Breast reduction surgery has many benefits from improved back pain to improved cosmetic appearance, but it is not all without risks. It involves incisions, pain, and visible scars, which are the common characteristics of any cosmetic surgery. While the first two do not persist for long, you may feel extremely self conscious until you are able to fade the scars away. Breast reduction scars may take a toll on your self-esteem if not properly managed. Today, in this article, we are going to discuss what you should expect from scarring after undergoing a breast reduction surgery. We will describe 15 effective methods to deal with scars successfully.
What are Breast Reduction Scars?
Breast reduction is a cosmetic surgical procedure in which excess fat, breast tissue, and skin of breasts are removed. This makes them smaller, lighter, firmer. perkier, and well-proportioned to the rest of your body. Like any other surgery, breast reduction can not be performed without placing scars on your body. The process usually involves incisions in the skin around the nipple and areola, vertically and across the breast fold. Scar placement is based on the technique used by the surgeon and is specific to each individual patient. However, there are ways to reduce the appearance of these scars during and after the surgery.
Choosing a skilled plastic surgeon with many years of experience can ensure a best outcome for your scarring.
Types of Breast Reduction Scars
In breast reduction, both the appearance and the extent of scarring depend on the approach followed by the surgeon for that particular surgery. Typically, two types of techniques are used:
1. Shorter-Scar Technique
The shorter-scar technique or ‘lollipop method’ is used for vertical breast reduction. If you are struggling with mild to moderate sagging breasts and looking for a minimal-to-moderate reduction in your breast size, this technique may help you go down a cup size. In this technique, the scar is formed by two small incisions, which are made:
- Around the outer edge of the areola
- Running from the base of the areola down toward the crease of the breast
As these incisions are pretty small in size, the scars remain covered by clothing as well as swimsuits (1). The scarring is also condensed to a small area on the lower half of the breast, especially below the nipple. However, this method can not be used for all patients. In fact, it is usually only used for small lifts and reductions and can not be used for very large breasts (2).
2. Larger-Scar Technique
The larger-scar technique is a good choice for inverted-T breast reduction or anchor reduction. When you have significant sagging or asymmetry, this technique can be used to help you go down a few cup sizes or more. The scars here are formed by three incisions, which are made:
- Around the areola
- Vertically between the areola and the breast crease
- Underneath the fold of the breast (horizontally along the crease)
As the number and size of the incisions are more than the previous one, the procedure becomes more extensive. Thus, there are more and longer scars.
Talk to your surgeon beforehand and learn more about these two different surgical techniques used for breast reduction. This will help you understand what kind of scars the procedure will leave on your skin and what to expect post-surgery as well.
What Does the Scarring Look Like?
Breast reduction scars look pretty similar to the scars from other surgical incisions. Initially, the area of scarring becomes red or pink in color. The scar tissue is also formed, which is basically a thin, raised line on top of the skin. But it gradually fades and flattens with healing. (3)
Do the Scars Worsen Over Time?
Aftercare is needed to help with the appearance of breast reduction scars over time. Make sure that you follow the advice of your doctor. The scars usually become more noticeable when no scar reduction treatment are followed. But do not use over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments without proper consultation as it can make them even more prominent by triggering rash and irritation. There is also very little evidence that commercial scar removal products with vitamin E will work for surgery-induced scars (4). A few other factors like itching, scratching, excessive scrubbing, tanning, and smoking, etc. may also aggravate scarring condition.
Women with darker skin tone may experience hyperpigmentation and hypertrophic scars or keloids (thicker, raised scars) after having breast reduction surgery.
Do Breast Reduction Scars Go Away?
Needless to say, excessive scarring is the last thing women want to deal with while considering breast reduction surgery. While such scars never become fully invisible, they can fade away to such an extent that they would barely be visible. Usually, scars that are red in color and hard to touch take around 3 to 4 months to soften. However, you can expect them to continue to change and continue to get better over 18-24 months.
15 Ways To Deal With Breast Reduction Scars
It might be tough to eliminate breast reduction scars completely, but there are actually plenty of ways to deal with them successfully. We have listed 15 proven tricks that would help you minimize the appearance of your scars:
1. Surgical Tape
It is the first thing that experienced surgeons recommend for reducing breast reduction scars. You need to keep this tape on your affected area only for the first few weeks in order to promote rapid healing.
2. Brown Paper Tape
A brown paper tape of 1-inch can be very much useful in improving the scars from breast reduction surgery. Make sure that the tape is tightly placed on the scar to prevent it from being exposed. You may remove and reapply the tape if it gets loose.
