The Ultimate Guide To The Post-Surgery Products That Help Your Recovery
One of the best things you can do to help aid the post-surgery recovery process is to plan ahead. We spoke to plastic surgeons Dr. David Rappaport and Dr. Gregory Buford about the best products to help you recover more comfortably.
One of the best things you can do to help aid the post-surgery recovery process is to plan ahead. Recovery protocol and times vary depending on the person and procedure, but you can take proactive steps to make your post-surgery recovery as easy as possible. Taking the time to review instructions with your doctor and ordering any necessary products ahead of time will make a world of difference after surgery day. We interviewed two board certified plastic surgeons on their most-recommended products and tips for a seamless post-surgery recovery.
Essentials For Preventing Infection & Easing Pain
The first step of recovery is to keep the wound clean and free of any potential bad bacteria. Board certified plastic surgeon David Rapaport, MD, of Manhattan’s Rapaport Plastic Surgery says, “a general rule of thumb is to try to keep the area as clean and dry as possible.” However, it is always important to consult your physician beforehand, as each surgery has its own protocol. Your board certified plastic surgeon should give you specific instructions for your type of procedure, but make sure to get clear orders on whether you should keep the area covered, how often you should be changing the bandage, and what the proper protocol is to clean and rewrap the wound.
While it depends on the person, it is advised to steer clear of cleansers and antibacterial soaps as they can disrupt the healing process. Sometimes antibiotic ointments are recommended, like Neosporin, which can be applied once sutures have been removed. Dr. Rapaport usually suggests his patients use Hibiclens for three consecutive days prior to surgery on the area that is being treated to help prevent germs and minimize the risk of infections.
To ease pain, a cold compress can be beneficial. When choosing ice packs, opt for ones made of gel so they can contour to the desired area. Look for gel ice packs are reusable and have a cloth back for ultimate comfort. Some can even double as heat packs if needed by zapping them for a few seconds in the microwave (make sure the kind you have has this function before nuking, though).
In addition to ice packs, which are universally beneficial for easing pain, there are other products specifically tailored to certain procedures. For instance, for abdominal surgery there are elastic abdominal products to provide compression and support. For facial surgeries, there are chin straps that doctors often recommend to minimize swelling. Since each surgery is specific to the patient, remember to ask your board certified plastic surgeon if there are any distinct products he or she can recommend for your particular recovery.
Your New Post-Surgery Skincare Routine
You just spent a lot of money on your cosmetic procedure and the last thing you want is to be left with discoloration or scarring. Fortunately, there are many preventative measures you can take to aid the healing process and promote good skin recovery. Denver-based board certified plastic surgeon Gregory Buford, MD, says to “focus on a solid program including a collagen stimulator, a hydrator, an eye cream, a sunscreen, and a retinol-based product.” A solid skincare routine is important every day, but especially when recovery is concerned.
As a first step, find skincare products that are made with gentle ingredients to ensure they are hypoallergenic, paraben-free, and fragrance-free. They should be gentle, hydrating, and stimulate the skin’s healing process. Dr. Rapaport recommends products that contain clinically proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients. His go-to is Sente Dermal Repair Cream for recovery from facial surgery and procedures such as laser and microneedling. “It is formulated with a patented technology that is clinically proven to show improvement in mature and damaged skin,” he says. “The supporting ingredients include antioxidants vitamins A and E, sodium hyaluronate which provides superficial hydration, and camellia leaf extract, which is anti-inflammatory. The formula is also non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog your pores and is paraben and fragrance-free, which avoids irritation.”
Sun protection is also extremely important during the post-surgery recovery period. Cosmetic procedures can leave the skin very vulnerable, so it is important to avoid sun exposure for at least the first few days. Afterward, to keep skin safe, it is recommended to use broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB sun rays. Sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30 are ideal but the ingredients are just as important as the SPF number. Remember, they should be mild, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free. Sunscreens with zinc oxide are usually broad spectrum and tend to be less irritating and more suitable for those with sensitive skin.
For post-procedure scarring, Dr. Rapaport recommends Silagen Silicone Gel + SPF 30, which is a non-irritating and chemical-free sunscreen. “Silagen is a fast-drying gel that helps flatten and smooth scars while reducing redness and itching,” Dr. Rapaport says. “Added UV protection helps prevent permanent hyperpigmentation of fragile new scar tissue that can occur with sun exposure.”
For more discoloration and scarring prevention, Lytera 2.0 by Skinmedica is another one of Dr. Rapaport’s favorites. “It is scientifically proven and clinically shown to reduce the appearance of stubborn skin discoloration in as fast as two weeks,” Dr. Rapaport explains. “The formula contains ingredients that help balance pigment levels including non-retinol exfoliation to accelerate skin turnover.” In general, Dr. Rapaport advises considering products that contain Vitamin C, niacinamide, licorice, and alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic, lactic, or phytic acids), when looking to improve discoloration.
Dr. Buford and Dr. Rapaport both emphasize the importance of looking at the actual results and claims of the medical skincare products. “Medical skin care is completely different from over-the-counter (OTC) products in that it must be rigorously tested and show proven efficacy, while OTC products do not face this hurdle,” Dr. Buford explains. “As such, many of the OTC lines promote outcomes that are simply not achievable.” One of Dr. Buford’s go-to products is Strataderm for scarring, which has proven efficacy, is easy to use, and is tolerable for most skin types.
While Dr. Buford recommends proceeding with caution with some OTC products, he actually suggests it as a money-saving trick for other times. He acknowledges that many of us need to take our budget into account, like for cleansers. “While I strongly recommend that patients spend the extra money to purchase specific medical-grade skincare products, when it comes to cleansers there is really very little science and differentiation,” he explains. “Spending a lot of money for a medical-grade cleanser is often not necessary unless you are treating a specific condition such as acne.”
Your Guide to Staying Comfortable
In addition to coming up with your immediate post-procedure plan, like who is going to drive you home and pick up your prescription medication, you should also gather all of the necessary tools to keep yourself feeling comfortable in the days after surgery. Depending on the procedure type, you may need more than others.
For bigger surgeries, like facelift surgery or a tummy tuck, you may want to take more extreme measures like renting electric recliners to help you get up more easily. Depending on where you live, they can start at a few hundred dollars a week (plus delivery fees). There are other options like pillows specifically designed for post-surgery recovery. Depending on the surgery, you can opt for a wedge pillow that helps with reclining, a knee pillow that helps with relieve pain and pressure, or even a donut pillow to help distribute weight. At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all checklist, just a combination of personal preference and doctor recommendations. Keep in mind that it can take a few days (or weeks) for some specialty products to ship if purchased online.
Think about your personal hygiene in advance, too, since your normal routine might not be possible when you are recovering. For instance, with some surgeries you may not be allowed to get wet for the first few days. Stock up on products like dry shampoo, baby powder, and doctor-approved lotions which can help you feel cleaner and more comfortable. Make sure to set up everything ahead of time so it is accessible from your recovery area.
Another important thing not to overlook is hydration. Depending on the type of cosmetic surgery, movement can be painful, so even something as simple as drinking fluids could be difficult. To avoid further inconvenience (i.e. spilling all over yourself), look into purchasing a water bottle that has a no-spill spout.
With the proper skincare regimen and products to ease pain and discomfort, the post-surgery recovery process can be much less stressful. As you continue your research on the best products, specifically for skincare, keep in mind “the focus is better spent on the concentration of ingredients rather than on particular brands,” Dr. Rapaport advises. “A product’s medical-grade strength is most important to pay attention to. Medical-grade products tend to deliver ingredients in a much more efficient way than over the counter, especially serums and antioxidants.”