Tips to Minimize Surgical Scars

Scars are a trade-off for any type of surgery, and as a dermatologist I see a lot of post-surgical patients who are concerned about the appearance of their resulting scars. Yes, it’s a good thing that I have lasers, injectables and other tools that can dramatically improve the look and feel of surgical scars, but there are steps you can take before and after surgery to promote optimal healing.

Fibroblasts, a certain type of cell in the skin, are responsible for healing, and healing occurs when fibroblasts make collagen that migrates across the wound. Without vitamin C, our bodies can’t produce collagen, which is why this supplement is especially important both before and after surgery. Aim for 500mg twice a day before surgery, and until the incision is completely healed. Protein also plays a vital role in wound healing, so it’s important to up your intake before and after surgery as well. Your cells use the amino acids found in protein as building blocks to produce new cells.

For the four weeks prior to surgery, apply a retinoid cream to the areas where incisions will be placed. This will stimulate the stem cells in your skin, so they will produce new cells faster. However, do not use retinoids after surgery because they actually slow healing by inhibiting the enzymes that are needed to rebuild affected tissue.

A few other steps that promote good healing include topical products like Mederma (available at the drugstore) or the silicone-based Keta Cote, which ensure that scars don’t become raised or discolored. In some cases, growth factor creams or serums can help, but be sure to check with your surgeon before putting anything on new scars. But perhaps the easiest thing you can do to prevent hyperpigmentation and ensure optimal healing is avoid sun exposure.

If you’re especially concerned about a post-surgical scar, I recommend seeing a dermatologist before any type of surgery for tips and post-surgical options—and there are many. Two weeks after stitches are removed, the V Beam laser can be used to help reduce redness. Three to six treatments have been shown to provide the best results. If a scar gets too hard or thick (at which point it may be referred to as a keloid), Kenalog injections can be used to soften the scar and decrease its size. For depressed scars, dermal fillers can even out the skin’s surface.

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