A tummy tuck can change your look in wonderful ways — giving you a flat belly, a curvy waist, more defined abdominal muscles, and smoother skin. But, like all plastic surgery, it also leaves scars, in this case, hidden below the panty line. What can you do at home, as you recover from the procedure, to make tummy tuck scars less noticeable? Here are some important tips.
Follow Your Doctor’s Recovery Instructions
The most important thing you can do to minimize the appearance of tummy tuck scars is to follow your doctor’s recovery instructions.
- Care for the incision as instructed. That will include changing the dressings and gently cleaning the healing wound.
- Get up to walk soon after the surgery and engage in some gentle activity every day as you recover. This reduces swelling and the risk of blood clots by stimulating circulation in the treated tissue.
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet during your recovery. This promotes skin health and healing.
- Avoid heavy lifting and other strenuous activity that can strain or put pressure on your abdomen. This is to prevent pulling at the sutures and stretching the skin.
- Don’t smoke. You will have had to stop smoking for several weeks before the surgery. You also need to stay smoke-free for several weeks after to allow the incisions to heal well.
Use Topical Treatments at the Right Time
Topical treatments, including silicone and vitamin E, can promote healing and help minimize scarring, but only if applied at the right time — neither too early nor too late in the recovery timeline. Used too early, they can enter the wound and increase the risk of infection. Used too late, they don’t do as much good.
Follow your doctor’s advice and apply silicone gel, cream, or sheeting once the incision is completely closed and is no longer scabbing. Silicone applications maintain healthy hydration in the developing scar tissue and may send a signal that curbs the production of excess collagen.
Vitamin E (in the form of 100 percent vitamin E oil) may also improve the appearance of scars and can help to keep the tissue moisturized when used after the incision is closed. (If you experience any irritation or skin reaction from the oil, stop using it right away.)
Avoid Sun Exposure
We all know that UV radiation from the sun damages the skin, causing tanning or burning. It can also cause permanent discoloration in developing scar tissue. Avoid exposing the scar to the sun for at least a year after your surgery. Use a sunscreen formula that’s SPF 30 or higher, preferably a product made specifically for scars. (These include Mederma Scar Cream Plus SPF 30, Dermaflage Scarscreen SPF 30, and Bioderma Photoderm LASER SPF 50+ Cream.)
Watch for Signs of Infection
Infection can be a nasty setback to healing. Without prompt treatment, it can also intensify scarring. Follow instructions for changing dressings and cleaning the incision, and see your doctor right away if you notice any signs of infection. These can include:
- New or excessive bleeding along the incision
- Redness, swelling, or bruising in the area of the incision that is getting worse instead of better
- Yellowish or greenish discharge from the incision, or any discharge with an unpleasant smell
- Fever or chills
- Severe pain
It’s normal for scars to form with a darker red or purple color. That’s because the tissue has an additional flow of blood as it is healing. After about three months, this dark coloring will gradually begin to fade. You’ll see improvement by six months and near-final results by about a year after surgery. The scars will continue to fade even more for years. So don’t worry if scars are visible in the early stages of healing. That’s to be expected. Have patience and give your body time.
Get a Free Professional Consultation
Dr. Florence Mussat is a board-certified plastic surgeon in downtown Chicago. Call our office at (312) 751-9000 today or contact us online to schedule a personal consultation.
A tummy tuck is one of the most transformative plastic surgery procedures. It can make your midriff look years younger. But it’s also an extensive procedure involving the muscles of your abdomen, and it requires both rest and the right kinds of activity to bounce back. As you consider a tummy tuck or plan for the procedure, it’s a good idea to look ahead to the recovery timeline.
The First Day After Your Tummy Tuck
You’ll need someone to drive you home after the procedure and someone to stay with you there to help with basic tasks.
Expect to feel some discomfort at first. Your doctor will prescribe appropriate pain medication. You’ll find it difficult to bend at the waist, lift objects, or stand for any length of time. You’ll find it more comfortable to stand with a slight bend at the waist. Right away Some movement will be encouraged, such as a little bit of walking around the house. This activity keeps the tissues from stiffening and tightening.
You’ll need to rest in an upright position. A comfortable arrangement is to rest with two or three pillows under your head and shoulders and another under your knees.
Days Two and Three
You’ll still need help around the house for the first two or three days of the recovery timeline. You’ll probably need a hand getting up from bed, for example. Continue gentle activity, such as walking around the house, to promote healing. You’ll need to avoid all strenuous activity.
Choose clothes that don’t put any pressure on your belly — robes and dresses rather than pants. You may be given a compression garment to reduce swelling and provide support. An ice compress can help reduce pain and swelling.
If you don’t have drainage tubes, you can take a shower two days after your surgery. Or you may want to take a sponge bath to clean yourself. If you have drainage tubes, showers won’t be allowed until 48 hours after the tubes are removed.
Days Four Through Seven
As you heal, your range of movement will gradually increase, though you’ll still experience some discomfort. Your doctor will instruct you to change your dressings periodically and gently clean the area until the skin is fully healed.
If you’ve had drainage tubes, these will probably be removed toward the end of the first week. Once the holes from the tubes have healed, you’ll be cleared to take showers. If you feel unsteady on your feet, you may want to sit in a chair for showering.
Drink plenty of water during your recovery, and avoid alcohol and smoking.
The dressings will come off after the first week and you’ll be instructed on how to clean and care for the incision to minimize scarring. Expect some continued swelling, but the pain, bruising, and feelings of tightness will begin to fade. You might continue to wear a compression garment through this second week after surgery.
You’ll be able to stand upright more comfortably now, and you’ll be able to drive and do light shopping. If you have an office-type job you should be able to return to work after a week or ten days, though you’ll need to take it easy. If your job has physical demands, plan to take more time off from work.
Continue to avoid strenuous activity and housework.
Weeks Three and Four
You’ll be feeling much better by this stage of the recovery timeline, and can gradually resume light exercise following your doctor’s guidance. Heavy lifting, including lifting and carrying young children, is still off-limits.
Continue to follow your doctor’s instructions for cleaning and treating the incision to minimize scarring. That will include avoiding exposure to the sun.
Six to Eight Weeks After Surgery
Most of the swelling will be gone by now. You’ll be able to resume normal levels activity, including more strenuous exercise. Follow your doctor’s guidance and pay close attention to how your body feels as you start to use your stomach muscles more vigorously. Sit-ups and weight lifting may take a little more time.
Get a Free Professional Consultation
Dr. Florence Mussat is a board-certified plastic surgeon in downtown Chicago. Call our office at (312) 751-9000 today or contact us online to schedule a personal consultation and find out if a tummy tuck might be right for you.