A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgical procedure that tightens abdominal muscles and flattens your abdomen by removing excess skin and fat. You may benefit from a tummy tuck if:
- You’ve lost a significant amount of weight that has left you with loose, excess skin around your belly.
- Your abdominal muscles have become stretched, and you have loose abdominal skin following pregnancy.
- Your skin has lost elasticity due to aging.
- You’ve always had a belly that protrudes in spite of being in good shape.
However, your surgeon may recommend against getting a tummy tuck if you:
- Plan on getting pregnant
- Plan on losing a significant amount of weight
- Are a smoker
- Are diagnosed with a severe chronic disease, such as diabetes
- Have a BMI that’s over 30
- Have pre-existing abdominal scars
Now, like with any other surgery, tummy tuck poses various risks, that include:
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Fluid accumulation (seroma)
- Poor wound healing
- Loss of skin
- Scarring, which this article will be covering
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Poor results
Your plastic surgeon will discuss these risks and more before you consent to surgery.
What is a scar?
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) defines a scar as a mark left on your skin after an injury heals.
When you have a skin injury caused by an accident, surgery, or a disease (such as acne), your body works to repair the wound by creating collagen to reconnect the tissues broken apart by the injury.
In the process, a scab forms over the wound to protect it from germs during healing.
Types of tummy tuck scars
Your scar size and location will depend on the type of abdominoplasty you need.
Your plastic surgeon will determine the ideal tummy tuck technique for you depending on your underlying anatomies, the location and amount of excess skin, and your clothing preference.
An ideal incision is one made close to the pubic line so that your underwear, swimwear, and or pants can hide the resulting scar.
However, there are cases where having a scar visible above the bikini line is unavoidable, especially if you have significant excess skin in your upper abdomen. The different tummy tuck scars include:
- Full tummy tuck scars: a full tummy tuck, otherwise known as a standard tummy tuck, results in a hip-to-hip scar and another scar around your belly button as it gets repositioned during the surgery.
- Mini tummy tuck scar: the scar is 4-8 inches long and above the pubic region. A mini tummy tuck has minimal improvement and is, therefore, best suitable for patients with a small amount of excess skin.
- Extended tummy tuck scars: an extended tummy tuck requires a horizontal scar that reaches around the hips such that, the scar’s tail ends are visible from behind. It also requires an incision around your navel. The procedure is mainly performed on massive weight loss patients since it removes more skin than the standard technique.
- Fleur-de-lis tummy tuck scars: a fleur-de-lis requires both horizontal and vertical incisions. And since it’s harder to hide the vertical scar, the procedure is reserved for patients who accept that achieving the optimal contour will mean having some conspicuous scars.
Do tummy tuck scars go away?
Tummy tuck scars are permanent. However, a well qualified plastic surgeon will place a tummy tuck scar low enough and make a tension-free closure to get you the best result.
Your surgeon might even ask that on the day of the surgery, you wear a bathing suit or underwear that you plan on wearing so he/she can place the scar within the underwear/bikini line, hiding it.
But although permanent, tummy tuck scars usually fade into thin, faint lines over time.
Tummy tuck scars treatment or removal
Tummy tuck scars take several months to mature and usually fade in a year.
While there is no procedure yet that will make a scar disappear completely, there are various procedures that can help minimize its appearance.
1. Surgical scar revision
Scar revision surgery works best for long or wide scars since it can shorten or thin scars. It is also a good option if you want your scar’s appearance to blend with the tone and texture of your natural skin.
The procedure reduces the scar’s appearance by reconnecting the unaffected skin. But instead of a straight incision, irregular incision lines are used as they make the scar less noticeable.
Your plastic surgeon may also use topical treatments. It is recommended to wait six to twelve months after surgery before having surgical scar revision.
2. Punch grafts
Punch grafting involves removing the scar from the skin by making an incision around it then replacing it with skin from another spot on your body.
The skin graft is usually gotten from behind the ear since the area is rather inconspicuous.
Your skin will take about a week to heal, and the resulting scar will be smoother and less noticeable.
3. Laser treatment
Laser treatment involves tummy tuck scar removal or reformation using high-energy light.
During the procedure, collagen replaces damaged skin, improving the scar’s color and texture. The type of laser used and the number of treatment sessions needed depends on the depth and severity of a scar.
Laser treatment is expensive, but it is one of the best scar treatments available.
4. Topical treatments
Once you no longer have scabs on your incision, you can start with topical treatments. It is recommended to use a product, could be a cream, gel, or sheet, containing silicone.
Silicone heals scars by increasing hydration of the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of the skin), which regulates fibroblast production and reduces collagen production.
As a result, the scar tissue is softened and reduced in size. You can also apply vitamin E and cocoa butter creams to help keep the scar hydrated.
Tips on how to minimize your tummy tuck scars
Stop smoking before your surgery and during recovery. Smoking increases the risk of infection and complications, which may slow the healing process and cause tissue damage.
Monitor your incision for infection and notify your plastic surgeon if you suspect it’s infected. An infected incision can cause noticeable scarring.
Keep your skin moisturized. But only apply a moisturizer directly on your scar once the incision is closed to avoid infection.
Don’t expose your scars in the sun. Ultraviolet radiation slows the healing process and can cause scars to discolor. Cover your scar with clothing or wear sunscreen when you’re outside.
Use products and wear clothing that is gentle to your skin. Products and clothing that irritate your skin make your scar worse.
- Tummy tuck Guide (n.d) https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/procedure-learning-center/body/tummy-tuck-guide/
- Tummy Tuck Care by Mayo clinic stuff (2019) https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tummy-tuck/about/pac-20384892
- How to remove tummy tuck Scarring (2017) https://www.healthline.com/health/tummy-tuck-scars
- Different tummy tuck techniques(2016) https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/blog/different-tummy-tuck-techniques
- What is a scar? (n.d) https://www.aad.org/public/kids/skin/scars