Winter skincare after plastic surgery: Tips and best practices
Winter is the perfect time for some people when it comes to getting plastic surgery since the results should be ready to reveal during the more social summer months. These winter months are undoubtedly harsh on your skin in even normal conditions, but cold weather poses a uniquely significant challenge for those who have recently undergone a plastic surgery procedure.
This can be a delicate period of your recovery, but there are plenty of tips for giving your skin the love it needs during your recovery, even during the harsh winter months. ASPS Member Surgeons Sara Dickie, MD, and Lara Devgan, MD, offered us their comprehensive advice for winter skincare after plastic surgery.
Understanding skin sensitivity and surgery
Postsurgical skin has unique needs to maximize your recovery and results, along with minimizing the appearance of scars, especially in the context of winter weather.
"The skin is our defense mechanism, but we also need to be constantly taking care of it," said Dickie.
Plastic surgery, especially facial procedures, requires a holistic approach that starts with the skin.
"When people approach plastic surgery, like for the face, we always talk about the skin first, then the fat, muscles and bone structure," said Dickie.
Yet, Dickie cautions that surgery is not a cure-all for surface skin issues like fine lines, wrinkles, rosacea and redness, which "are best managed by surface treatments, which may include lasers and medical-grade skincare."
Additionally, plastic surgery can exacerbate skin sensitivity, particularly in winter.
"Chapping, flaking, dehydration and tissue irregularity can all become more prevalent with colder air temperatures and more indoor heating and ambient air warming," said Devgan, underscoring the importance of recognizing and addressing this increased sensitivity, advocating for proactive measures to protect and nurture the skin.
Hydration: Inside and out
When it comes to postsurgical skincare, hydration plays a crucial role, particularly in the dry conditions of winter.
"Hydrate from the inside by drinking plenty of water after surgery," said Dickie.
This internal hydration is critical for facilitating bodily processes, including healing and recovery. Additionally, Dickie emphasizes the need for external hydration, particularly in the surgical area.
"Using ointment-type medications on suture lines that trap moisture and prevent evaporation aid in healing," said Dickie.
This practice helps maintain the necessary moisture levels in the skin, promoting better healing and reducing the risk of complications.
Devgan advocates for a layered hydration approach using specialized skincare products.
This combination of products works to replenish moisture and create a protective barrier against the harsh winter elements, effectively addressing the increased sensitivity of postsurgical skin.
The role of diet and nutrition
Diet and nutrition are pivotal in the healing process any time of year, especially after plastic surgery. Dickie offered a balanced view on the role of supplements in skin health, stating that a well-nourished diet is usually sufficient for those undergoing cosmetic surgery in the United States.
Yet, Dickie acknowledges specific scenarios where supplements might be necessary, especially in winter when less daylight can affect nutrient levels, such as in cases of anemia or vitamin D deficiency.
"Making sure you get levels checked before going into surgery is key," said Dickie.
Devgan also emphasizes the importance of nutrition in postsurgical recovery. She recommends a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids to support the body's healing processes.
"A Mediterranean-style diet with proteins and vegetables has been correlated with greater health metrics," said Devgan, also advising that patients minimize alcohol consumption, especially during the recovery period, as it can negatively impact the healing process.
Sun protection is still crucial
Both surgeons stress the importance of sun protection in winter, especially after surgery.
"Even though you're not feeling the warmth of the UV rays, you're definitely still receiving them," said Dickie.
She recommends SPF 35 or higher with a mineral base for effective protection against harmful UV rays. This is crucial because postsurgical skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation and other sun-related damage.
"The sun's rays can still cause damage, and I recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30," said Devgan.
She specifically advises using zinc and titanium-based physical block SPF, which offers robust protection without the risk of irritation that chemical sunscreens might pose to sensitive postsurgical skin.
Dealing with indoor heating and cold
The effects of chilly weather and indoor heating on postsurgical skin can be extensive.
"Cold wind is extremely drying," said Dickie, suggesting the application of cream-based moisturizers or products like Aquaphor to protect the face from the harsh elements.
She also recommends using a humidifier in indoor environments to counteract the drying effects of heating systems.
"I would almost always tell people to get a humidifier," said Dickie.
Devgan agrees on the importance of alleviating the drying effects of winter conditions.
"Applying a protective layer of my vitamin E-rich creams for barrier protection and adequate hydration can help mitigate the drying effects," said Devgan.
These measures are crucial in maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier, which is essential for optimal healing and recovery.
Altering skincare routines
It's essential to adjust winter skincare routines to accommodate the healing process after surgery.
This approach focuses on ensuring that the healing incisions are adequately moisturized and protected, which is critical for preventing complications and promoting optimal healing outcomes.
Devgan also stresses the need for a gentler skincare approach following surgery. She advises patients to avoid harsh exfoliants and focus on soothing and hydrating products.
"After surgery, less is often more," said Devgan, underscoring the importance of a simplified and gentle skincare regimen to support the skin's recovery process.
Avoiding certain products
In the postsurgical period, certain skincare products and ingredients should be avoided to prevent irritation and facilitate healing.
"You really need to avoid your retinols after surgery," said Dickie. "I mean, they're just going to be too drying."
She also advises against using products with fragrance or alcohol, as these can exacerbate dryness and irritation.
Devgan advises patients to opt for formulations that are calming and nourishing and to consult with their plastic surgeon about the best approaches for recovery.
"Speak to your surgeon about best approaches for healing," said Devgan, highlighting the importance of personalized care in the postsurgical recovery process.
Watching for signs of complications
Vigilance in monitoring the skin's response after surgery is crucial for identifying potential complications. Dr. Dickie notes that rashes are a common issue following surgery because of the drying effect of skin preparations used during the procedure.
She urged patients to communicate any such issues to their surgeon immediately for prompt treatment. This early intervention is key to preventing more severe complications and ensuring a smooth recovery.
Devgan stressed the importance of being attentive to any adverse reactions or changes in the skin.
"Increased redness, swelling or persistent discomfort are signs that warrant immediate attention from a surgeon," said Devgan.
Promptly addressing these signs can prevent further complications and ensure that any issues are managed effectively.
Professional treatments and long-term care
Both surgeons recommend a cautious approach to professional treatments during the recovery period. Dickie advises patients to stick to at-home care initially, gradually reintroducing professional treatments as the skin heals.
"I would not send them to get a chemical peel," said Dickie, highlighting the need for a conservative approach in the initial recovery phase.
Meanwhile, Devgan emphasizes the importance of a tailored approach to skincare, both during recovery and in the long term. She recommends regular consultations with a skincare professional to ensure that treatments and products are aligned with the individual's recovery progress and long-term skin health goals.
For long-term skincare, Dickie suggests returning to a regular skincare routine, focusing on medical-grade products to maintain results. This involves using products that support the skin's health and complement the results of the surgery.
Maximizing winter skincare after plastic surgery
Effective winter skincare following plastic surgery involves a comprehensive and attentive approach. Focusing on hydration, nutrition, sun protection and appropriate skincare routines is key to maintaining skin health.
Regular consultations with your surgeon, along with vigilance for any signs of complications, are essential for optimal recovery and long-term maintenance of your skin's health and appearance.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.