Understanding Tummy Tuck Scars
Any kind of surgery that requires cutting the skin is going to leave a scar. The size of the scar will depend on the size of the incision that must be made, which will depend on the procedure being performed. When you have a tummy tuck (also called abdominoplasty), you will be left with a long, horizontal scar across your lower abdomen.
The good news is, both you and your surgeon can do a few things to try to minimize your tummy tuck scar. While you won't be able to avoid it completely, with a little effort, you may be able to reduce your scar's severity and visibility.
How Tummy Tuck Scars are Minimized During Surgery
Usually, medically necessary surgery dictates where incisions must be made, and it's sometimes difficult to place those incisions where they won't be as visible. In addition, because medical surgery is performed to improve your health, or possibly even save your life, the surgeon will focus on the procedure's purpose rather than any cosmetic aspects. This may mean closing the incision in one layer, or using staples.
Because cosmetic surgery is elective, your surgeon may have more leeway in where incisions are made. For example, placing an incision in a natural skin fold or crease can minimize the scar's appearance. Because of the way a tummy tuck is performed, two incisions are made—one around the navel, and a second, horizontal one on the lower abdomen.
The resulting scar around the navel usually blends into the natural contours of the area, minimizing its appearance. The horizontal tummy tuck scar will be more visible, but is placed low enough that it can be hidden by bikini bottoms or underwear.
In addition, your surgeon will use a suturing technique that closes the wound in layers, thereby evenly distributing the tension on the tissues, and reducing the amount of pull on the overlying skin. This also means the topmost layer of skin can be sutured in a straight, smooth line, further reducing the visibility of the tummy tuck scar.
To get an idea of the potential results (your results may differ), take a look at our tummy tuck before and after photos.
How to Further Minimize Your Tummy Tuck Scar
Because the scar around your navel will, after a while, blend into the natural curves of your abdomen, the main tummy tuck scar to address is the horizontal one. You have several options for aftercare that can help to minimize your scar.
Six weeks after your abdominoplasty, you can begin using scar treatment products, including, but not limited to:
Silicone – At TCC, we use self-adhesive silicone strips to reduce surgical scars. They are effective even for scars as old as 20 years.
Cortisone – If you develop a keloid scar, cortisone injections made directly into the scar can break down the hard, fibrous tissue. This will help to flatten and soften the scar. You may need several injections, spaced four to six weeks apart, depending on how well this steroid therapy works for you.
Please note that TCC does not provide cortisone injections.
Hydroquinone – This is a depigmenting agent that inhibits melanin production, which can increase while the skin is healing from an incision. Left unchecked, it could make the skin around the tummy tuck scar darker, thereby making the scar more visible.
A 4% hydroquinone cream can be especially helpful if you have a darker complexion, and may be prone to hyperpigmentation. Applying the cream to the scar on a daily basis can help reduce pigmentation irregularities that can result from scar development.
After six weeks, you can also begin manual manipulation of the area.
Massage – By massaging the scar, you can soften it and prevent further hardening. Using your fingers, apply firm pressure to the scar, and massage it in a circular motion a few times a day. You may do this for up to one year, if necessary.
Six months after your surgery, you can pursue laser scar removal.
Laser – If your tummy tuck scar develops into a depressed scar (rather than raised or bumpy), TCC can address it with our non-ablative (non-wounding) fractional laser resurfacing treatment. Feel free to ask about this during your consultation before your tummy tuck surgery.
Tummy Tuck Dog Ears
As your tummy tuck scar develops, it can sometimes result in a puckering or bunching up of the skin at both ends of the incision. This is often referred to as "dog ears," because small flap of skin tend to protrude from the scar's ends. These dog ears will sometimes smooth out naturally as the scar heals, but should they remain, we can perform a simple procedure to remove them.
We'll administer a local anesthetic to your abdomen, excise the dog ears, and then suture the skin. The procedure only takes about 20 minutes, and the result will be a smooth scar that can continue to heal and fade over time.