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After Cosmetic Surgery: Taking Care of Your Skin

Try these tips for fast recovery and best results after cosmetic surgery.

By Hilary Parker

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

WebMD Feature

When you choose to have cosmetic surgery, you take a significant step toward improving the appearance and health of your skin. For the fastest recovery and best results, it’s essential for you to take special care of your skin in the first few days and weeks after cosmetic surgery.

Your at-home skin care prescription will vary depending on which cosmetic procedure you elect to have. In all instances, make sure you talk with your doctor or aesthetician about cosmetic surgery recovery prior to your procedure.

Types of Cosmetic Procedures

Cosmetic procedures vary in the degree to which they affect your skin, ranging from mild procedures such as microdermabrasion, to surgical procedures, including face-lifts and eye lifts. You will be able to return to your normal skin care routine more quickly after mild, noninvasive cosmetic procedures than after surgical procedures or treatments that cause more injury to your skin.

“The principal distinction between procedures is whether the skin is intact or whether the surgery left open skin,” says Ellen Marmur, MD, chief of the Division of Dermatologic & Cosmetic Surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. “No matter what, you need to stop using cosmeceuticals or topical medicines for three days after any procedure.”

Common cosmetic procedures that leave you with intact skin include:

  • Microdermabrasion
  • Nonablative laser resurfacing procedures
  • Mild chemical peels
  • Fillers or Botox

Common cosmetic procedures that leave you with open wounds or broken skin include:

  • Deep chemical peels
  • Ablative laser resurfacing treatments
  • Surgical procedures, such as eyelifts, rhinoplasty and facelifts

Cosmetic Surgery Recovery: Four Cardinal Skin Care Rules

  1. Baby your skin. “To optimize your results, you want to heal without any discoloration. If your skin is really red, you really want to baby it after surgery to prevent pigmentation,” Marmur tells WebMD. Make sure you’re using mild, hypoallergenic products, like non-soap cleansers and fragrance-free moisturizers.
  2. Be extra vigilant about sun protection. “The first few days after having a procedure, it’s best to avoid the direct sun,” says Steven Hopping, MD, president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. “If you go out, opt for a sunscreen that blocks alpha and beta sun rays. SPF 30 or 40 is sufficient -- the ones with higher SPF tend to block the pores, so it may be better to steer clear of them.”
  3. Let your wounds heal. No matter how tempted you are to pick at your peeling skin or scabs after cosmetic surgery in an effort to speed your recovery -- don’t. You could increase your likelihood of infection or scarring.
  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Whether you’ve had a minor procedure or an all-out surgery, drinking six to eight glasses of water a day will help rejuvenate your skin from the inside out and flush any toxins from your system.

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