Top 5 Ways to Minimize the Appearance of Surgical Scars
By Lauren Sederholm, PA-C, Crane Center
Surgery can help a patient take their ideal body image from a dream to a reality. The transition that can be achieved with surgery is often exciting and life-changing but the process often leaves patients with visible surgical scars. Scarring occurs when skin or tissue is damaged and the body heals, so it’s pretty much impossible to have a surgical incision and zero scars. But there’s actually a lot that can be done to minimize a scar’s appearance, often leaving them virtually invisible. Here are some tips to help manage scars and get the best result!
1. Talk to the surgeon about location of surgical incisions and proper wound care.
The first and most important step in minimizing the appearance of a scar is to get a scar first! This might sound funny but the best way to help a scar is to take good care of the surgical incision and allow it to properly heal. Patients should talk to their surgeon about where the surgical incisions will be and get a thorough understanding of how to take care of their incisions and perform wound care. Patients should pay attention to instructions on activity restrictions, how to avoid stretching or tension across incisions, and wound care. These instructions will help optimize healing and minimize complications that may result in a more visible scar.
Once incisions are fully healed (no open wounds, no crusting or scabbing) a patient can use the steps listed below to help minimize a scar.
Unprotected sun exposure can hyperpigment a scar and make it appear darker. Scars are most susceptible to this in the first year, so it’s important to protect the scar area from unprotected sun exposure. Apply a broad-spectrum, UVA and UVB protective sunscreen with minimum SPF 50 to the scar area and re-apply every 2 hours if you have prolonged sun exposure. If the scar is on the chest apply sunscreen even under bathing suits as bathing suit material is often gauzy and may not fully block the sun.
3. Silicone scar gel & scar massage
Silicone scar gels are products that can be purchased in the pharmacy section of a retail store or online. Silicone products are available as a tape-like adhesive that can be applied and removed to shower and re-applied or as a gel that dries to the skin. Silicone products must be worn for 12 hours a day to be effective.
Scar massage involves using a lubricant like a favorite lotion, cream, or massage oil and gently massaging a scar in all directions for 2-3 minutes 2-3 times a day.
Silicone gels and scar massage are simple, effective ways to help flatten and soften a scar. Each of these methods must be performed daily for a minimum of 6 weeks to be effective. Patients can do one or both methods to help their scars.
4. Microneedling & laser
Microneedling and lasering over scars can help stimulate collagen production within a scar and further soften and flatten a scar. Some laser treatments can help minimize a pink or darkened appearance of scars. A series of 3-4 treatments spaced 2-3 months apart may be necessary and it can take time to see the final results but microneedling and laser treatments can really help improve the appearance and texture of a scar.
Crane Center offers both treatments for surgery scars in-house.
The body needs time to fully heal. A skin incision can close quickly but it can take up to a year for a scar to fully mature. During this time the tissue remodels causing the scar appearance to change over time. Initially, scars may appear pink, firm or thick to touch and may even be slightly raised before becoming softer and less pigmented. A patient can’t speed up the scar maturation process but the first year is a good time to be aggressive about taking steps to minimize the scar appearance while the remodeling is still occurring.