Do’s and Don’ts of Scar Prevention

Do’s and Don’ts of Scar Prevention

Scar tissue is a normal part of the skin’s healing process from any wound, including those caused by surgeries or accidents. Scars form because the collagen production works quickly after the skin has been wounded to mend the injury and protect the body from any further injury or infection. Since it goes through a more rapid healing process, the tissue does not have the exact same makeup of normal skin cells, which is why it looks different. (Read: Why Scar Tissue is Different from Normal Tissue.) Many variables influence the look of scars, including the size, depth and shape of the wound, as well as how much blood is able to visit the area during the healing process. Luckily, there are easy prevention methods to ensure that your injury or surgery does not end with a lifelong reminder in the form of a visible scar.

Do Get Stitches

Deep wounds, or cuts that can spread apart, heal faster and better when stitched by a professional doctor as soon as possible after the injury. Stitches minimize the wound area and make it easier for the body to heal the injury. This reduces the area of new skin forming, which minimizes the amount of scar tissue.

Do Protect the Wound

When you have a wound, you should keep it moist to prevent scabbing and allow the healing process to commence by applying a first aid cream like Neosporin. You should also keep it covered with a non-stick bandage to protect further injury and keep it from drying out. Once you see new skin forming, you can stop covering it with a bandage and begin applying your scar treatment.

Read: What Affects Wound Healing?

Do Massage the Scar

Gentle massage should start as soon as it’s tolerable, usually a couple of weeks after the skin has healed over. Massaging your scar breaks up the collagen and reduces the size of scar tissue forming; use the time when applying your scar treatment to massage the newly formed scar.

Read: How Do You Soften Scar Tissue?

Don’t be Impatient

When you wait for your injury or wound to heal, be patient. You should not pick at any scabs or use hydrogen peroxide. Although hydrogen peroxide provides beneficial first aid to the initial wound, subsequent use kills both good skin cells as well as bacteria making the wound more susceptible to infection. Instead, just allow the body to heal naturally. It takes 1-2 years for a scar to fully mature and there is no quick fix despite what you’ve heard.

Don’t Linger in the Sun

The damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun can interrupt the healing process, making it more likely that you will develop a scar. Additionally, UV rays discolor the scar tissue by stimulating pigment-producing cells. Skin is more vulnerable to discoloration when it is healing, so it is even more important to protect the area from the sun by covering it up with clothing or using sunscreen.

Have a question about your scar? Leave a comment and we’ll be happy to answer!

Subscribe to Scars and Spots to get our posts delivered directly to your inbox!

Best Way to Get Rid of Mastectomy Scars

Best Way to Get Rid of Mastectomy Scars

Mastectomy scars can, unfortunately, be quite extensive. If breast reconstruction is not performed at the same time as the mastectomy, the resulting scars can be quite long, running from next to the breastbone to the side of the chest or armpit area. Along with restoring the size and shape of the breast, reconstruction also helps limits scarring when performed at the same time as the mastectomy. Some types of reconstruction can also increase the amount of overall scarring: if the patient’s own tissue is used for the reconstruction instead of implants (eg from the woman’s back, abdomen, buttocks or thighs), additional scarring is created at the site of the tissue harvest.

Scars are not only a cosmetic concern. Some scars can cause pain, tightness, or itching. You will want to do everything you can to minimize the scarring caused by your mastectomy to enhance the way you look and feel.

One of the most important things you can do to minimize scarring is to prevent infection in the post-surgery period. Patients are often sent home from surgery with drains that remove excess fluids from the area. These drains are usually removed a few days later. Once this happens, you should keep the incision as clean as you can so that it can continue to heal fully. Follow your doctor’s instructions for bandaging and cleaning the area. Infection can not only put the reconstruction at risk (especially reconstruction with implants), it will also worsen scarring, so decreasing the chances of developing an infection is very important.

Massaging the scar after it has fully healed can help by breaking down scar tissue and improving blood flow. This helps soften the scar and also brings more oxygen and nutrients to the wound which can promote healing and reduce scarring. Be sure to get the “all-clear” from your doc before starting scar massage to ensure your incisions are ready.

It is also important to eat a healthy diet and stay well hydrated while your are healing. This will help in several ways. First, staying well hydrated means more moisture in your skin and at the site of the scars. Skin moisture improves healing. Some of the nutrients you eat can also work to lessen the appearance of scars. Ingredients known to be helpful for healing include vitamins A and C, zinc, and protein. Finally, a healthy diet and proper hydration will promote overall health, helping you feel better, faster after surgery.

Feeling better means you may feel more like exercising once given the all-clear by your surgeon. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow and improves healing. After a mastectomy, you may not feel like doing much at first. Even if you can only walk for a few minutes, that’s a start! Slowly build back up to a level of exercise that you and your doctor are comfortable with.

Also try a silicone-containing gel. Topical silicone has been shown to reduce the appearance of scars, making them lighter, flatter, and softer. Follow the instructions that come with the product you choose. Stick with the recommended frequency and duration of treatment for the best results.

Subscribe to Scars and Spots to get our posts delivered directly to your inbox!

Breast Reconstruction Questions and Answers

Breast Reconstruction Questions and Answers

Oftentimes, women don’t realize (or aren’t told by their doctor) that breast reconstruction is available to them after mastectomy.  The inventor, and doctor, behind InviCible Scars is Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo, who specializes in state-of-the-art breast reconstruction and cosmetic surgery at PRMA Center for Advanced Breast Reconstruction in San Antonio, Texas.

