All tummy tuck surgeries leave some kind of scar, says cosmetic surgeon Dr. Eric Swanson. Tummy tuck surgery, or abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic procedure that involves making an incision across the lower abdomen and removing excess skin to improve the appearance of the stomach. While surgeons generally make their incision as low as possible to minimize the visibility of scars, thinner people with less excess skin will have incisions higher on the abdomen. Though some type of scar is inevitable, there are things you can do to keep scarring to a minimum.
Stay out of the sun to reduce the appearance of your tummy tuck scar. Dr. John Di Saia, a California plastic surgeon, says that scars exposed to the sun will often appear dark or red in color. Lighter scars are less visible and generally preferable to pigmented scars. Saia advises patients to wear sunscreen continuously for the first year following surgery.
Dress your wound with petroleum jelly to minimize scarring. While many people believe wounds heal faster if exposed to air, this is actually not the case, says Dr. Houtan Chaboki of Potomac Plastic Surgery. Chaboki says that dressing your scar in petroleum jelly will improve the scar's final appearance by 33 percent. If you undergo a tummy tuck procedure, talk to your doctor about using petroleum jelly to help with scarring.
Follow all post-operative directions following a tummy tuck. Stopping smoking is especially important, according to Di Saia. People that do not stop smoking following a tummy tuck will not heal as well and scars may have a pronounced ropey appearance.
Apply topical vitamin E or medical-grade silicone cream to reduce the appearance of scars. Dr. Michael Brownstein says that, while these types of topical treatments may work for some, the degree of scarring following surgery depends mostly on genetics, the skill of the surgeon and how much tension is placed on the incision site following surgery.
Dr. Thomas Fiola, a Florida plastic surgeon, cautions against the use of topical vitamin E to treat scars. Some people develop rashes in response to topical vitamin E, which can make a scar appear worse.
Treat infections promptly to reduce the appearance of your scar. Infections can cause scars to appear more noticeable. Prominent scars may require additional surgery to correct.
Apply sunscreen even to areas covered by clothing. UV rays can penetrate clothing and cause scars to darken.
All scars heal slowly—no matter what you do. Scars often appear worse in the weeks and months following a procedure, and then show improvement after six months or a year.
Like any surgery, a tummy tuck can lead to serious health problems. Talk to your doctor about the risks of tummy tuck surgery before undergoing the procedure. This article is intended as a general overview of how to prevent scars following a tummy tuck and should not replace the advice of a qualified medical professional.