Breast reduction surgery offers various benefits, such as alleviating back pain and enhancing cosmetic appearance. However, it comes with inherent risks, including incisions, pain, and visible scars, typical of cosmetic surgeries. Although the initial discomfort and pain are temporary, the lasting impact may be the visibility of scars, potentially affecting your self-esteem. In this article, we’ll explore what to anticipate regarding scarring after a breast reduction surgery and provide 15 effective methods to manage and minimize 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, and 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 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 decrease 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, significantly below the nipple. However, this method can not be used for all patients. It is usually only used for small lifts and reductions and can not be used for huge breasts (2).
2. Larger-Scar Technique
The larger-scar technique is a good choice for inverted-T breast or anchor reduction. This technique can help you go down a few cup sizes or more when you have significant sagging or asymmetry. 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. Scar tissue, a thin, raised line on top of the skin, is also formed. 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). Other factors, like itching, scratching, excessive scrubbing, tanning, smoking, etc., may also aggravate scarring conditions.
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?
Indeed, women contemplating breast reduction surgery are understandably concerned about excessive scarring. Although complete invisibility is not guaranteed, scars can fade significantly, becoming barely noticeable. Red and firm scars typically take approximately 3 to 4 months to soften. However, the ongoing changes and improvement in appearance can continue over an extended period, typically 18 to 24 months.
15 Ways To Deal With Breast Reduction Scars
It might be tough to eliminate breast reduction scars, but there are 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. Keep this tape on your affected area for the first few weeks to promote rapid healing.
2. Brown Paper Tape
A brown paper tape of 1 inch can be instrumental 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 permeable tape-shaped adhesive dressing lets medicine enter the incisions and helps the scars heal quickly. 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. Ensure you continuously use these for a few months, starting 3-4 weeks after the surgery. However, you must buy high-quality sheets from reputable vendors instead of cheap 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
Certain other silicone-based products, like silicone gel pads, exert enough pressure on the wounds and hasten their recovery. However, 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 to get rid of breast-reduction scars. It helps to support healing tissues gently 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 exceptionally rarely.
9. Closure technique
Your surgeon can utilize a closure technique and suture materials that will help ensure the 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 critical 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, provide the scar revision surgery a try. You need to wait 12 months 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 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 entirely on the type of incision the surgeon makes and usually varies from person to person. It may remain visible in some women even after trying many 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 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 six 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.
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