Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Stephen Lex describes tummy tuck surgery techniques to reduce tummy tuck scar appearance, and proper incision aftercare
Tummy tucks, or abdominoplasty surgeries, are common plastic surgery procedures that help patients feel more confident by achieving a trimmer and more toned abdomen.
During a tummy tuck procedure, we remove excess abdominal skin and fat. Many tummy tuck patients I see are also interested in getting a mommy makeover, which combines a tummy tuck, breast augmentation or lift, and liposuction.
When we perform tummy tuck procedures, we make sure our incisions are as discreet as possible to minimize scarring. Tummy tuck scarring is a frequent topic that patients want to talk about. Here are some of the main questions I get from patients about how we minimize tummy tuck scar appearance.
What Do Tummy Tuck Scars Look Like?
As highly experienced plastic surgeons, we are well-trained to avoid scarring with discreet incision patterns and surgical techniques that hide incisions within the body’s natural contours.
Tummy tuck incisions involve the following pattern:
- Mini tummy tuck scars tend to be smaller, running horizontally along the contour of the bikini line just above the pubic bone. Mini tummy tucks are most suitable for patients who have less skin and tissue to remove.
- For regular tummy tucks, we make an incision just above the pubic bone from hip to hip. This incision is discreet and hidden under the bikini line, and we try to keep it as small as possible based on how much tissue we’re removing. If we want to remove excess skin in the upper abdomen, we’ll also make a small incision around the belly button. This allows us to pull the skin down, trim excess tissue, and make a new belly button opening in its natural position.
Tummy tuck scars will usually fade considerably within several months up to the first year after surgery. The scars are easily concealed by underwear, clothing, and bathing suits, and can be further minimized with proper aftercare or scar treatments. If a patient has had a cesarean section, then we can sometimes incorporate c-section scars and tummy tuck scars to reduce overall visibility.
Techniques to Reduce Scarring With Proper Aftercare
Tummy tuck patients usually feel recovered between three and five months post-operatively. Tummy tuck scarring is patient-dependent, but there are some ways to reduce the appearance of scars. First and foremost, always follow your plastic surgeon’s aftercare instructions to optimize the healing process.
General Tummy Tuck Aftercare
Here’s what I advise every tummy tuck patient to do while they’re healing:
- Taking Care of The Incision: Following surgery, your incision wound will be covered by a surgical dressing or bandage. Keep this area clean, and always be gentle with your incision.
- Compression: You’ll receive a compression garment to wear around the abdomen for two months after surgery. This garment applies gentle pressure, reduces swelling, and supports your abdominal muscles. After the compression garment, wearing high-waisted leggings can help support the tissue and additional healing.
- Bathing: Don’t shower within the first 48 hours after surgery, remove the bandages, or clean your incision. Try to keep your showers brief and avoid bathing in very hot water while you’re healing.
- Swimming: Don’t submerge your abdomen in a bath, pool, hot tub, lake, or ocean for eight weeks. This helps reduce the risk of infection from pathogens that could be in the water.
Evidence-Based Scar Management Techniques
In addition to proper aftercare, there are other ways to minimize the appearance of tummy tuck scars. Don’t start these scar treatments within the first two weeks or until the surgical wounds are fully closed and healed.
- Gentle Massage: Gently massaging lotion over your tummy tuck scar can help it become less visible over time. The lotion doesn’t need to be expensive or have certain ingredients – Aquaphor or cocoa butter would work.
- Scar Gels / Scar Tape: Silicone gels or scar tape have been shown to help reduce the appearance of scars. Apply the gel or tape directly onto the skin.
- Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen to your tummy tuck scar for the first year, and prevent direct sun exposure on the incision areas.
- Laser Treatments: At our practice, we provide laser skin treatments for patients during follow-up appointments when we feel it would benefit scarring. Laser skin treatments promote healthy cell turnover, making scars look less visible.
- Steroid Injections: The chemicals in these injections can help diffuse scar tissue under the skin, making the scars look smaller and less noticeable.
Book Your Tummy Tuck Consultation Today
If you’d like to learn more about tummy tuck procedures, we’d love to bring you in for a consultation. Our team of board-certified plastic surgeons and experienced providers at Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona can answer your questions and discuss a wide range of surgical and non-surgical body contouring treatment options.
Author Profile: Stephen Lex, M.D., is a highly experienced board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon and co-founder of Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona practice. Dr. Lex has practiced in Flagstaff since 1989 and specializes in cosmetic surgery, microsurgery, craniomaxillofacial surgery, and reconstructive procedures.