What Do Breast Surgery Scars Look Like?
- What is a scar?
- What is a scar made of?
- What types of scar are there?
- How long do scars last?
- Further support
Normal scar at 3 months with some redness
What is a scar?
Scars are the visible signs left behind after the body has healed a break in body tissue. Scars are perfectly natural. Almost everybody will have a scar on their body, though most scars are barely visible to the naked eye. Scars can form outside and inside the body.
What is a scar made of?
Visible scars on the surface of the skin are made of a substance called collagen. The body produces this protein to fuse the broken pieces of skin together, as well as fill in any holes made after tissue has been lost.
Ideal scar at 12 months
Over roughly three months to six months, collagen builds up at the site of the wound. At the same time, new blood vessels form, increasing blood flow to the site and boosting the body’s ability to heal. This can make scars initially seem quite red; however, this usually fades over time.
What types of scar are there?
In most cases, a scar is flat to the body and will fade over time, until it becomes difficult to spot. Sometimes, the body produces too much collagen, causing the scar tissue that forms to be less smooth and more visible.
The following are all types of post-surgery scar:
Thin and pale:
These are the most typical scars to result from breast surgery. They are what we would think of as a ‘normal scar’ and appear flat to the skin. As with all scars, they will appear red and swollen at first but will eventually fade to a lighter colour, sometimes ending up slightly whiter than the surrounding skin.
This type of scar is usually sunken below the top of the skin. It occurs when there is fat or tissue missing and the body fails to produce enough collagen to replace the lost tissue. This can occur because the collagen that has been produced forms a mass that prevents the production of more collagen. This can be caused by surgery; however, it is unlikely that breast surgery will produce this type of scar.
When too much collagen is produced, scars can appear raised and red. These ‘hypertrophic’ scars feel thick and less flexible than normal skin. Hypertrophic scars only form over the site of the wound, unlike keloid scars (see below).
Keloid scars are the most extreme type of scarring that can occur following surgery. They differ from hypertrophic scars in the fact that the excess of collagen can produce scar tissue that extends beyond the area of the original wound. This type of scar can continue to grow even after the wound has healed.
Typically, these scars are:
- Raised above the skin
- Tough or rubbery in texture
- Dark red or purple at first, becoming lighter over time
- Itchy, tender and sometimes painful
There are a number of different options available for the site of your incision, and you may hear the following medical terms when your surgeon is discussing them:
- Inframammary incisions – Placed below the breast in the crease adjoining the lower chest
- Periareolar incisions – These go around the areola in a circular fashion
- Transareolar incisions – Performed through the areola around the nipple, producing a smaller circle
- Transaxillary incisions – Made away from the surface of the breast, in the armpit
- Navel or transumbilical incisions – A very rare form of incision near your belly button
It’s important to remember that every person’s body is different and the scarring that results from breast enlargement or reduction procedures will vary from person to person, so it’s vital to discuss your surgery options and how you can help to reduce scarring with your plastic surgeon.
How long do scars last?
Scars never truly disappear but most will fade to become a thin, barely noticeable line.
Scars normally form in three stages following the initial injury:
|Time after surgery||Appearance||Healing activity|
|First 2 weeks||Red, swollen and tender.||Body creates inflammation around the site of the wound to begin the healing process.|
|2 to 8 weeks||Red, raised above the skin, and toughened.||Collagen is produced at the site to form scar tissue. This continues until a strong, protective scar has formed.|
|8 weeks to 22 months||Lighter coloured, flat and softer to touch.||Some of the built-up collagen is removed from the site, and blood supply is reduced, making the scar less red and pronounced.|
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 How to massage scar tissue after breast surgery.