Our skin is a pretty miraculous organ, able to knit itself back together after traumatic injuries thanks to a complex matrix of collagen that works diligently to rebuild broken blood vessels and skin cells.
When injuries are particularly deep, like those resulting from a surgical procedure, collagen can take months to finish its construction work and leave behind evidence in the form of raised, discolored scars. This can cause a lot of anxiety for surgical patients, who often worry about the long-term effect scarring could have on their appearance.
The best way to reduce the appearance of scars is by understanding why it happens. We’ll walk you through a timeline of the post-operative healing process, then provide some helpful tips for wound aftercare that address the common mistakes people make when recovering from a surgical incision.
A Timeline of Healing
Phase I: Hemostasis
Immediately after your skin is wounded, the blood vessels in the area constrict to reduce blood flow and create a clot. In most cases, this phase is very short-lived, but it can take longer depending on the incision area, depth of the wound, or whether you have a pre-existing medical condition like hemophilia.
Phase II: Inflammation
As phase I ends, your body produces growth factors and cytokines to signal that it’s time to start rebuilding damaged tissue. The area will be inflamed for the next week or so as neutrophils and macrophages go to work, eliminating any harmful bacteria that may sneak through the temporary gap in your skin barrier.
Phase III: Proliferation
Phase III is the most variable part of the process as fibroblasts go to work rebuilding the collagen matrix and blood vessels. Collagen is necessary for providing the structure to the new tissue, while the blood vessels provide a vital boost in nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood your cells need to proliferate.
This can take up to a month, but the wound has completely closed by the end. The build-up of new tissue layers on top of one another creates a raised, discolored scar along the incision line.
Phase IV: Remodeling
Even after your incision looks healed on the outside, there’s still work to do under the surface. Over the following months or years, collagen production reorganizes the new tissue, causing the skin to tighten and pucker. Typically, scars fade over time, flattening and losing their redness as the new tissue integrates into your existing skin matrix. Some may even disappear altogether, but that’s the exception to the rule, particularly when you’re healing from a deep, surgical incision.
Reducing Your Risk of Post-Procedure Scarring
The steps that you take post-procedure have a significant impact on the severity of scarring.
Only Work with Trusted Medical Providers
Working with a trusted, experienced doctor is the first and most crucial step in healthy wound healing. Before the procedure, they should take the time to map out exactly where the incision should be to reduce its visibility and walk you through their expected outcomes for scarring based on your medical history.
You can also ask about alternative incision placement, but that option isn’t always possible.
Keep the Wound Clean and Hydrated
Once the post-operative dressings are off, clean the wound with unscented, antibacterial soap to keep microbes at bay. Then, apply a gentle ointment to keep scabbing to a minimum, as they can slow down the healing process, blocking cells from rebuilding in the area where the dried blood clots have collected.
Use Medical-Grade Silicone
Dermatologist-approved silicone strips and topical gels, like the Silagen Scar Refinement System, have been shown to help wounds heal more efficiently and reduce the amount of scarring. They’re also excellent at helping reduce the appearance of older scars.
Maintain Your Sun Protectant Routine
Scars are more prone to UV-related hyperpigmentation. After your wound is completely healed and you receive medical clearance, pay particular attention to applying SPF to scarred skin.
Be Gentle While Your Incision Heals
During the crucial collagen regrowth stage, the new skin and cardiovascular cells are weaker than the rest of your skin. Pulling, stretching, or stressing the area can cause invisible tearing in this weakened tissue, prompting even more collagen production and increasing the risk of raised scars as these layers of new cell growth build up on each other.
Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions for Sutures
When your doctor closes the incision, they will use either absorbable (PDS, Monocryl, Vicryl, etc.) or non-absorbable (braided, silk, Ethilon, etc.) sutures. Depending on the material and type, your provider will give you a list of guidelines that will help reduce your chances of tearing them, developing an infection, and excessive scarring. Carefully following these steps is your best chance of avoiding suture-related complications.
Silagen is Now Available At AST
If you are looking for the gold standard in scar repair, look no further than Advanced Skin Therapeutics. We are proud to offer our clients Siligen 100% Pure Silicone Gel & Silicone Gel + SPF 30 to help heal your skin and reduce scarring with a silky-smooth formula free of chemical sunscreens.