A certain degree of scarring is inevitable with virtually any sort of surgical procedure. In some cases the scar may be so small that it won’t be easily detected to either the eye or by touch. Your surgeon may also be able to place the incision site in an unobtrusive spot or in a location that can be easily covered by clothing or your hair.
In some cases, however, you could be left with a scar that you find unsightly and distressing. The good news is that there are many different preventive techniques and treatments that can greatly improve the condition of a post operational scar. Some of these methods may be used before surgery or at the earliest stages while the incision area is still healing. Other treatments can also be done later to alter or revise the appearance of a mature scar.
Who’s At the Greatest Risk for Scars?
Skin color, age, lifestyle, and genetics all play a role in how likely your skin will form visible scars. Generally speaking, the younger and healthier a patient is, the more likely it is that they have thicker and more resilient skin. Thicker skin has more collagen in it which makes it more elastic and therefore it’s able to “bounce back” after injury better.
Scars, at least in the early stages when they are still pink, are more visible on people with lighter skin tones. On the other hand, some races are genetically more likely to form thicker scars that are raised from the skin’s surface.
Smoking and tanning have a very negative effect on both how quickly a scar heals and how visible it is. Tanning will darken a scar, making it more visible in contrast against the surrounding skin. Smoking is particularly damaging to skin quality. It can delay healing by lowering vitamin levels, adding contaminants to the bloodstream, and increasing the chance of complications like infections.
Talk with your surgeon about possible ways that he can minimize scarring. He may be able to use a special type of silicone dressing that’s known to improve scar appearance. There may also be certain ointments or creams that you can apply to the area before surgery.
In some cases, steroid injections can help reduce the chance of your skin forming keloid scars. Dark, raised keloid scars can happen to all skin types but are more common with people of Hispanic or African heritage.
Post Surgery Scar Treatments
There are numerous commercial products available that claim to reduce the appearance of scars. Some of these work better than others, so be sure to ask your surgeon for his recommendations. You can also speak with a dermatologist if you have an older scar that you’d like to change.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body weight will also improve how quickly and completely your scar fades. Alcohol and caffeine dehydrate the skin, which will slow healing and can cause existing scars to look worse. If you smoke, most surgeons will recommend that you abstain completely for at least the first two weeks after surgery. Also limit the amount of sun exposure that the area receives. Ask your doctor when it’s safe for you to apply sunblock to the scar and try to keep the area covered until then.
In certain cases it’s also possible to have a scar revision treatment. Sometimes this is done surgically if the scar is unusually thick. Lasers can also be used to soften and fade the appearance of scars, although there are certain risks involved and not every skin type is a candidate.