Tummy tuck is one of the most popular body contouring surgeries after massive weight loss. This involves removal of loose skin and fat that hangs from the abdomen; oftentimes, it also combines some type of muscle repair (tightening) to further contour and narrow the waistline.
The tummy tuck incision, which typically runs from hip to hip and is beneath the undergarment, generally takes 3-4 weeks to heal—i.e., all the scabs are gone and so there is no longer risk of wound irritation and infection. At this point, patients can start using scar treatments such as silicone sheets and gels.
While most of the swelling and bruising are already gone by 2-3 weeks, tummy tuck scars take longer time to “stabilize” or reach its maturity. Oftentimes, they look worst at 4-6 weeks postop due to the reddish color stemming from new blood vessels growing beneath their surface.
And after about six weeks following tummy tuck, the scar appearance starts to improve. Leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley says most scars fade gradually over a period of 12-18 months until they leave a white or silver mark that is barely visible.
Meanwhile, a few patients end up with a less than optimal scar appearance (due to keloids or hyperpigmentation in which the scar is noticeably darker than the surrounding tissue). Laser treatments, medical-grade chemical peels, steroid injections, and scar revision are some of the options that can help improve its appearance.
While certain risk factors of scar are beyond the surgeon and the patient’s control (e.g., genetic propensity to keloids), some methods remain useful in promoting faded scars; these include the use of scar treatments such as silicone patch or gel, sun protection, and scar massage.
In general, tummy tuck scar should never be exposed to the sun for a minimum of six months to prevent hyperpigmentation.