Having concerns about what kind of scarring you’ll have as a result of breast reduction surgery is a common occurrence for women who choose to undergo surgery. This is a question that many patients have and it’s an excellent one.
It makes sense to research breast reduction scars and other recovery details before jumping into breast surgery. The good news is that, if you’ve chosen your surgeon carefully, you’re likely to have less scarring—because breast reduction scarring is largely dependent on the technique that your surgeon uses.
Rest assured that the best plastic surgeons will not even perform surgery unless they determine that you are a good candidate for the breast reduction procedure.
If for some reason you’re not a good candidate, your surgeon will tell you, and explain why, during your consultation. If you’re a good candidate, your northern NJ surgeon will partner with you for the very best possible result–including minimal scarring from your breast reduction surgery.
Minimizing Scars from a Breast Reduction: Surgical Technique is Key
An expert surgeon can minimize the potential for breast reduction scars. Skilled and experienced breast surgeons will create a customized plan prior to your surgery, which is designed to achieve the breast reduction goals you discussed together during your consultation.
Expert breast surgeons will perform your breast reduction with great attention to detail, using sophisticated techniques to minimize incisions (thereby minimizing scars). Your surgeon will place the incisions so that they are invisible when you’re clothed, even in a low cut outfit. In addition, a skilled surgeon will take care to remove just the right amount of skin and underlying tissue to decrease your breast size and weight–without placing undue tension on the incisions, once closed. These and other techniques will limit breast reduction scarring.
The Scar Trade-Off in Breast Reduction
To achieve the benefits that come with a breast reduction surgery, also called reduction mammoplasty, there are some trade-offs. Perhaps the most significant is breast reduction scars. Typically, scars are a bigger concern prior to a woman undergoing breast reduction surgery. Afterward, the vast majority of women are extremely happy with their results, which makes the scarring well worthwhile for most women. After all, scars are generally not visible–even when you are wearing low-cut clothing or beachwear.
Are Breast Reduction Scars Inevitable?
There have been attempts, over time, to develop methods of breast reduction with minimal scarring or only tiny scars. Unfortunately, if you minimize the cutting, you minimize the result. A certain amount of breast tissue removal is needed to achieve a successful breast reduction. Whenever there is cutting or tissue injury, there will be scars. They are a natural part of healing that occurs after any damage to the skin or other body tissues.
What Type of Skin Gets the Worst Scarring?
The amount of scarring you end up with depends upon a combination of these details:
- Age: Skin tends to heal more slowly as you age, which makes scarring more likely.
- Skin Color or Race: Women with relatively dark skin or very light skin may have more visible scarring.
- Location: Scars in the skin above joints, where lots of motion takes place, will cause more or larger scars. (Not a problem with breast reduction, provided you keep tension off your incisions by following your surgeons recommendations for avoiding upper body exercise, driving, pulling and lifting, etc., until you are healed.)
- Complications During Healing: Excess swelling or infection can worsen scarring.
- Smoking: Smokers heal more slowly and typically experience more scarring.
- Heredity: Wound healing and scarring have a genetic component.
Breast Reduction Scars: Where will they be located? How long until the scars heal?
Some scars are inevitable from breast reduction surgery, but historically, the feedback from patients after the procedure is extremely positive. Most feel that the outcome of breast reduction surgery vastly outweighs concerns about scarring. The majority of comments after breast reduction surgery are about the immense relief from back or neck pain and the “lighter, freer” feeling of smaller, well-shaped breasts.
To the best extent possible, incisions are hidden in the crease below the breast and at the edge of the areola. There will also be a scar running vertically from the crease to the lower edge of the areola.
Breast reduction scars can be red and bumpy for up to a year or more, after which they typically fade to thin white lines. Every patient is unique, so your surgeon will explain your specific incision placement prior to your breast reduction.
What to Expect and Watch For While Scars are Healing
During your recovery from your breast reduction procedure, you can expect the best outcome when you carefully follow your surgeon’s instructions. This includes instructions on preparing for surgery and following up afterward. If you ever have any doubt or questions about your instructions, call your surgeon’s office for clarification.
If you notice any excess bleeding or signs of infection such as puss, fever or excess pain after breast reduction surgery, contact your surgeon right away.
Although breast reduction surgery has a fairly fast recovery period, you shouldn’t try to rush your recovery. Each patient is unique, so you will be given individualized instructions from your surgeon. The following is a general idea of what you can expect.
