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Having skin surgery? Skincare guide for before and after

Having skin surgery? Skincare guide for before and after
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Whether you are having a biopsy, surgical excision or another type of skin surgery, preparing your skin and caring for it afterwards can really improve outcomes. Your dermatologist will advise you for your particular surgery, however here are some extra tips for caring for skin for best outcomes.

The goal
Speed healing and minimise opportunities for infection, scarring, and pigmentation issues. 

Two weeks before surgery, a prescription-only cream product can be used to speed wound healing by increasing keratinisation and possibly collagen production. Pretreatment with some specific ingredients can really speed up wound healing post-surgery, and starting them at the right time is important, since they have a cumulative impact on skin cells that is at its prime two weeks after starting using it.

What to avoid pre-surgery
It’s important to avoid any ingredients that are known to promote skin tumour growth, including growth factors. Promoting any skin cancers must be avoided. Bruising can be minimised by avoiding any aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, St John’s Wort, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, flaxseed oil, ginseng, salmon and alcohol, usually for about 10 days prior to your procedure.

Smoking is also very unhelpful for wound healing, with a four-week gap recommended prior to any surgery, despite this being somewhat problematic in practice. Smoking reduces oxygen to skin cells, so healing takes longer in smokers.

After surgery – skincare and supplements to take
Vitamin C and zinc can be incredibly useful when taken orally immediately after your surgery. Herbal medicine can be very useful topically – arnica tablets and tincture can help reduce inflammation and bleeding, with plenty of anecdotal support, but not many clinical controlled studies. Rhododendron and arnica in a gel pad was used in one study to reduce swelling and skin discolouration after surgery on the face, with curcumin used to speed wound healing in animals. Antioxidants applied to the skin have also shown benefits. Defensin, a protein used in wound repair, is available in a topical formulation, and can active stem cells for repair.

What to avoid after surgery
Avoid the use of topical retinoids after skin cancer surgery until the skin has healed completely. Anything acidic will sting, and any products with preservatives and fragrance added should be avoided. Vitamin E derived from oral supplement capsules actually slowed skin healing after skin cancer surgery with high rates of dermatitis. Chemical sunscreen should be avoided due to allergic reactions, for four weeks post-surgery. Contact dermatitis may appear from products with essential oils.

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