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

How to Reduce Scars After Breast Surgery

One of the biggest worries that many women have about undergoing breast enlargement or reduction procedures is how visible the surgery scars will be.

We also offer a guide to reducing scars from general cosmetic surgery. While this is not breast specific, much of the information can be applied to looking after the scars resulting from breast enlargement surgery too.

Below is a list of helpful hints and exercises that you can follow to

  1. Wear a support bra
  2. Use creams
  3. Apply silicone treatments
  4. Gently massage the area once fully healed
  5. Stop smoking
  6. Eat healthily
  7. Drink plenty of water
  8. Avoid exposing the scar to direct sunlight and UV light from sunbeds for first 6 months
  9. Avoid exercise until fully healed
  10. Keep the wound dry
  11. Avoid hot showers
  12. Take care of your wound
  13. Monitor yourself to make sure your scar is healing as expected

Other aspects of scarring covered on this page are:

1. Wear a support bra

Wearing a post-operative bra throughout the day and at night following the operation will help to keep your breasts supported, placing less stress on the scar. Depending on the advice of your surgeon, you may be asked to wear this type of bra for up to six months after surgery — this is the most important time in the healing process because it is when the scar tissue begins to form.

It is important that you don’t wear an underwired bra as the wiring can rub and irritate certain scars. A post-operative bra will usually have a soft but strong underband, which offers support while still being gentle against the skin.

2. Use creams

You will encounter several different types of cream when you opt for breast surgery. The three types you are most likely to use are:

  • Anti-bacterial cream. Occasionally, you will be required to apply this cream to protect against infection. The use of this cream will very much depend on the post-operative instructions given out by your surgeon. It is important that you follow these instructions closely.
  • Softening cream. This type of cream should only be applied after the wound has healed. It will keep the scar flexible, and in some cases hydrate the area. There are no conclusive studies that show these creams are 100% effective.
  • Silicone treatments. This is by far the most well regarded treatment among the medical community for reducing scars. See below for more information.

3. Apply silicone treatments

Silicone treatments help to hydrate the scar tissue, producing softer, flatter scars. They also act as a barrier to bacteria. The material is ‘breathable’, preventing the scar tissue from becoming sweaty and irritated, and can in fact reduce the itching feeling that comes with scars. They should only be started once the wound has fully healed after 2-3 weeks.

These treatments usually come in two forms:

Thin plaster-like strips of different shapes that fit under the breast and around the nipple. Some brands can be washed and reused.

A runny substance that is spread or painted on before quickly drying. It can be applied several times a day and provides similar benefits to sheets, though with greater flexibility.

4. Gently massage the area

Gentle massaging helps to soften and flatten the scar. This must only be done once the scab has disappeared on its own. Use cream or oil to aid this process. The pressure can also increase blood flow in the skin, speeding up the healing process. Scars are made up of collagen that has knitted together to heal any wound that has been made. Massage helps to distribute the collagen, preventing it from building up.

See our page How to massage scar tissue after breast surgery for more information.

5. Stop smoking

Smoking reduces blood flow, and consequently the amount of oxygen, to the skin. This is needed for a wound to heal properly. Smoking can also affect how well white blood cells fight off infection. This impacts on how well your body heals the incisions from surgery, directly affecting what type of scar is left.

6. Eat healthily

Having the right vitamins, proteins and nutrients in your body with allow it to create new tissue and heal as quickly as possible.

7. Drink plenty of water

Keeping yourself hydrated improves the elasticity of your skin and helps the healing process. When skin lacks fluid, the wound will not receive the right amount of oxygen and nutrients to heal.

8. Avoid exposing scars to direct sunlight

Scar tissue after surgery has less protection against UV light so exposure can make them appear darker. They also suffer from sunburn more easily. After surgery, it is advisable to avoid any exposure to the sun and if that is not possible, it is best to use a high factor sun cream.

9. Avoid exercising

You need to do everything you can to avoid putting stress on the scar. This means doing no exercise immediately after the procedure, and only gentle exercise for the first week after that. Your levels of exercise can be increased gradually in line with advice from your surgeon. Normal exercise can usually resume around six weeks after the operation.

10. Keep the wound dry

Although a moist wound will heal faster, getting a wound wet can promote infection. To reduce scarring it is best to keep it out of water. The wound can be kept moist through the use of creams and lotions.

11. Avoid hot showers

Heat can aggravate the wound and cause inflammation — preventing the wound from healing. Keep your baths and showers lukewarm at first until the wound has sufficiently healed.

12. Take care of your wound

The best way to avoid scarring from breast reduction surgery or breast enlargement surgery is to allow your wound to heal as fast as possible. This means keeping the area clean in order to prevent infection and avoiding any undue stress on the scar.

13. Monitor yourself to make sure your scar is healing as expected

Keeping a close eye on your wound will allow you to judge how the healing is progressing. If it is not healing in line with the expectations of your surgeon, it is important to make a follow-up appointment and talk through your concerns.

Remember to follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions

It is important to follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions as closely as possible in order promote healing.

Your surgeon will give you instructions on things you should do after the operation, such as what type of dressing to use on the incisions and how often it should be changed. During the initial recovery period, be sure to change the dressing as instructed.

If your surgeon uses skin glue to seal the wound, this will peel away after two weeks, at which time you will be able to begin applying cream to the wound.

Go to our aftercare section for more information on what activities to avoid and for how long.

Breast surgery scar infection

Swelling around the operation site is a natural effect of breast augmentation surgery. It won’t usually affect the condition of your scar during the healing process, but it’s important to talk to your surgeon if you experience new swelling around your scar after the initial swelling has subsided. This could signal an infection, or it could stretch the site of your incision so that the scar tissue is affected.

In rare circumstances, some complications may arise. Talk to your surgeon immediately if you have any of the following symptoms concerning your scar:

  • Coloured discharge from the site of your wound
  • Lumps or excessive swelling

Breast surgery healing time

Scar timeline

Breast enlargement or reduction scars can vary in size and severity according to an individual’s health, body type and the operation that they undergo, so make sure that you discuss these with your surgeon prior to surgery if you’re concerned. Scars often look slightly red at 2-3 months and then pale purple colour fading to white in 8-12 months in most patients.


The image above shows a scar on breast lift at 12 weeks.



The image above shows breast reduction scar at 1 year.

Do breast augmentation or reduction scars go away?

Scars will never fade completely. However, some scars can be so light and thin that they appear almost invisible. This will usually depend on whether or not you are prone to highly visible scarring. You can assess this by looking at existing scars on your body.

The biggest influence on any potential scars from breast implants or scars after breast reduction is the experience and skill of the plastic surgeon. Before you choose a surgeon, make sure you ask to see detailed case studies of previous patients and also ask about what the potential breast reduction or breast enlargement scars may look like. In many cases, a skilled surgeon will be able to leave scars that become barely visible over time.

Further support

For more advice on reducing scarring after other cosmetic procedures please click here. If you have any questions about having a breast augmentation or reduction procedure then speak to the team on 0115 9624535.

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How to massage scar tissue after breast surgery

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