One of the ways your body heals itself is by producing a scar. When the skin is damaged from injury or surgery, the skin produces collagen to repair it. This results in a visible scar because the collagen fibers look and feel different than the surrounding skin. Although scarring is often part of life and plastic surgery, there are several tricks a surgeon can use to make scars less visible.
Careful Positioning of the Incision
The best way to minimize scarring is often to position the incision in an area that won’t be visible after the surgery. During a tummy tuck, for example, the incision is often located across the hipbone just above the pelvic area. The scar will still be there after the surgery, but it can be easily covered by regular bikini underwear and swimsuit bottoms.
In the case of breast augmentation, the surgeon might place the incision beneath the breast so that it is out of sight afterwards. In some patients, the incision can be made under the armpit, where it is also easily concealed afterward.
Patients are often particularly worried about scarring associated with facial plastic surgery. While you can usually cover up surgical scars on the body with clothing, facial scars are more difficult to conceal. For that reason, careful positioning of the incision is usually a key part of facial surgery. During rhinoplasty, for example, the incisions might be made entirely within the nostrils so that any scars aren’t visible afterward. If the rhinoplasty is an open one, meaning an incision is made outside of the nose, it is usually very small and located on the underside of the nose between the nostrils. This makes the resulting scar barely perceptible.
Shape of the Incision
Another trick a surgeon can use to hide scarring after plastic surgery is to change the shape of the incision. For example, it is easier for the eye to see a straight line. But an uneven or zig-zag line is more difficult to spot. For that reason, some incisions are made using a zig-zag pattern rather than a basic straight line. You might notice this if you decide to have a facelift. The incision will often zig-zag from the temples to the front of the ears, then towards the back of the ears.
Treating Existing Scars
If you have a scar already, whether from surgery or an injury, you have options for minimizing its appearance or making it less visible. In some cases, a second surgery can help reduce the scar created by the first. For example, a tummy tuck can often conceal the scar created by a Cesarean section.
Laser skin treatments can also help to reduce or eliminate existing scars. How the laser helps to minimize the scar depends on the type used. In the case of an ablative laser, the energy from the laser beam actually destroys the top layer of skin, allowing new, scar-free skin to form. If a non-ablative laser is used, the energy from the beams penetrate beneath the skin’s surface, stimulating the production of collagen. The outer layer of skin isn’t directly harmed, but it does eventually flake off, allowing new, healthier skin to take its place.
What You Can Do to Minimize Scarring
Along with discussing the various tricks available to help minimize scarring with your surgeon, you have a few options for reducing scarring yourself. One option is to apply a gel or cream with silicone in it on the incision or to use a sheet that contains silicone over the incision. A silicone sheet puts pressure on the healing incision, limiting the activity of the cells that cause scars to form.
Your habits can also influence how visible your scars are. Staying hydrated and eating a diet that contains a lot of vegetables, fruits and whole foods will help to make scarring less prominent. Avoiding smoking and other types of tobacco before and after surgery will also help to reduce your risk for noticeable scars.
It’s worth pointing out that some people are more likely to develop visible or raised scars than others. If you have a history of raised or keloid scars, it’s a good idea to let your surgeon know in advance. He can work with you to put together a plan to help keep scarring to a minimum.
In Houston, Texas, Dr. Paul Vitenas is a top-rated plastic surgeon who regularly performs a variety of facial and body plastic surgeries. To learn more about what you can do to reduce your risk for scarring before and after surgery, call 281-484-0088 to schedule a consultation today.