plastic surgery procedure and will be more prone to hyperpigmentation (darkening) in the treatment areas. That’s why, if you want to reduce scarring, you’ll need to protect your skin by avoiding sun exposure, using sunblock, and wearing hats and sunglasses as your skin recovers.
Ask About Massage
Though not appropriate in every situation, massage techniques may help minimize scarring in some situations. It’s something you should do only with your surgeon’s permission and guidance, however.
Try Steroid Injections for Complications
Occasionally, some patients develop a large amount of scar tissue that extends past the boundaries of the incisions. These are known as keloid scars, and they are most common in patients with dark skin. Surgical removal may be necessary, but many plastic surgeons use steroid injections and other methods first to treat the problem, as surgery can create more keloid scarring.
Remember: It Takes Time
Scars will start off looking dark and angry but they will generally fade significantly over time—usually in the course of six months to a year. Be patient and remember that others probably can’t see your plastic surgery scars unless you tell them. It’s hard to predict how a scar will look in the end because everyone is different.
Talk With an Expert Plastic Surgeon about Your Scarring Risk
Plastic surgeons know all the best techniques for making sure that you’re the only one who will know about your surgical scars. If you’re worried about scarring after surgery, then it’s a good idea to bring your concerns and questions to a board-certified plastic surgeon. They can go over the procedure you’re thinking about and explain the incision locations, as well as the steps they take to reduce scarring.
If you’re looking for expert advice in Austin, TX, then consider scheduling a consultation with board-certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Edward Buckingham at Buckingham Center. Dr. Buckingham is a renowned facial surgeon offering several minimally-invasive surgical techniques that help to minimize scarring. Call Buckingham Center at 512.401.2500 to make an appointment.