For many women, the resulting scar from breast implants can be a serious source of concern. It’s also difficult to know what to expect from scarring as we all heal differently. The healing process can be affected by a number of factors including age, complexion, and skin tone, as well as incision size and location.
As we age, the collagen production begins to slow, causing the skin to become thinner and less elastic. Younger skin will heal better due to higher levels of collagen, but older patients can take steps to increase their collagen production with topical retinoid creams, and red light therapy.
The colour of patients skin will affect the visibility of scarring. While darker skin tones will often blend better with a scar, they are also more likely to form hypertrophic and keloid scars which are caused by an overgrowth in scar tissue. Conversely, patients with pale skin tend to have scars that are more noticeable.
Size and depth of the incision
Like any cut, the larger the incision, the longer the healing process. This is important, as the risk of infection and scarring increases the longer a wound takes to heal.
7 Tips to promote healing
1) Don’t smoke
Beyond the obvious health risks, cigarettes can also have a negative impact on the healing process and increase the chance of scarring. The chemicals in cigarettes constrict blood vessels, suppress the immune system and decrease the flow of essential healing molecules known as hemoglobin. All of this can affect your recovery process and the way your skin heals.
2) Don’t drink
We all like to have a drink now and then, but alcohol doesn’t do our skin any favours. Not only does alcohol disrupt blood clotting – which is essential to closing the incision, but it also decreases the production of collagen needed to heal the wound increasing your chances of infection.
3) Eat a healthy diet
What you eat is the fuel your body will use to heal itself, therefore choosing a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and proteins, will be essential to speeding up your recovery. At the same time, you will also need to reduce sodium as this can cause bloating and damage the incision.
4) Drink lots of water
After the procedure, your doctor will recommend drinking three litres of water per day. Water is essential to keeping the body functioning, and if you’re not drinking enough, you can slow the healing process and increase your risk of infection.
This isn’t just a great excuse to sleep in, sleeping is part of your body’s recovery process. While you’re asleep, your body is busy producing white blood cells, hormones, and other healing molecules to help you heal faster.
6) Stay in the shade
We all know UV rays are bad for our skin, but they are even worse for scars. As your body heals it is producing new skin cells which are extremely sensitive to UV. Exposing your skin to the sun can result in darkening and thickening of the scar. As a result, we recommend avoiding the sun for at least six months or even a year. In situations where this is not possible use sunscreen, clothing, or even silicone tape to shield your scar from UV rays.
7) Minimize activity
Immediately after the procedure, your body is in a fragile state. Therefore it is important to have someone to look after you for the first 24 hours. You need to avoid putting tension on the wound as this can undo the delicate sutures holding it together. In the following weeks (two to four) it is also important that you avoid lifting your arms above your head, lifting heavy objects, or bending over.
Effective Scar Treatment Options
While your body will do its best to try and heal the wound, there are a number of techniques you can use to help along the way and reduce the scars visibility.
This topical gel is made from a silicone formula which will keep the wound hydrated to promote healing. Simply apply the gel once per day, and it will dry into a protective layer, keeping the wound soft and bacteria free.
Similarly to the gel, silicone sheets act like a band-aid, keeping the wound soft and hydrated to promote healing. However, the silicone sheets have the added benefit of providing stability for the wound. The sheets act as a brace for the skin, alleviating some of the tension to prevent the wound from widening and reduce the chance of keloids forming. The sheets should be worn for two to twelve months post surgery, for at least 12 hours a day.
Laser and light therapy
Also known as laser skin resurfacing, this technique is used to reduce the appearance of hypertrophic and keloid scars. Unfortunately, laser skin resurfacing does not work for everyone, and darker skin tones may respond better to LED therapy instead.
Commonly known as an anti-aging therapy, micro-needling can also be used to reduce the visibility of scars. The procedure works by creating thousands of tiny incisions across the skin to stimulate the production of collagen, this new collagen then fills in the newly formed micro-channels to reduce the appearance of scars and flatten them.
Cortisone is a type of steroid which can be injected into an incision. Doctors will use this in cases where they need to reduce redness, itching or burning, but it can also be used to help flatten hypertrophic and keloid scars.