Post Op Top Surgery Scar Care - Topical Treatments and Nutrition to Heal
TRY THESE NATURAL REMEDIES AND TOPICAL SOLUTIONS TO HELP YOU HEAL AFTER TOP SURGERY
Scar care is often on one's mind before, during, and after top surgery. After care is vital to healthy healing and feeling your best. In this post, I discuss my scar care methods for post op top surgery care. These care methods mostly apply to once you are at about 2 weeks post op and beyond. Each surgeon has different methods and post op instructions. Follow those as closely as possible, especially while your incisions are closing and healing. Once your incisions have closed and your surgeon clears you to start "scar care", these are some helpful tips to try and the methods that I have used for my post op scar care.
SKIN HEALING TEA
- 1 Tbsp Greek Mountain Tea (Dried Sideritis)
- 1 Tbsp Dried Calendula Petals
- 1 Tsp Manuka Honey (20+ and Up)
- 1 Lemon Wedge
To make: Place the dried tea and petals into a tea pot. Squeeze lemon wedge into a cup and then place wedge in the tea pot. Pour boiling water into tea pot and let mixture sit 6-8 minutes. Once ready, stir honey into cup and enjoy.
Why use it: Hydration is a key element of keeping the body healing well, especially the skin tissue. By utilizing tea, you can work in powerful healing agents while staying hydrated. The Greek Mountain Tea contains powerful anti-oxidants, helps with inflammation, and is anti-microbial (it helps eliminate infections). Calendula Petals are an ancient remedy for skin wounds and scar healing. The flowers are filled with anti-oxidants which help to promote skin regeneration and increase blood flow to the skin. The Manuka Honey helps to increase oxygen flow to the skin which helps to regenerate the tissue and reduce dark scar appearance. This powerful Honey also traps moisture in the skin to aid with hydrated healing. The Lemon juice is a Vitamin C booster which helps to brighten and lighten the skin.
When to use: You can start using this tea as soon as you are out of surgery! It's gentle on the stomach and will aid in healing right away. I enjoy this tea during bath soaks and while using my Post Op Scar Mask.
EAT HEALTHY FATS FROM PLANT SOURCES TO HEAL
During your first 6-8 weeks of recovery after top surgery, your body will be much less active than before. It will be utilizing the energy it has to repair and heal the skin tissue. If you chose to get nipple grafts, it will also be working to create that new skin tissue. Your diet can change during this recovery period to provide optimal nutrients to your hard working body.
This recovery period is the perfect time to lean slightly away from carbs and protein by upping your healthy fat intake. Now... I don't mean go crazy with tons of butter and dairy. I'm talking about adding maybe 10-20% more fat than you usually intake. This also means that you pull those calories away from carbs and protein. Here's why I suggest that... digestion is a tiring process and already puts the body under stress. By eating lower volume meals, you will soften the digestion process and move that energy over to healing. In addition, fat is hands down the macronutrient that aids in tissue repair. So, it's a win-win to raise this one up post op.
Why fat helps aids in skin healing and tissue building: By increasing healthy fats in your diet post op, you will help your body's ability to absorb key vitamins involved in tissue repair. Vitamins like A, K, D, and E are fat-soluble. These vitamins dissolve in fat and then are absorbed. By creating a healthy fat source in your gut, you give these vitamins a nice bath to absorb in. Protein is usually given the credit for collagen building, but it can often be hard to digest. Many of the plant based fat sources that I list below contain protein and will help your body produce collagen. Healthy fats will also aid in keeping your skin hydrated which is essential to that new tissue repairing and healing well.
PLANT BASED FAT SOURCES TO USE DURING POST OP HEALING
- Hemp Hearts
- Flax Seeds or Ground Flaxseed
- Cocoa Butter (Raw and Cold Pressed)
- Coconut Oil and MCT Oil
- Chia Seeds
- Raw Nuts (Walnuts, Cashews, Almonds)
- Raw Seeds (Pepitas and Sunflower)
When to use: You can start using these fats as soon as you are feeling that your stomach is settled. If you have an nausea, wait until you are feeling a little better.
