Skin Care Tips to Prevent Scarring After Surgery
The job of a scar is to close the wound in your skin as quickly as possible. Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after having surgery. When the dermis — the second layer of skin — is damaged, your body forms collagen fibers to repair the damage, resulting in a scar.
Types of Scaring
- Keloid Scar: Keloid often develops after an invasive procedure like surgery. Your skin tissues form into a reddish lump around the shape of the wound. It turns into a scar of raised skin that can look physically unappealing. A Keloid can grow beyond where the incision or injury would have been.
- Hypertrophic Scar: Hypertrophic scars are more common in areas of the body where your skin is taut, such as your back, chest, shoulders and upper arms, elbows and other joints.Hypertrophic scars are red, raised lesions that are not usually painful but are often itchy. Hypertrophic scars are different from keloids in that hypertrophic scars stay within the borders of the wound or break in the skin.
Natural Incision Healing
Learning how to care for scar tissue can improve your surgical outcome. After your surgery or procedure, your wound may be very red, swollen, or feel numb. In the first weeks after surgery, please follow the instructions from your healthcare provider on how to care for your surgery site. After several weeks, the scar that forms may feel hard, tight, raised, or bumpy. Over time, the scar will become softer, smoother, and less red. Your scar will continue to heal for 12 to 18 months after your surgery.
Inflammation is the first stage of scar healing. During this short initial period, your incision will be tender, red, and swollen. The second and longer phase is in which the body repairs the skin is called proliferation. During this time, the scar will start to fade. With proper wound care from day one after you have surgery will lessen your chance for complications from infection and impact how your scar appears after it finishes healing.
Your surgeon may recommend other treatments to improve the appearance of your incision. Options like silicone wound treatment gels, steroid injections, massage, and prescription medications can help make your scar less visible, but there are also things you can do on your own to minimize scars.
Protect Your Scar From the Sun
Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen is the easiest and cheapest way to protect a scar and your skin in general. This is important because the sun will darken a scar, especially in people with darker skin.
Exposing your scar to sunlight can make it heal more slowly. It can also make the scar darker and more noticeable.
It's important to protect your scar when you're outside or any time it may be exposed to the sun.
You can do the following things:
- Apply sunscreen to your scar. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that's SPF 30 or higher.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to block the sun.
- Wear clothing that's designed to block the sun.
For more information about using sunscreen, read Dr. Nelson's recommendations.
If you've had surgery and are concerned about wound healing and scarring, CSA Surgical Physicians and staff are here to help!