This is a permeable tape-shaped adhesive dressing that lets medicine go into the incisions and helps the scars heal fast. You have to keep the steri-strip on your breast reduction scars for two weeks to a month.
4. Silicone Sheet
It has been found that breathable silicone sheets can help with scars caused by breast reduction surgery effectively by keeping them hydrated and making them softer over time. They also prevent itching, irritation, and bacterial infections. Make sure that you continuously use these for a couple of months starting at 3-4 weeks after the surgery. However, you have to buy high-quality sheets from reputable vendors instead of cheap quality products from local drugstores.
Silicone can be of two distinct types. One can be thin plaster-like strips of multiple shapes that are washable and reusable, and the other is a silicone gel that comes with greater flexibility as you can use it several times a day just by spreading it on the skin and allowing it to dry.
5. Silicone Gel Pad
There are certain other silicone-based products like silicone gel pad, which exerts enough pressure on the wounds and hastens their recovery. But it may take approximately 3 to 4 months to work and show the results.
6. Supportive Bra
You can also try out a good quality supportive bra in order to get rid of breast reduction scars. It helps to gently support healing tissues and helps them heal quickly.
7. Steroid Injection
If the scars from your breast reduction surgery are old and thick, they may be treated with steroid injections. These can be extremely helpful in such unfavorable situations and help flatten scars quickly.
8. Superficial Radiation Treatment
If your scars developed after breast reduction surgery are extremely bad, you might benefit from superficial radiation treatment, although used extremely rarely.
9. Closure technique
Your surgeon can utilize a closure technique and suture materials that will help ensure best healing with minimal scarring.
10. Scar Massaging
After using paper tape or silicone sheets for a couple of weeks, start massaging your scars gently for 10 minutes thrice every day. It prevents the thickening of the tissue due to collagen regeneration while keeping the incision soft and flat. (5)
11. Scar Management
Proper management of your breast reduction scars is extremely important as it can accelerate the healing process. Be careful so that the wounds remain protected from excessive tension as well as the harmful rays of the sun.
12. Scar Revision Surgery
If the first surgery of breast reduction gives you less than desirable scars and none of the above methods work for you, give the scar revision surgery a try. You need to wait 12 month to two years before considering this.
As there is no ‘scar-less’ breast reduction surgery, you can switch to liposuction for reducing your breasts and have minimal scars with it. However, breasts are not lifted with this process and you may experience more breast sagging.
It is said that ‘time is the best healer’. So, be patient and give your breast reduction scars adequate time to heal.
15. Experienced Surgeon
Prevention is always better than cure. So, take advice from an experienced medical professional when undergoing a breast reduction surgery. Only an experienced plastic surgeon can guide you through the entire process so that you have the best outcome.
Other Ways to Eliminate Breast Reduction Scars
Some other methods used for the elimination of breast reduction scars include topical steroid medications, chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser therapy, etc. Though the surgical procedure for scar removal can also be an option, it may leave a new scar in place of the previous ones while making it smaller, finer, and less visible.
Scarring is an inevitable part of breast reduction surgery. The size and extent of these scars usually depend on the technique followed by the surgeon during the surgical procedure. While these breast reduction scars cannot be eliminated completely, they can be made less noticeable by following a few simple approaches.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are Breast Reduction Scars Visible?
Breast reduction scars are visible neither in regular clothing nor in a bikini top or bra. Only if you are in minimal clothing after an anchor breast reduction, some scarring might be visible.
How Bad are Scars from Breast Reduction?
It depends completely on the type of incision made by the surgeon and hence, usually varies from one person to another. In some women, it may remain very much visible even after trying a lot of scar removal methods.
Do Breasts Sag after Breast Reduction?
Yes, breasts may sag even after going through breast reduction surgery. However, it will not be as severe as it was before the procedure. Pregnancy can also impact the shape, size, and appearance of your breasts after a reduction.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Breast Reduction Surgery?
The recovery time for breast reduction surgery can be anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 weeks depending on the type and extent of the surgery.
How Many Cup Sizes can You Go Down with Breast Reduction?
Most breast reduction can help you go down 1 or 2 cup sizes. Consult your doctor to know whether you can go down even more or not.
NOTE – Author is a Plastic Surgeon and founder of Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa in Houston, TX.
- “Breast Reduction Guide“, AmericanBoardCosmeticSurgery.org
- “Short-Scar Breast Reduction: Why All the Fuss?“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Breast Reduction: What to Expect from Scarring?“, Healthline.com
- “The Role of Topical Vitamin E in Scar Management: A Systematic Review“, academic.oup.com
- “Managing Your Scar“, moffitt.org