One of the most common questions I get is “Am I going to have a scar after surgery?” The answer is, of course! Every time you cut the skin beyond a certain depth, the body repairs the damage by forming a scar. This is to create strength in the damaged area so as to prevent further injury.
The art of cosmetic plastic surgery is to try and minimize and hide the scar in a way that it is the least visible. In many cases, even the trained eye cannot find the mark. We use many tricks, such as hiding it in natural creases such as the fold of the eyelid or curve of the ear, and using the change in color from dark to light, such as in the edge of the areola in breast augmentation.
The healing process often takes about a year before the scar matures, and it can go through some red and firm stages before the process is complete. I see my patients very often after surgery to insure healing is proceeding in the ideal manner. If the scar looks dark, red, wide, or thick, I can usually recommend medications, tapes, and sometimes injections to improve the final result. If a patient comes back after 6 months or longer, it is often too late to help with these small interventions, and sometimes surgery is needed to correct the scar.
Let me also clear up 2 common misconceptions- lasers and keloids. If you do surgery where you are cutting, a laser is just as likely to leave a scar as a scalpel. It is just a different way to cut. Some lasers can help after a scar is established to help flatten or fade a mark, but do not be fooled into thinking that a laser tummy tuck, laser breast lift or laser facial surgery is in any way better than traditional surgery. It is often just hype to sell you a service that is most often no better result wise, and in inexperienced hands can have significantly more complications.
Every ugly or visible scar is not necessarily a keloid. Keloids are a type of abnormal scar that rises off the surface of your skin, and grows beyond the border of the scar onto normal skin. It is often treated with steroid injections and radiation therapy in addition to surgery. They are often resistant to correction.
So, if a plastic surgeon tells you that a surgery in which your skin is cut leaves no scar, be very skeptical. No one can promise you an invisible scar, as even the best surgical technique coupled with perfect patient care afterwards cannot overcome genetics. Do know that the overwhelming majority of scars heal extremely well with time, and this should not deter you from seeking out cosmetic plastic surgery if it is right for you.