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How to Care for Your Breast Surgery Scars

By: Ronda Oosting

For most women, the size and appearance of their breasts play a huge part in their self-confidence and how they view themselves. Having children, genetic factors, breast feeding, weight fluctuations and aging (thank you gravity!) can all negatively impact the appearance of women’s breasts. It is incredibly common for women to explore breast surgery as a means to feel more comfortable with their shape. In 2018, over 500,000 women opted to undergo breast surgery in the U.S. alone! The most common breast surgeries include breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction, and when required breast reconstruction. Regardless of the surgical procedure chosen, there will be incisions. The size and number of incisions vary depending on the surgery and the surgeon’s technique, but even if it’s a small incision, you probably don’t look forward to having a scar. So let’s talk about what factors determine how severely you scar, as well as how to properly care for your breast surgery scars to result in the best scars possible.

The Science Behind Scars

When your skin experiences trauma like an injury or incision, collagen comes running to the rescue. One of our board certified plastic surgeons, Dr. Rechner, explains the science behind scars with a great analogy. He says “Imagine you are moving and decide to hire a moving company. They come and load all your belongings into their moving trucks and transport everything to your new home. Once there, they unload the trucks and typically just dump all your boxes into your new house. Unless you have the crème de le crème moving company, they probably won’t spend time organizing your cupboards and arranging shelves for you. Our body delivers collagen to the incision site the same way the movers put your stuff into your house. It dumps the collagen into the injury site without organizing it very well. Collagen fibers are laid down in every direction at first, often resulting in a raised or bumpy scar. As the collagen fibers begin to organize themselves and lay in one direction, the scar heals and becomes less noticeable.”

Why Are Some Scars More Visible Than Others?

According to Dr. Rechner, there are several variables that determine why some individuals’ scars are more visible than others. He explains “One determining factor is your physiology, which is simply how you are put together. Your physiology includes your body’s inflammatory response, how much collagen you produce and your collagen’s moving and organizational skills. Another factor that determines how we scar is age. Though we typically think kids bounce back from everything more quickly, that isn’t the case when it comes to scars. Ironically, the younger you are the worse the scar tends to be initially. This is because younger bodies respond more vigorously to the wound, resulting in thicker, darker scars initially. As we age, our inflammatory response diminishes, so there isn’t as much collagen “coming to the rescue.” This means an older person typically has thinner, lighter scars at their incision site. You can’t change your physiology, but thankfully there are things to be done to help.”

Does the Surgeon’s Technique and Scar Placement Make a Difference?

It is very important to do your research when it comes to choosing your surgeon. There are many qualified surgeons to choose from and it can be overwhelming determining who will best provide the results you are looking for. Be sure to find a surgeon who is board certified in plastic surgery and has a reputation for specializing in breast surgeries. You will want to talk about scar technique and placement during your consultation, and ask your surgeon to explain what considerations they use when making incisions. While discussing breast reduction surgery scars Dr. Rechner says “there are several different ways to perform breast reductions, but scars heal better when the incisions are placed in an area where there is the least amount of tension. When the incisions are positioned with the least amount of tension possible it results in a flatter and less noticeable scar.”

What are the best breast surgery scar treatments?

The process to treating breast surgery scars begins by following your surgeon’s post-surgery instructions very carefully. You will have skin closure strips over your incisions after your surgery, and those should be left in place for the two weeks following your surgery. You will also be given a special post-surgical garment to wear, designed to provide the right amount of support without putting pressure on your incisions. Both the skin closure strips and post-surgical garment serve to protect your incisions from tension during the initial healing phase. Don’t get anxious and remove the closure strips or wear an underwire bra right away, as this will result in more noticeable scars down the road.

Two weeks after your surgery, your incisions should be fully closed and healing up quite nicely. At this point, Dr. Rechner says “you should gently apply a silicone topical ointment to your scars. There are a slew of options on the market when it comes to scar treatment products, but we recommend one with silicone as its main ingredient. The purpose of the silicone product is to keep your scar hydrated and prevent it from drying out as it continues to heal. Then lightly massage your scars as you apply the silicone topical. When you do this, you are organizing the collagen just as you put your belongings away when you settle into your new home. Organizing the collagen fibers, results in a flatter and smoother scar. Massaging the scar also increases blood circulation which helps keep it pliable and speed up the healing process.” On final note, Dr. Rechner stresses that “you need to be patient and give your scars time to fade. If you follow the post-operative instructions carefully, apply the silicone topical ointment with light massage and give it time, you should see your scars continue fade nicely and be able to enjoy the new and improved you!”