Tips to Minimize Breast Reduction Scars
- Take it slow: Surgical incisions must be protected from stress, strain, excessive stretching and abrasion while healing for the quickest recovery, to minimize scarring and achieve the best result.
- Incline while resting: After surgery, sleep in an inclined position (with your torso at a 25 to 40-degree angle), while swelling remains. Try specially designed “wedge” pillows or prop-up on two or three pillows. Some patients prefer to sleep in a recliner.
- Use steri-strips: You will likely keep these on (or surgical tape) for the first week or more.
- No hot showers: Hot water and moisture/steam can prolong your post-operative swelling. Stick with warm or cool showers for the first few weeks. Avoid directing a strong water stream on your surgical incisions and nearby areas. Don’t take any type of shower until your surgeon gives you the okay, which is usually a day or two after surgery.
- Do not drink alcohol or smoke: These habits interfere with skin healing and can worsen scarring. Abstain for at least 2 to 4 weeks before and after surgery.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit your salt intake: Eat plenty of vitamin K containing food items like yogurt, lettuce and eggs, which can help to reduce inflammation.
- Care for your incision: You can typically shower after the second day, but get your surgeon’s OK. Don’t immerse incisions in water (such as a bathtub). Use only surgeon-supplied or approved ointments or creams on your incision. Watch for signs of infection, excess bleeding or excess inflammation, fever and chills. Call your surgeon if anything worries you.
- Avoid the sun: After your surgeon gives you permission for sun exposure, wear sunscreen at all times. Leaving incisions unprotected can lead to hyperpigmentation, cause irritation, increase scarring and slow healing.
- Herbal remedies: Even herbal preparations, creams and supplements have side effects, interaction with medications, contraindications and the potential for allergic reactions. Always ask your physician or surgeon for guidance in your specific case:
- Try Arnica Montana: This herbal, homeopathic remedy may help to minimize bruising, pain and swelling during recovery. Arnica montana cream may be applied after your stitches are removed to bruised areas but not directly on incisions.
- Consider bromelain: This pineapple enzyme may help to decrease swelling in some people. With your doctor’s permission, take it several days before surgery and/or up to 2 weeks after. Pineapple juice may also help to reduce swelling.
- Returning to work: Every patient is different, but most patients can return to work in one to two weeks following a breast reduction.
- Resuming light exercise: Light exercise can be resumed in about three weeks—provided your surgeon gives their ok.
- Don’t raise your blood pressure: This could delay healing and/or cause bleeding, so no major workouts for the first 4 to 6 weeks. A small amount of walking is good, but no running and no upper body exercise.
- Don’t place a strain on incisions: You must not lift, push or pull with your arms. Keep the elbows next to your body so that you remember not to reach for anything far away and place tension on your incisions/stitches. This includes no driving for at least a week.
- Massage: Your surgeon may recommend massaging to soften scars after incisions are healed.
- Avoid strenuous exercise or activity for several weeks: Don’t lift anything over your head or participate in a strenuous workout for about 6 weeks. Remember to follow the specific recommendations of your surgeon, which may differ in some cases.
- No swimming for about 6 weeks, until your scabs are gone and you’ve got the OK to exercise your upper body.
- Steroid injections: Your surgeon will provide these if needed during your recovery. Your surgeon may prescribe or recommend a steroid cream.
- Scar sheets: Your surgeon may recommend silicone sheets or scar gel to be used for six months to a year.
- Laser skin treatments can help to blend the scar into the background. Do this only after healing is well underway, at least a month or more after surgery, with your NJ plastic surgeon’s recommendation.
Northern NJ Breast Reductions
Breast reduction surgery has one of the highest “worth it” ratings from women who’ve undergone the procedure—surpassing most other types of plastic surgery. This could be due to the immediate relief and health benefits often commented upon: the ability to be more active without the pain of large, heavy breasts and greater self-esteem.
Women overwhelmingly say the positive effects on their lives are well worth breast reduction scars, which are easily hidden by a bikini top. Your specific potential for breast reduction scars and all surgical risks should be discussed in a consultation with your surgeon.
To find out if breast reduction is right for you, schedule a no-charge consultation with Dr. Cohen or Dr. Winters in Bergen County. We believe that helping you find the right surgeon is just as important as us finding the right patient. We’d love to speak with you about your breast reduction plans.