TOPICAL SOLUTIONS FOR SCAR CARE
I didn't start topical scar care until after I was 2 weeks post op. At this point, I was able to peel off the strips covering my incisions and reveal my forming scars. I still had one week left of the ACE bandage, so this made scar care a little tricky. Using the silicone scar strips was difficult because they would often be moved by the ACE wrap. Using my scar mask was tricky because I had to get back into the bandage within an hour or so of showering. Overall, it's trickier than after you are out of the wrap. While your still in the wrap, just treat your incisions as gently as possible and don't worry so much about topical scar care until after you are out.
SCAR CARE HEALING MASK
I've mentioned it a few times in the post, but here is the scar care mask that I have been using post op top surgery.
- 1 Tbsp Manuka Honey (MGO 30+ or greater)
- 1 Tbsp French Green Clay
- 1 Tbsp Alma Powder
To make: In a container with a lid, combine all ingredients plus a little water. Start with about a tbsp of warm water and keep adding water as you mix until you reach a smooth, spreadable, and whipped texture paste. It should be light and airy but not watery. All ingredients for this mask can easily be found on Amazon. Buy the higher quality brands that have good overall ratings.
To use: Spread this mask in a thin layer onto your closed incisions, closed wounds, old scars, areas with eczema, acne, or just as a refreshing face mask. Leave the mask on 20 min or more. Please note that if you leave on longer than 20 minutes, the mask is harder to remove. To wash off, soak in the shower or tub. Take your time when removing the mask and slowly rub a bar of natural soap over the area until the mask loosens. Remember... this is healing skin so be gentle and take your time. If you have trouble, use a thinner layer next time or just soak in the tub.
To store: Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Use batch within 2 weeks.
When to use: Start using this mask when your incisions are closed and your strips have fallen off or been removed (about 2-3 weeks post op). If you are sensitive or in any pain, apply very thin layer and only leave on 10 minutes or less. Use the mask before a shower or bath. You can use the mask prior to putting on silicone gel and scar strips (after you wash the mask off).
Read more on why this mask is effective in the original post. LEARN MORE
MANUKA HONEY, COCONUT OIL, AND BIO OIL
These are the 3 main topical solutions that I use besides the mask and silicone treatment. Since I use silicone treatment (mentioned below), using oils and slippery solutions like this is tricky. Mostly, it's just getting the timing right or alternating between treatment types.
Manuka Honey: While I used my scar mask, I would place Manuka Honey on my nipple grafts. It's full of antimicrobial properties and helps skin heal, so it aids the skin grafts in eliminating infection and growing healthy tissue. If you are prone to infection or notice your incision lines getting inflamed or sore, I'd highly recommend gently applying this and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes. Rinse off when you're done. This honey is in the scar mask and in the tea that I drink, so it was a daily part of my healing ritual internally as well as externally.
Coconut Oil: This oil is very slick, so it needs to be applied separate from Silicone Gel and Scar Strips. I found that applying this a few hours prior to my scar mask and letting it soak in does the trick. I do intend to use this more the further along I get and especially after I am done using Silicone treatment. Coconut Oil is excellent at eliminating infection and locking in moisture. These both help you to heal well. It is also a great exfoliant that is gentle, so it is perfect for removing adhesive that builds up from post op dressings. It also can remove silicone that builds up from apply gel daily. To use as a remover, apply a small amount and slowly work in circles on the areas. DO NOT rub into the skin. Studies show that massaging scars or incisions adds to scar appearance. This is gentle new tissue, treat it will a light touch. You can use Coconut Oil on your nipple grafts, but I'd advise to only do so once you are done with the xeroform dressing process (around 3 weeks Post Op).
