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Plastic Surgery Scars 102: Minimizing Appearance

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Cosmetic Procedures related image Photo: Getty Images

Published a few days ago, Plastic Surgery Scars 101 offered an overview of what scars are all about and how to factor them in if you’re contemplating plastic surgery. This time, you can read about minimizing the appearance of scars.

Dr. Kevin Mayfield, an Ohio plastic surgeon, offers excellent information on his website about how a plastic surgeon and patient can work together to ensure scarring is minimal. One key is in the preparation for surgery. Mayfield discussed pre-op strategies, such as stopping smoking and getting proper nutrition. He also explained the importance of post-op care, including restricting activities that may stress the wound site and caring for incisions properly. During your consultation with a plastic surgeon, you should talk over these steps. It’s up to the doctor to outline them for you, and it’s up to you to commit to following them (Mayfield 1).

Mayfield also discussed plastic surgery techniques for minimizing scarring. These include: planning the incisions carefully, handling tissues very gently, employing multiple layer closures and using tiny stitches (sometimes dissolving sutures). These are approaches you can discuss with your plastic surgeon to help you gain confidence that he or she will do everything possible to limit the impact of scars from your procedure (Mayfield 1).

There are a few more strategies you and/or your surgeon can rely on during post-op healing to help avoid dramatic scars. One important step for you to take together is to immobilize the wound site to prevent scar widening. Ask your plastic surgeon if he or she will use special adhesive closures to support the wound, and be sure you’re ready to limit movement and straining around the site (Mayfield 1).

Another vital step for you is to keep your scar out of the sun—use a Band-Aid or sunscreen. Sunlight can darken scars permanently (U.S. National Library of Medicine 1).

There are still other recommendations your plastic surgeon may have. Some will advise patients to massage the scar for a time. Many advocate the use of creams or oils to keep the skin and scar soft.

Despite your and your surgeon’s best efforts, it’s possible you’ll end up with a scar that’s problematic. You should seek advice if your scar: becomes bigger with time, remains dark in color and does not improve, causes chronic discomfort such as pain and itching or restricts one of your joints from moving properly. If you’re unhappy with the appearance of a scar, seek experienced input from a plastic surgeon or dermatologist (Smith & Nephew 1).

Mayfield, Kevin. Kevin Mayfield Plastic Surgery. Web. May 30, 2011.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH, National Institutes of Health. Scar revision. MedlinePlus. Web. May 30, 2011.

Smith & Nephew. Taking action, What should you do if you have a problem scar? Smith & Nephew Wound Management Site. Web. May 30, 2011.

Reviewed June 7, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I had an emergency c-section with my son. It was a very emotional experience for me because I was overjoyed by his birth but devastated that I had a c/s. I couldn't wait to get rid of the 5" scar across my belly. My OB recommended kelocote to me and my scar is barely visible. The only "unknown", I guess, is how the scar would look if I hadn't treated it with a silicone gel but chances are even if I was a really good healer, my scar wouldn't be as faded as it is now without kelocote. I would recommend this product highly to anyone who has a scar like that.

June 8, 2011 - 11:52am

I'm with you regarding creams and oils, including Vitamin E.

I was just reporting what many doctors still recommend: "Many advocate the use of creams or oils to keep the skin and scar soft."

I would not advise someone to do this, but I don't like to suggest people do not pay attention to what their surgeon recommends. I probably should have just not mentioned the option.

Thanks for your comment.

June 8, 2011 - 8:17am
EmpowHER Guest

You do your readers a disservice by talking about creams and oils as topical products to be used on a scar. The very Medline article you reference states that no topical products, other than silicone gel sheets and silicone ointment, works on a scar. So much money is wasted by patients buying hocus pocus creams that promise but don't deliver. If it isn't silicone, don't waste your money. The Medline article also mentions what several clinical studies have demonstrated-- vitamin E does not help scars, no matter what your mother or grandmother tell you. In fact, it can cause irritation that can make a scar even worse.

Another item to mention is that hypertrophic scars are not "swollen" unless they are inflamed or infected. Hypertrophic scars are reddened and raised, formed by an overabundance of collagen production along the line of the incision or injury. Treatment with silicone products after sutures are removed can help to prevent hypertrophic scars, and the more aggressive keloids, from forming.

June 8, 2011 - 7:31am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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