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.