A tummy tuck procedure is a major surgery designed to give you a flatter tummy and the curves you desire. However, a tummy tuck does require an incision, so scarring of some sort is inevitable. It is normal for your incision area and scar to look worse before it gets better, and it can take up to a year for the scar to fade. But don’t let that discourage you. While there is no way to avoid a scar completely, there are some things you can do to help minimize the appearance of a tummy tuck scar.
Can You Do Something Before Your Tummy Tuck to Minimize Scars?
As strange as it may sound, helping to minimize your tummy tuck scar starts before your surgeon even makes the first cut. How you prepare for your tummy tuck procedure can affect your recovery and healing, as well as how your scar develops and looks. Some things to consider before your tummy tuck procedure include:
- Talk with Your Plastic Surgeon About Your Medications – Before your tummy tuck procedure, let your surgeon know all medications and supplements you take on a regular basis. Certain anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatory medications, steroids and natural supplements can impair your body’s healing ability and interfere with scar formation.
- Stop Smoking Before Your Procedure – Smoking cigarettes and even vaping can impair your body’s healing ability. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that will narrow your blood vessels and impair the blood flow necessary for healing and scar formation. Quit smoking at least six weeks before your procedure and refrain from smoking during your recovery.
- Plan for Your Tummy Tuck Recovery – Before your big day, it is essential to have a recovery plan in place. For the first few days after surgery, you will need to rest and refrain from any significant activity. Plan for this by asking family or friends to stay with you so they can help with things like cooking and helping you as needed. Pushing too much during recovery can impair your healing and even pull at your incision site, increasing your risk for increased scarring.
Following Aftercare Instructions Is Essential
With a tummy tuck, recovery can take up to two weeks or more before you can get back to regular activities and at least three to four weeks before you can get back to more strenuous activities. After your procedure, you will go home wearing a compression garment and receive post-op care instructions.
You will learn how to care for your incision and possible drainage tubes, and it is essential that you follow these instructions and wear your garment as advised to promote healing and reduce the risk of scarring complications. For the first week, you will likely stay bent at the waist in order to reduce the stress on your abdomen. Consider sleeping in a recliner to help avoid this additional stress for the first week.
Monitor Closely for Possible Infection
While incredibly rare, infections are always a possibility after any surgical procedure. An infection at the surgical site can impair healing, require additional surgical intervention and contribute to increased or irregular scarring. Following your post-op and incision care instructions, as well as taking any prescribed antibiotics, can help reduce the risk of infection. At the same time, it is good to monitor your incision regularly and know the signs of possible infection. These signs can include:
- Fever over 101
- Increased incision site pain
- Increased redness around the incision site
- Foul odor or discharge from the incision site
Avoid Sun Exposure
While you may be tempted to sport your toned tummy in a nice, new bikini, it is important that you keep your scars out of the sun. Exposure to the sun can make your scars darker and thicker. While sunscreen will help, it is better to keep your scars covered with clothing.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to your tummy tuck scar is that it will take time to fade away. Do not be surprised if your scar gets darker or becomes more textured before it begins to fade. This is a normal part of the healing process and full fading can take up to a year.
Dr. Davis completed his residency in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center and is proud to be board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. After practicing for many years in the Bay Area, Dr. Davis has chosen private practice to allow him to provide the most personal and individualized patient care. Dr. Davis grew up in New England and graduated magna cum laude from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He then moved to Rochester, NY to attend medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he was in inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.