Does Plastic Surgery Leave Scars? How to Minimize Scarring
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Does Plastic Surgery Always Leave Scars?

You might be someone who’s been very seriously thinking about taking the plunge and getting a surgical procedure like a tummy tuck, liposuction, or a breast augmentation. But there might be one particular thing that’s making you hesitate: the scar.

We totally get it. You’re excited about the amazing potential of this transformative procedure (woo!) but you’re nervous about how very visible scarring could impact how you feel about your transformation.

Anxiety over scarring is real and totally normal, but it’s also very much a part of the surgical procedure in the sense that your surgeon is ready for it. One of their main goals is for your scarring to be as minimal as possible and to heal so well that it will eventually be imperceptible.

Hiding and minimizing scarring is what surgeons do, but there’s a lot that you can and will need to do in order to help this outcome along.

The Extent of Your Scar Depends on Your Cosmetic Surgery Procedure

First off, the type of scar you should expect really depends on the surgical procedure that you are undergoing. For instance, many patients are very anxious about scarring following a facelift or rhinoplasty (or nose job surgery), which is very normal, since the scars are on your face. The scars for these procedures however, are virtually untraceable.

For patients who plan to undergo liposuction or a Brazilian butt lift procedure, it’s important to note that for these surgeries your surgeon only makes very small puncture incisions—something akin to little poke holes, not long lines. These poke holes will usually be strategically placed in areas on the body that are either typically covered by clothing like underwear, or within a curve or crease of the body.

The tummy tuck is a little more involved as a procedure and typically leaves you with a long scar, which can sound intimidating. But again, in expert surgical hands and with the right post-operative wound care program, even the most significant scars will eventually fade and become more difficult to trace.

Things You Can Do To Minimize Scarring After Plastic Surgery

When you have surgery with us, you’ll be supported every step of the way through your recovery process by our legendary perioperative nurse, Lori. She’ll help you with a detailed plan that’s totally customized to you and your surgery. Here is some of the more general wisdom she shared with us about minimizing scarring after surgery.

NO Smoking

This is so important and we can’t stress this enough, and we know that smokers don’t like to hear it, but if you’re a smoker and you want to undergo an extensive surgical procedure you absolutely need to stop smoking.

Smoking will ALWAYS be detrimental to your surgical outcome. Smoking impairs blood flow and incisions need blood flow to heal. We’re pretty serious about this because one puff here and there is the same as full blown smoking: any use of nicotine, a little or a lot, will really impede how your body heals following surgery.

So long story short, if you’re a smoker and are thinking about surgery you must stop smoking at least one month before and one month after your procedure, though the more time you give yourself the better. You’ll need to take care to stay away from second hand smoke as well.

Protein Shakes

For patients who have experienced massive weight loss (more than 50 pounds), we will typically recommend taking 80g protein shakes daily one month before and one month after surgery. We actually conducted a study on this that proved that perioperative protein intake is extremely effective in wound healing for massive weight loss patients.

Post-Operative Wound Care

The post-operative wound care routine is actually quite simple and straightforward. But not to worry! We will send you home with instructions on how to take care of that scar so that it heals perfectly.

All you need to do is wash over the incision(s) with soap and water in the shower and dry well. No fancy soaps, but bodywash is okay. Dove or Ivory is great. However, antibacterial soaps are not recommended as they kill the normal flora that assists in wound healing.

Dr. Lista says “scabs are like footprints in cement” so the patient’s “homework” is to wash their incisions with the goal of washing away the dry blood that is caked on. The more scabs, the worse the scar. No ointments or creams after the shower.

After about 4-6 weeks, you can start silicone strips if your procedure was a body procedure, or silicone gel if you have an incision on the face or armpits. We are an evidence based practice, and there are studies that show silicone being the best to use to breakdown the redness, thickness, and darkness of scars.

Silicone strips applied to a scar after tummy tuck.

The product is worn for 4-6 months or up to a year for the best, most invisible scar. IPL (intense-pulsed light therapy) is something we’re still workshopping for patients who wish to be more aggressive with scar healing, but usually silicone does the trick. No vitamin E necessary! Silicone is really all you need.

Keeping Your Scarring Expectations Realistic

We always tell our patients to keep their expectations realistic and to be ready for the fact that scars can take a long time to heal. In fact, you need to give yourself about a year in order to really get to that point of total imperceptibility. Some scars will heal faster than others of course, but the longer you give yourself the better your result will be.

You need to be ready for the fact that your incision or scar right after surgery can look really overhwelming. The incisions will always look worse before they look better and Dr. Lista often says “plastic surgery is like taking a journey to the Bahamas.” For patients who are super anxious about how they look because they are only a few days or weeks post-surgery, Dr. Lista will say “of course you don’t like the way you look because we’re not in paradise yet, we’re only at the beginning stuck in cold and snowy Canada, and we have a long journey ahead of us but we’ll get there.”

Overall though, eating protein and a healthy diet, being a generally healthy person, maintaining a good wound care routine, and applying silicone as advised will be what ultimately heals that scar perfectly so that one day you won’t even remember where it was.

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