Disclaimer :: Dr. Emily J. Kirby, local plastic surgeon, sponsored and wrote this informative piece on how to deal with scars, something that is part of most moms’ bodies. Motherhood leaves its mark in more ways than one!
How scars might look after surgery is a common concern for my Fort Worth plastic surgery patients, and I always spend time during a consultation going over incisions and scars. For those of you who are considering surgery, or have existing scar concerns, I’d like to share some helpful basics on scars and scar care.
Why Do We Get Scars?
Scars form as your body’s way to quickly heal injured tissue. Scar tissue contains much more collagen than normal skin, so it is different in texture and appearance. After healing is complete, your body begins to remodel scar tissue, and it gradually softens and fades. This entire process takes around one year.
Scars are a fact of life after surgery . . .
By definition surgery involves an incision, which results in a scar. The good news is proper technique and excellent surgical skills can help minimize scarring — and an experienced plastic surgeon will take care to make the shortest incisions possible using scar-minimizing techniques.
. . . but there are ways to help them heal neatly and fade significantly.
Just a few things you can do to help scars heal as inconspicuously as possible after surgery:
Follow your surgeon’s instructions for aftercare. Leave any Steri-Strips or other supportive material your surgeon has placed on the scar for the directed amount of time; they are supporting the healing tissues and will help you to have finer scars in the end.
Never strain incision sites. Be sure not to exercise, lift items or children, or otherwise strain your incision sites as it will cause your scars to stretch and look bad.
Don’t forget SPF. Scar tissue is more sensitive to the sun and can permanently darken if exposed. Keep the area covered with clothing and apply broad-spectrum SPF for one year when your surgeon agrees that you can safely use topical sunscreen.
Adopt a good scar care protocol when it is safe. A combination of massage and an oily cream like Eucerin cream or Bio Oil, beginning about two weeks after surgery, can be helpful in improving scar texture and appearance. Consult with your own doctor before trying any scar treatment, such Mederma, silicone, steroid, or Embrace — your needs may be different.
What Can I Do to Treat an Unsightly Scar?
If it has been only a few months since you had surgery, be patient! It is normal for scars to appear bright pink for months after surgery before beginning to fade. However, even if you do everything right, there is no way to guarantee that a noticeable scar will not form.
Laser skin resurfacing for discolored scars. Laser resurfacing can be an effective option to soften and fade permanently discolored or raised scars. Two or three sessions may be needed for final results.
Filler injections for depressed scars. In some cases, a scar will heal in a sunken fashion — this is called an atrophic scar. Moderate atrophic scars can often be treated with dermal filler injections (i.e., Juvéderm), which can raise tissue to a more normal level for about 12 months.
Treatments for keloid and hypertrophic scars. Keloid scars are characterized by hard, raised bumps at and around the incision site that grow larger than the initial scar and may continue to grow over time. Patients with darker skin tones are more prone to form keloids, although they only occur in a small percentage of patients. Patients of all skin types occasionally form hypertrophic scars, which are similar to keloids but typically less severe once healed.
Depending on their severity and location, hypertrophic and keloid scars can improve with a treatment plan including silicone scar treatments and/or steroid injections — your plastic surgeon can recommend an appropriate treatment. More severe keloid scars may require surgical excision to remove.
Consult with a qualified doctor before trying a scar reduction treatment. It’s important to choose a surgeon who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery to perform your cosmetic procedure. Board certified plastic surgeons have undergone extensive training in all aspects of plastic surgery, including scar placement, and operate only in accredited facilities.
Always work with your doctor or plastic surgeon to ensure that the scar treatments you use are safe and effective. For example, Vitamin E has long been touted as a scar treatment; however, there is no evidence to show that it helps at all — and it can actually irritate scars. Avoid any products or medications your surgeon says will delay or disrupt your healing.
If you would like more information about scar treatment, contact my office, Kirby Plastic Surgery. I will be happy to discuss options during a personal consultation.
Dr. Emily J. Kirby is a plastic surgeon board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery who sees patients at Kirby Plastic Surgery in Fort Worth. A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and Texas A&M University College of Medicine, Dr. Kirby performs cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. To read all the articles by Dr. Kirby, click here.