The Truth About Cosmetic Surgery Scars

Scarring is an inevitable part of plastic and cosmetic surgery. Any time there is an incision or injury to the the dermis (the layer of skin below the most superficial layer called the epidermis), scarring will occur. This happens because the body produces collagen cells to heal and close the wound. It can take over a year or more for scars to fade to white or skin tone, and that’s a best case scenario for healthy skin and body with good healing capabilities.

The good news is that highly-skilled board-certified plastic surgeons are trained to place incisions in areas that will camouflage scarring, and close incisions and wounds in ways that will minimize the look of scars. There are a lot of factors that affect scarring, including type of procedure/wound, age, diet, incision/wound care and sun exposure.

With some procedures, scarring will be more obvious – for example, a breast reduction often requires the removal of a significant amount of breast tissue and skin, resulting in a vertical scar from the nipple down, and a horizontal scar in the crease underneath the breast. But other procedures, especially those on the face and head, involve strategically-placed incisions that hide scarring – for example, an upper eyelid blepharoplasty incision is made in the crease of the upper eyelid, and for facelifts incisions are commonly made behind the hairline and are covered by hair. Plastic surgeons can also minimize the look of scarring by eliminating contused, jagged, or unhealthy tissue from the wounds through a process called debridement. Decreasing the tension on the wound by closing the wound in layers also may decrease scarring.

Contrary to belief, older skin actually scars less than younger skin. According to a University of Pennsylvania study, “when we’re younger, we secrete more SDF1 (a signaling molecule that plays a role in scar formation) into the blood stream to form scars, but as we age, we lose this ability, which allows tissue to regenerate.” Additionally, ingesting certain foods, supplements, medications and beverages will affect how well an incision or wound heals. Good blood flow is essential for healing, and these factors affect dilation and constriction of blood vessels and blood thinning/thickening. In our handout, Surgical Strategies for Pre- and Post-Operative Care and Well Being, we suggest patients discontinue ingestion of Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Vitamin E, Fish Oils, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Echinacea, Garlic, Ginko Biloba, herbal teas, anti-depressants, and other herbs, supplements and foods in the weeks prior to surgery. We also suggest they avoid alcohol, tobacco, and excess salt/spice for two weeks pre- and post-surgery. We recommend Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Bromezyme be taken pre- and post-surgery as well. Being in good general health and eating a healthy diet can help foster better healing and less obvious scarring.

Caring for your incision or wound is integral to good healing. Leaving the wound tape or dressing on for as long as needed, avoiding submersion in water for a period of time, and applying topical medication, all as directed by your surgeon, will ensure good healing. As the incision or wound heals, your scar will heal less noticeably if you practice good sun protection. This means avoiding sun exposure while it is in the pink stage (to prevent hyperpigmentation), and wearing sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

So while scarring is inevitable, you and your surgeon can take precautions to minimize and camouflage, allowing you to obtain the look you want without worry. Call (631)385-9377 or click here to book a consultation!