“Dr. C” was named one of “America’s Top Surgeons” and was also a recipient of the San Antonio Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under Forty” Award (2007). Dr C is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and is also an active member in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, the Plastic Surgery Education Foundation, the San Antonio International Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and the Texas Medical Society.

He answered some questions regarding breast reconstruction that we hope you find helpful:

1. What is the most common reason you see women in your practice for breast reconstruction?

– Women recently diagnosed with breast cancer and facing mastectomy

– Women at high risk of breast cancer (eg BRCA+, strong family history) and considering prophylactic mastectomy

– Women that have already completed their breast cancer treatment including lumpectomy or mastectomy, who are now seeking reconstruction or improved breast symmetry.

2. What are some options for breast reconstruction if the patient has had a mastectomy?

There are various options that fall under 2 main types of procedures: those that use the patient’s own tissue to recreate a “natural” breast, or breast implants.

3. Can women expect that their new breasts will look, feel and have the same sensations as before?

That really does depend on the individual situation. If the reconstruction is performed at the same time as the mastectomy, the results can be very good indeed: excellent cosmetic results (some women feel “even better than before” in terms of appearance), and very natural. Reconstructions using the patient’s own tissue tend to create much more natural results than breast implants. Breast implants can also provide very nice results in good candidates.

Delayed reconstruction (reconstruction performed some time after the mastectomy) can also provide very good results, but generally not as good in terms of the final cosmetic result because it usually leaves more scarring.

Unfortunately, it is rare for women to maintain the same level of feeling in their breasts after reconstruction. It is possible for some patients to maintain or regain some feeling but it is typically nowhere near what Mother Nature provided. Some patients are candidates for sensory nerve reconstruction in conjunction with DIEP flap or SIEA flap reconstruction. This reconnects nerves that supply feeling to the breast and allows for improved long term sensation in the reconstructed breast. However, even if this nerve reconstruction is successful, it’s rare for women to regain the sensation they had before the mastectomy.

4. Are there risks associated with breast reconstruction?

Yes, but thankfully complications are uncommon. Unfortunately all surgery has risks. The main risk is that the reconstruction doesn’t work which can lead to more surgery.

5. Will there be extensive scarring?

This depends on the procedure the patient chooses. Most procedures that involve using the patient’s own tissue involve scarring on a part of the body other than the breasts (i.e. where the tissue came from.) For example the DIEP flap, today’s gold standard in breast reconstruction, uses the patient’s own abdominal skin and fat to reconstruct a natural, warm, soft breast. The excess lower tummy skin and fat are removed similar to a “tummy tuck”. This provides the patient with the added benefit of a tummy tuck, but also creates additional scarring over the lower abdomen.

These breast reconstruction before and after pictures show the typical scars associated with the procedures performed at PRMA.

Do you have further questions about breast reconstruction that weren’t answered in this post? Leave a comment and Dr. Chrysopoulo will be happy to answer them.

Subscribe to Scars and Spots to get our posts delivered directly to your inbox!

Breast Cancer Scar Healing

Breast Cancer Scar Healing

Almost always, breast cancer involves some type of surgery, and scars are a normal part of your healing process. Scars that form after lumpectomies may involve only part of the breast, or you may have larger scars from a mastectomy procedure. Radiation therapy can also leave scars, ranging from temporary sunburn-type marks to radiation fibrosis or thickening of the tissues. Scars are inevitable and most people look to diminish the appearance as soon as possible.

Minimize Scarring with Preventive Measures

Preventing infection after surgery is one of the most important ways to limit scarring. Carefully following your doctor’s instructions post-surgery, keeping the incision site as clean as possible, and not smoking will help you accomplish this. Exercise also helps with scar healing; brisk walking increases circulation, bringing lots of healing oxygen and nutrients to the area and carrying away waste products. Chemotherapy and surgery can be exhausting, so if you can only manage five minutes at first, that’s fine – you can work your way up to an hour or so a day as you feel able, but be sure to get clearance and guidance from your doctor before you start.

Another way to minimize scarring is to massage the area after surgery once the skin has healed. This increases blood flow to the area, promotes healing, and keeps the scar soft. Professional massage may be even more effective. The vigorous massage techniques used by physical therapists, in addition to improving the aesthetic appearance of scars, can help relieve pain and feelings of tightness in the surgical area. Incidentally, yoga and stretching exercises are other good ways to relieve pain and promote healing. Once again, be sure to get your doctor’s “OK” before starting.

Helping Scars Heal

Fortunately, there are effective and simple topical scar remedies available. Silicone gel has been shown to have a dramatic lessening effect on the appearance of scars. You can apply it to the scar and wear it under clothes, and it will work around the clock to reduce the color and texture of scars by up to 80%. Silicone works by promoting hydration in the area, regulating collagen production, and reducing the itching and other discomfort scars can cause.

Aloe Vera is another ingredient to look for in a scar treatment –or to use alone. By forming a protective layer and introducing moisture, Aloe Vera has a host of benefits for the skin, and it is especially beneficial when it comes to scars. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties help with preventing infection and promoting complete healing. It strengthens the collagen structure in the scar, improves inflammation and pain, and its polysaccharides are thought to promote skin repair and growth.

Finally, Vitamin C can be consumed or applied topically and is able to help speed the healing process. Vitamin C supplements, moisturizers containing vitamin C, and scar treatment gels and creams containing Vitamin C or citrus ingredients can promote scar healing. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, apricots, grapes, and apples can also have a positive effect.

Subscribe to Scars and Spots to get our posts delivered directly to your inbox!