Plastic surgery and good skin care go hand in hand. Every surgeon will tell you that following a well-devised skin-care routine can improve your surgical results. So what should your skin-care routine look like directly after surgery and in the months following to make the most of the procedure? Ahead, the answers straight from the experts.
Your Skin and Surgery
Facial plastic surgery eliminates sagging skin and resuspends the structures underneath it, but it doesn’t address the skin’s texture, tone or quality. So although the skin isn’t the focus of rejuvenation procedures, it shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Surgery and resurfacing procedures compromise the skin, leaving it inflamed, raw, red, and sensitive. However, your everyday skin-care products are likely unsuitable, and you’ll need to switch them for gentler, more hydrating and non-exfoliating products.
While the Skin Heals
Certain products and ingredients are off-limits post-surgery, while others need to be part of the rotation. New York facial plastic surgeon Dilip Madnani, MD says it’s not a specific surgery that dictates what to integrate into a post-procedure routine as much as the modality used—think a surgical incision versus a laser, for example.
After surgery, a mild, gentle and calming routine reinforces the skin barrier to promote healthy healing. Non-foaming cleansers and simple moisturizers are preferred, especially when there’s swelling and inflammation. If washing your face is irritating, try using a cotton round soaked in micellar water to wipe around bandages and medical tape.
Wayne, NJ facial plastic surgeon Jeffrey Wise, MD says to avoid anything that breaks down the skin, including physical scrubs and exfoliating ingredients like retinol, retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). It’s also recommended to bypass products with parabens, sulfates, fragrances, and some antioxidants, which can irritate and dry the skin. “Products made specifically for post-procedure and compromised skin are the safest to use,” Dr. Madnani shares.
Hydration is essential as the skin heals, and moisturizer plays a vital role. New York facial plastic surgeon Lee Ann M. Klausner, MD says wounds heal best in a semi-moist environment. “Nutrient-rich topical products with hyaluronic acid, defensins, niacinamide, and antioxidants help the skin thrive post-treatment.”
Nurse practitioner Radhika Patel, who works with Dr. Wise, says moisturizers should incorporate an emollient, lipid, and a good hydrating ingredient. “Additionally, it shouldn’t be too occlusive, which can cause milia at the incision site,” she adds. If breakouts occur, Dr. Madnani advises cleaning the skin twice daily with a gentle cleanser and letting them resolve independently. Popping a pimple is off-limits since it can damage and pigment the skin.
To Reduce Lingering Redness and Scars
Medical aesthetician Juliana Longoria, who works with Dr. Klausner, endorses polyphenols and niacinamide-rich products to reduce redness. “However, the best treatment for redness is broad band light (BBL) combined with at-home skin-care products.” Other effective redness-reducing treatments include platelet-rich plasma and exosomes, which aid in wound healing and improve scar formation.
Applying topical anti-inflammatory products and phyto-corrective gels or silicone gels and sheets can help flatten the scar, so it blends in with the skin.
Cosmetic procedures are investments; the goal is to preserve the results for as long as possible. Therefore, good skin-care habits in the future are vital.
Use Sunscreen Daily
Sunscreen should be part of any skin-care routine, particularly after surgery, once the initial healing is complete. “Sunscreen is a way for patients to prevent as much of the aging process as possible,” Dr. Madnani shares.
Integrate Skin Brighteners and Products That Increase Cell Turnover
One ingredient that deserves a place in your routine is retinol, which boosts cellular turnover and stimulates collagen. Additionally, niacinamide, defensins, antioxidant-rich serums, and AHAs and BHAs are vital in keeping the skin healthy and youthful. “These ingredients strengthen collagen and elastin and maintain plump, elastic skin,” Dr. Wise shares.
Consider In-Office Treatments
Longoria says skin maintenance often consists of in-office treatments like SofWave, Ultherapy, RF microneedling, BBL, and Moxi treatments, which can extend the results of a procedure. “We can turn back the hands of time with surgery, but we can’t stop the clock. So, continuing to care for your skin is important for the quality of the skin, which surgery cannot treat.”
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