Stephen McCulley, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon. MBChb, FCS(SA)Plast, FRCS(plast)

How to massage scar tissue after breast surgery

Why massage scars?

  • Massaging scar tissue helps the body to remove built-up collagen from the site, leaving the scar flatter to the surface of the skin.
  • Repeated massaging can keep the scar supple and flexible. It is also an excellent way to help the scar remain moist, which aids the overall healing process.
  • Scars are notoriously itchy. Massage can reduce this sensation without inflaming the affected area.

When to start scar massage after surgery

It is important that you only start massaging your scar once it is sufficiently healed. This should be after about two weeks. You should not massage your scar if you still have stiches or if the scar has a scab on it.

How to massage scar tissue

With the tips of two or more fingers, gently apply pressure to the scar and surrounding area while moving your fingers in one of three directions:

  • Back and forth along the length of the scar.
  • From one side of the scar to the other, slowly moving along the length so the whole of the scar and its surrounding tissue has been massaged.
  • In small circles while moving along the length of the scar. The circumference of the circles should encompass the skin on either side of the scar.

Should I use cream or lotion when massaging my scar?

You don’t have to use cream when massaging; however, lubrication will moisten the scar and keep it flexible. Scabs are essential to the healing process but excessive scabbing can slow that process down. Keeping wounds moist and flexible minimises scabbing.


Warning! Scabs should never be picked off before they are ready to fall off naturally as this can lead to infection, as well as a more noticeable scar once the healing has finished.


Another reason to moisturise scars is to prevent drying out, which can lead them to crack and bleed, setting back the healing process.

What is the best cream to use for massaging scars?

Any moisturiser can be used, as long as it does not contain too much perfume; highly scented lotions may cause irritation to sensitive areas.

Many factors promote scar healing, including:

  • Nutrition
  • Collagen production
  • Circulation

As yet, there is no conclusive research to show that any specific cream or lotion has a beneficial effect beyond its ability to lubricate and moisten the scar.

However, various surgeons present anecdotal evidence that some work better than others, and many have their favourites.

Here are some of the most popular:

Fragrance-free lotion

This standard type of lotion does not profess to have any special healing properties. But it is recommended by many doctors as an effective aid to massage that also helps to keep scars supple.

Cream containing vitamin E

Some doctors swear by this, while others point out the lack of evidence around its effectiveness. Others caution that vitamin E cream should not be used in the first month after surgery.

Castor oil

Castor oil works as an effective lubricant and is also known to have antibacterial properties. This oil contains several vitamins and minerals that aid skin growth, as well as ricinoleic acid, which has been found to reduce inflammation and redness.

Vaseline ®

Vaseline, and other brands of petroleum jelly, are excellent lubricants and also form a barrier that prevents harmful bacteria and other contaminants entering the wound. However, they are only effective when used on newly formed scars. Vaseline, like most of the other lotions in this list, has little effect on old scars.

Aloe vera

Many doctors recommend aloe vera cream for improved scarring.  This is because it aids healing by strengthening the collagen structure that forms the scar tissue. Aloe vera is also thought to reduce inflammation due to the glycoproteins it contains.

Onion extract

Some people believe this is an excellent treatment for improving the appearance of hypertrophic and keloid scars. However, this does not mean that you should squeeze or rub onion directly onto your wound. Lotions containing the active ingredient, allium cepa, can be bought over the counter. The popular Mederma scar treatment gel is based on onion extract.

Silicone gel

Silicone gel contains silicone polymers and other components that work to reduce the texture, colour and height of many levels of scarring, from normal through to keloid. Some silicone gel has a quick-drying property, which is not ideal for massage, but does boost the gel’s other unique properties and helps to improve scar reduction.

Before buying these products, ask your plastic surgeon if their use is appropriate. You may be prescribed certain creams that contain steroids or antihistamines to prevent itching and other reactions. If you would like to know more, contact us on 0115 962 4535 or e-mail enquiries@stephenmcculley.co.uk.

How hard should I massage?

This will depend on how new the scar is. The newer the scar, the more delicate you will have to be. As a rule, you should only apply as much pressure as feels comfortable. When massaging with lotion, you should press down until the area of the scar lightens or turns white.

For how long should I massage my scar?

You should massage for about 10 minutes or until the scar starts to feel sensitive. Do not continue massaging if the scar becomes sore or inflamed.

How often should I massage my scar?

Massage your scar no more than two or three times a day. Be careful not to irritate your scar through excessive massaging.

When should I stop massaging my scar?

Keep your daily scar massage going for about 6 months after your surgery. You may benefit from massaging after this point, but the majority of the healing process has occurred by this time, so most of the work has been done.

When should I not massage my scar?

  • Never massage broken skin or an open wound as this will inflame the area and could even cause infection. This action could result in a more prominent scar after the healing has finished.
  • Stop massaging if you feel pain or notice increased redness.
  • Stop if the scar is inflamed and warmer than the surrounding skin.
  • Never massage if the scar is openly bleeding.

There are a number of activities you can perform that will help to minimise scarring. For more about scars from breast surgery, look at our page titled Your Complete Guide to Minimising Scars from Breast Enlargement Surgery.

If you have any further questions please contact us at enquiries@stephenmcculley.co.uk or ring 0115 962 4535 and we will answer any queries you may have.