Bio Oil: I use Bio Oil very similar to Coconut Oil and just switch off between the two. Again, this oil is super slick so you can not use it prior to silicone treatment unless you wash it off. Bio Oil is a little lighter than Coconut Oil so it's nice if you are in a hurry to get dressed and don't want oil stains on your shirt. Bio Oil contains essential oils that have been shown to lighten the appearance of scars. It is a great addition but will not completely eliminate scarring.
When to use: These 3 can begin to be used around 2-3 weeks post op and when you are at a point on beginning scar care. These are also the 3 long term topical solutions that I intend to use. Locking in moisture is an on-going need for scar care, so plan to use these natural boosters far into your post op care.
SILICONE GEL AND SCAR STRIPS
In all the research I did prior to top surgery, silicone kept coming up as the thing you "must" do to reduce appearance of scars. The studies are there and the numbers look great, but most of the research is funded by the companies that make it. That being said, at 6 weeks post op, I already notice a difference of how my scars look after being under scar tape for long periods of time vs. when I've had the tape off for 2 hours or more.
The main reason silicone works is that it locks moisture into the top layer of skin. Silicone also helps boost collagen production and can help reduce the chance of keloids from forming. Since the silicone doesn't easily dissolve, it creates a protective barrier against bacteria and other debris that can collect on your incision lines. Now... all that being said, I'll tell you what I think the best benefit of using this combination is. Protection. Hand down, it's adding a protective layer to new and sensitive tissue. Think about it, your shirt will consistently rub against your newly formed scars all day long and all night. That's a lot of unnecessary friction and stimulation to that sensitive tissue. This is where silicone comes in, it creates a safe barrier where new tissue can thrive and heal.
Silicone Gel: I apply the gel first in a thin layer and let it dry at least 20 minutes. Look for Scar Gel with these two ingredients (Polysiloxanes, Silicon Dioxide). You don't need anything else, you just want the silicone - the purer the better. I've used ScarAway brand and Kelo Cote, they are made of the same ingredients. I advise against the "roll on" tubes, they don't work and are not good against sensitive skin. The roll on bottle was cheaper though, so I bought that and tore out the metal ball. Tubes of Scar Gel are around $30 on Amazon and last 3-4 weeks if you use a very thin layer.
Scar Strips: These are more valuable than the scar gel as they provide that protective layer that I talked about above. They are also great for being shirtless in the sun while you are still 6 Months or less post op. I'd recommend them highly, but I won't lie - I don't love using them. Purchase the "long" style strips and cut them into pieces so that you have narrow strips. Out of one large long strip, I can make 2 narrow strips. I need 2 strips for each incision. The strips should be removed daily and gently washed with water. I then lay the strips onto paper towel to dry flat. They take a good hour or more to properly dry. Make sure that you are completely clean and dry before applying. If you have any type of oil left on your skin, they will not stick.
The strips typically last me around a week before I need new ones cut. The box says you can use for up to 4 weeks which I think is ridiculous, they start to get less sticky by about day 4 and the other days are a process of gently pressing on them to res-stick. A box of strips is around $50-$55. I'm about half way through a box at 4 weeks of using. So, if you go this route be advised that it can get expensive.
I hope that you can utilize some of these post op care tips! It has been a lot of working figuring out how to best fit in all this scar care into my daily routine, but making self care a priority is key. Remember, it won't be forever and you want to do what you can to take care of your new chest. Also, your scars are beautiful! Let's embrace each other's differences and try not to see minimal appearance scars as somehow "better". Each person's results will be their own, learn to love your new chest for all it's own uniqueness!
My top surgery was on December 5th, 2017 with Dr. Garramone in Miami, Florida. I had a double incision / double mastectomy with nipple grafts and drains. To learn more about my post op experience, be sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel and view the part of my blog that covers my transition experiences.
If you have specific questions on post op top surgery scar care or my experience with Dr. Garramone, feel free to contact me.
Please note that this is meant to share my experience, none of the content is meant to be taken as hard medical facts or advice. Please consult with a doctor or surgeon regarding any post op scar care questions.
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