By Sacha Obaid
Any cuts or abrasions of the skin can result in scarring. Chances are, you have scars from falling, running into things, or getting hurt as a child. Though a skilled surgeon can minimize the size or intensity of a scar (or camouflage it), they’re sometime unavoidable. However, there are several things you can do (or not do) to minimize your chances of scarring after plastic surgery, no matter the procedure.
What causes scarring in the first place?
- Age: Lucky for children, who are often falling and getting hurt, scars heal much quicker when we’re young. As we age, our skin becomes thinner and less elastic. In addition, sun exposure, smoking, and other factors affect our skin’s ability to heal.
- Race: Different races scar differently. African Americans, for example, form hypertrophic and keloid scars – overgrowths of scar tissue. Those with fair skin see more obvious scars than those with darker skin.
- Genetics: As with many health issues, if your parents scar easily, you likely will too.
- Incisions: The larger and deeper an incision, the longer the healing process and the more opportunity for scarring. This is particularly true if your scar is in a place that sees a lot of movement.
How can I minimize scarring?
Though you’ll likely always have some faint scarring as a result of your procedure, there are certainly several things you can do to minimize the appearance of your scar(s).
- Do not smoke – Smoking increases your risk of scarring and slows the healing process. In fact, it is so risky to smoke around surgery that many surgeons won’t operate on someone who has smoked within the last two weeks.
- Do not drink – Alcohol dehydrates your skin and slows down the healing process.
- Eat a balanced diet – Protein, in particular, helps healing. Be sure to eat adequate protein, including chicken, seafood, pork, and dairy. If you are a vegetarian, there are plenty of soy products that provide protein.
- Drink lots of water – Staying hydrated eases the healing process.
- Stay in shape – Fat can put unnecessary stress on scars.
- Take care of your scar – This includes preventing infection, keeping your scar clean, and not using ointments that aren’t prescribed by your doctor.
- Do not stress your incision – Stress can be caused by lifting, bending, or doing anything that could pull the skin apart.
- Avoid the sun – If you can’t avoid the sun or cover your incision, be sure to apply sunscreen often and generously.
- Talk to your surgeon – There are several things you can discuss prior to surgery that can minimize your chances of scarring, including different types of wound treatments, the placement of the incision, massages, prescription medications if you tend to scar badly, and steroid injections.
While having a plastic surgery procedure does mean putting stress on your body and your skin, scarring isn’t for certain. Follow these tips to minimize your chances of scarring and maximize the chances that you’ll emerge from your procedure beyond satisfied with the results!