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What to Expect with Scars from Plastic Surgery Procedures

Plastic surgery procedures can leave some patients with scarring, depending on the area of the procedure, the individual’s skin type, and their adherence to post-surgical scar instructions. While scar development is never fully preventable, a qualified plastic surgeon can effectively minimize scarring from many plastic surgery procedures.

Patients experiencing uncomfortable or obvious scarring from plastic surgery, injuries, or other medical procedures may benefit from scar revision surgery performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon, which can minimize the appearance and discomfort caused by surgical scars.

Are scars from certain plastic surgery procedures permanent?

With any surgical procedure, there’s a potential that scarring may develop as the wound heals. Once a scar develops, it will often fade over time to the extent that it becomes unnoticeable, but it may never fully disappear.

There are several different types of scars. Depending on the scar type, it may be more or less likely to naturally fade over time. After a plastic surgery procedure, the most common types of scars include:

  • Normal scars, which are white lines that demonstrate the site of a previous incision but are discreet and barely noticeable.
  • Hypertrophic scars are raised, red scars that develop due to tension around the wound. These scars typically respond well to scar revision procedures.
  • Keloid scars, which can grow beyond the borders of the initial incision over time. These scars are often smooth and hard and may be raised and uncomfortable.

To minimize the appearance of scars from plastic surgery procedures, top plastic surgeons make carefully placed incisions in an area of the body where scars will be hidden beneath undergarments or disguised by the body’s natural contours.

For example, incisions from a tummy tuck are strategically made in the low abdomen, so they can easily be hidden behind an undergarment or a swimsuit. Breast augmentation incisions are often made under the natural curve of the breast or in the armpit. Incisions from facelifts are generally made near the natural hairline.

Healing time frames

The healing process for plastic surgery procedures begins as soon as the procedure is complete. It can take up to 21 days for the incision to close and the area to fully heal.

Initial scarring may be raised and red in color, but if properly cared for, plastic surgery scarring will typically flatten, smooth, and fade in color. It may take up to 12 months before scars begin to fade, and scar tissue generally stops changing in appearance around two years after the procedure.

Steps you can take to reduce the appearance of scarring

Even the most qualified plastic surgeon cannot entirely prevent scarring, but there are things patients can do to reduce the appearance of scars. Patients who are non-smokers, maintain a healthy weight, and consume a well-balanced diet are less likely to develop significant scarring.

Another way to reduce the severity of scars is to follow all post-surgical instructions closely, including:

  • Keeping the incision site clean
  • Changing dressings frequently
  • Avoiding physical strain around the incision site, which can cause hypertrophic scars
  • Wearing sunscreen around the incision site and avoiding excessive sun exposure
  • Performing scar massage, if recommended by your plastic surgeon
  • Staying hydrated by drinking water and moisturizing skin in the part of the body where the incision was made

Finally, thoughtfully choosing your plastic surgeon can significantly impact the likelihood of visible scarring. A board-certified plastic surgeon will make incisions in optimal locations, so any scarring that does occur will be concealed or unnoticeable.

What is scar revision?

Scar revision is a broad term used to describe non-surgical and surgical treatments designed to reduce the appearance of scar tissue and improve the range of motion for rigid scars impeding movement.

Non-surgical scar revision treatments

Non-surgical treatments are generally used to improve the aesthetic appearance of scars. These treatments include topical therapies such as silicone strips, ointments, and gels which can loosen and fade scars.

Injections are another standard scar treatment. Corticosteroid injections can prevent collagen from forming at the incision site, contributing to raised, tight scars. For depressed scars, dermal fillers can be injected to fill the incision site.

Finally, surface treatments like laser therapy, dermabrasion, chemical peels, and microneedling can also help reduce the appearance of red or dark scars. Surface treatments are generally most effective for scars that are already flat and smooth. These treatments generally target the outermost layer of skin to remove the scarred tissue and reduce its appearance.

Surgical scar revision treatments

Surgical intervention may be warranted in certain situations to reduce scar appearance and improve mobility. Advanced scar revision techniques include the W-plasty procedure, which repositions scars along the natural contours of the skin, and the Z-plasty procedure, which camouflages scars by breaking them apart or moving them.

In some cases, skin grafts may be necessary to stretch scars that are tight over incisions.

Get the aesthetic you want without the scars you don’t

When you’re ready to start your transformation, it is important to choose an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon who will take a personalized, patient-first approach to your needs. Your plastic surgeon should explain the risks and benefits of every procedure, including where incisions and scarring may occur, to help you understand what to expect. They should also provide you with a detailed scar-treatment regimen to help you minimize any possible scarring.