Although the mastopexy procedure is one of the safest and most rewarding plastic surgeries, concern about breast lift scars is natural for women who are considering the procedure. As a woman and a breast surgeon, I have a deep understanding of the mix of emotions that can accompany a breast lift. You’re longing for a return to the high, perky breasts you had in younger years, before major weight loss or prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding. At the same time, you realize any surgery carries risk and excess scarring is one of them. Here we’ll provide expert tips to help you avoid visible breast lift scars.
Breast Lift Scars: A Natural Part of the Healing Process
Scars are inevitable after any incision in the skin, of course, because scarring is part of the body’s “self-repair” process. Breast lift surgery, in my experience, is a very satisfying procedure for the vast majority of patients–even with the unavoidable, often minimal, scarring. Scars may be in an anchor shape, in the crease below the breast and from the center of the crease up to the areola, although there are other types of scarring. When you choose an experienced surgeon, you’ll find that your breast lift scars are well hidden, even when wearing low-cut clothing. This is one of the signs of a skilled breast lift surgeon.
Over time, these hidden scars often fade to thin, white lines when complete healing has taken place. Provided that you follow instructions for preparation and recovery, you should have a beautiful result from your breast lift surgery. Upon seeing their final result, women who have undergone breast lifts typically rate the experience as “well worthwhile”
How Do Scars Form?
When skin is damaged, the body repairs it by creating new collagen fibers, which gives the healing area a different look and texture: a scar. The “mended” skin will be less flexible than the skin around it, and it may have no hair follicles. The scarred skin might be a different color than surrounding skin and the color will change as healing progresses. This is completely natural.
Who Tends to Scar Most?
The amount of scarring that forms depends upon many factors including:
- Age: The older you are, the slower your skin heals, which can worsen scarring.
- Skin color: If you have very light skin or relatively dark skin, you may be more prone to visible scarring.
- Lifestyle habits: Smoking or prior sun damage can increase scarring.
- Location of the skin damage: Skin covering joints, where there is plenty of movement, pressure and tension, tend to produce more scarring.
- Complications: Excess swelling or infection can increase the likelihood of visible scarring.
- Genetics: Wound healing time and scars have a hereditary component as well.
Limiting Scars from a Breast Lift: What You Can Do
Even though you can’t escape breast lift scars entirely, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent excessive breast lift scars. Here are some of the most important things you can do:
- Stop smoking: If you’re not currently a smoker, and especially if you have never been in the past, you are already ahead of the game. If you do smoke, the sooner you quit, the better. The effects of smoking interfere with and can complicate the healing process after a breast lift.
Limit swelling and limit pressure on surgical incisions:
- Sleep propped up: Swelling is inevitable after surgery. However, there are strategies to prevent excessive swelling, which places pressure on the newly operated skin. For the first two weeks after your breast lift, you should sleep with your torso propped up.
- Limit salt intake: Only if your surgeon advises you to do so should you limit your salt intake. This may also keep the swelling down.
- Stay hydrated: Eat healthy, fresh foods and drink plenty of water. Keeping your overall health strong gives your body the energy it needs to heal properly.
- Avoid alcohol: Because alcohol can negatively influence fluid retention, you shouldn’t consume alcoholic drinks for approximately 3 weeks after your breast lift procedure.
- Start walking: Walk around the house as soon as you feel able after surgery, but not if you’re groggy. Make sure a friend is with you for the first couple of days so you don’t fall. Light exercise helps to decrease swelling and lowers the chance of blood clots.
- Wear your support garment: Your NJ plastic surgeon will instruct you how long you must wear your surgical bra, but typically expect to wear it 24/7 for 6 weeks after your breast lift.
Be gentle with your skin/incisions/stitches so healing stays on schedule:
- Don’t drive for at least two weeks.
- Don’t push yourself up in bed with your arms or pull a heavy door open.
- Don’t lift anything over your head for at least a month to 6 weeks. Get your surgeon’s OK.
- Don’t rush your return to strenuous work or recreation activities ahead of schedule. Even in an office/desk job, plan on 1 to 2 weeks away from work. If in doubt about timing, get your surgeon’s OK. Pressure on the sutured skin early in the healing process can widen scars.
Keep blood pressure normal and avoid excess bleeding:
- Avoid strenuous exercise: Follow your NJ surgeon’s schedule for gradually returning to your normal activity level. High-intensity workouts are off the agenda for at least 6 weeks.
- Relax: Limit stress and anxiety while healing from your breast lift. Have a friend with you for the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Arrange in advance for sufficient time off work and get childcare help if you have small children.
- Avoid medications not approved by your surgeon: Don’t take aspirin, vitamin E, fish oil (substances which thin the blood) or any other drugs that your surgeon may forbid.
Follow surgeon’s instructions to avoid complications like infection:
- Call your surgeon: If you have any concerns at all during your recovery and healing process, I’m always available to my patients during this time—I prefer you to call rather than worry about a symptom. I will explain what indicators to watch out for as you recover that might indicate infection or poor healing. I will be checking your progress regularly as well. Any top surgeon should be willing to be there for you during your recovery process.
- Clarify: Ask questions about anything you don’t understand regarding your recovery instructions.
- Take antibiotics if prescribed: Antibiotics may be given if drains are used, for example.
Care for your incisions as directed:
- Showering/bathing: You will likely not be allowed to shower for a day or two. Bathing or tub soaking may be banned for several weeks to avoid submerging your incisions.
- Keep incisions clean and check them daily for any sign of infection.
- Silicone scar sheets or similar products may be used with your surgeon’s OK.
- Bromelain (a chemical enzyme found in pineapple juice) may decrease swelling, but take these capsules only with your surgeon’s OK, because they may interfere with (or magnify the effects of) other medications, such as antibiotics or anticoagulants.
- No swimming in pools, lakes or oceans for about 6 weeks, until any scabs are gone.
- Avoid exposing scars to sun for the next year and after that, be sure to use a sunblock.
Limiting Breast Lift Scars: What Your Surgeon Can Do
When you choose a top breast surgeon for your breast lift, you can expect their years of experience, well-honed surgical technique, excellent judgment and dedication to provide the best outcome–and that includes minimal scarring. Here are some of the methods an expert NJ breast surgeon may use to minimize potential scarring from a breast lift:
- Experienced breast surgeons create a personalized surgical strategy just for you in advance of your breast lift. The plan takes into account your specific goals for the breast lift, along with your body size, age, skin tone and elasticity and more. The best breast surgeons never perform a generic breast lift—every procedure should be designed to fit your unique needs and your anatomy.
- Incisions (and therefore scars) are carefully placed to be invisible when you’re clothed.
- Top breast lift surgeons use refined surgical techniques to lift and reshape breast tissue while using the smallest incisions possible for an optimal result.
- Dedicated breast plastic surgeons pay attention to important details, using suturing methods that close incisions neatly and completely so that they heal well, minimizing breast lift scars.
- Experts in breast surgery mitigate the tension placed on the skin as much as possible during and after surgery to keep scars from widening over the course of the breast lift healing process.
- Your plastic surgeon will handle the breast tissues gently during the procedure to help avoid unnecessary trauma and scar formation.
- Your surgeon will work to preserve the blood supply and nerve function to the breast area to promote future tissue health, sensation and proper healing.
- Your breast specialist will use anatomical knowledge and aesthetic judgment to reshape the breast in an attractive manner so that it sits higher on the chest, in line with your goals for your new look.
- Your surgeon may place a small drain tube near each breast if necessary to help your body eliminate excess fluids and limit swelling. Drains will be removed a day or two after surgery.
- Later in the healing process, if scars are still a concern, your surgeon may use steroid injections to dissolve scar tissue or suggest laser resurfacing.
We urge you to partner with a top breast surgeon, and one with whom you can communicate well, to get the outcome you desire from your breast lift. When you’re ready to learn more about your breast lift options, contact Cohen/Winters Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery. We offer a personalized consultation to answer your questions about breast lift scars and determine if you are a good candidate. Please contact our Bergen County office for an appointment.