Silicone Strips and Scar Prevention
Scars are part of having surgery, yet fear of scars is one factor that leaves many people postponing their desired surgical procedures. But often, scars become a minimal concern relative to the discomfort and distress of having ‘bingo wing’ arms or skin folds around the belly, thighs or upper back. Alternatively, if you have lost weight through Bariatric Surgery (Gastric Sleeve or Gastric Banding), you may be sick and tired of skin chaffing issues. If so, body contouring surgery can help you regain more natural contours, but surgery WILL LEAVE scars. Hence there’s an increasing popularity of using silicone strips to help surgery scars heal better.
Silicone Strips and Scars
Do Silicone Strips work to help heal scars?
What can be done to help scars heal better to become less visible (less noticeable) over time?
- Nearly every surgery will result in some form of visible scar.
- Early incision lines often appear RED or even angry looking (be cautious about wound care to prevent infections, which worsen scars).
- Everyone heals differently, but most scars FADE over time.
- Scar maturity typically takes up to 12 months (up to 18 months).
- Silicone Strips, Light Therapies, Dermapen and other modalities may be good options to help reduce the visibility of any large post-operative scars after surgery.
- Eating nutritiously, staying hydrated, never smoking and following post-op instructions precisely are also crucial to minimise post-op scar complications or stretched scar formations.
Silicon Strips have been shown to help reduce scars for some patients, when used properly along with following all post-surgery instructions.
Factors impacting your scar, however, include:
- the type of surgery you had
- the length, location or width of the incision line needed to get you a good surgery result, and
- your natural healing capacity
Our Dermal Clinicians and Plastic Surgeons work diligently to reduce scars after your surgical procedures (including hiding them below clothing lines and making incisions as skinny as possible).
Below is an example of an Abdominoplasty scar (less than 3.5 months after surgery) being strategically placed below the clothing line.
Evidence Based Protocols for Scar Management
- There are several post-op scar minimisation protocols our Dermal Clinicians and/or Plastic Surgeons may recommend for plastic surgery scars.
- These scar treatment protocols may be combined with other scar management modalities such as Healite II light treatments, Dermapen Micro-needling, peels and light-based treatments.
- Scar revisions might also be an option such as if your post-op actions stretched your incision line are a (increasing the width of the incision line scar or resulting in a ragged looking scar; and
- Various modalities might re recommended including topical treatments of high-grade Vitamin E oils to encourage healing.
But remember that everyone heals and scars differently to everyone else. Scar formation isn’t fully predictable or controllable, even though there’s a lot you CAN do to help minimise their appearance.
Again, what you do matters. It’s critical that you DO NOT SMOKE – otherwise your surgery result, your healing and your overall health will be very compromised. So what YOU do POST-OP is just as important as what your Surgeon does to help you get a great scar result (minimal scars as they heal over 12 months or longer).
It’s a collaborative effort to help keep scars as minimal as possible.
Your Overall Skin Health Will have an Impact on Your Scars
- Scars vary greatly in quality, depth, size, texture (elevated, indented or somewhat smooth) and shape.
- A scar formation will somewhat depend on the nature of the injury or trauma, the location, depth and length of a surgical incision or cannula entry point for liposuction.
- The scar will be highly impacted by internal and external conditions of wound healing.
- Some of these conditions are controllable and some are not.
- Genetics can have an impact on your scar healing capacity (some high-melanin skin types are highly prone to keloid scarring).
Having healthy skin and a good immune system can help a lot when it comes to healing well from a scar.
You’ll need to do your part, but our Plastic Surgeons, Nurses and our Dermal Clinicians can help you learn how to best prepare your skin for surgery and other treatments; they can also help your skin recovery from incisions.
- Be sure you attend any recommended Coco Ruby and/or Healite II light therapy appointments if these are recommended.
- These can feel nice after surgery as well as help to rejuvenate or heal your skin.
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Stimulating the skin’s natural healing mechanisms in the weeks or months BEFORE as well as AFTER your surgery, can help reduce the appearance of your scars.
Incision Healing Symptoms
As your skin heals from a surgery incision or other skin wound, scars form; and along the way of skin repair (scar formation) you may experience:
- Warmth in the incision area (but let your Surgeon or Nurse know if the area becomes very warm or hot as this could signal an infection)
- Discomfort or pain
- Anxiety about the scar (especially if you’ve just had major surgery, when your emotional reactions will be more sensitive than they might otherwise be)
- Sleep disturbance
Some severe scars – such as from accidents or severe skin burns- can sometimes end up limiting your range of movement, but this isn’t often the case for surgical scars, especially if they are well-managed.
In severe cases where scars are prominent – such as in the facial area – affected individuals can experience low self-esteem and stigmatization leading to a poor quality of life.
How Do Silicone Strips help Scars Heal Better and be Less Visible
If you’ve ever had a Cesarean Section Delivery or other procedure resulting in abdominal scars, you might have already heard about Silicone Strips.
Fortunately, these treatments have been shown to help reduce the appearance (visibility) of scars after surgery, and may well be worth exploring. Ask your Surgical Nurse or Surgeon for advice!
Topical Scar Treatments
If your incision is thin and if you are careful not to interfere with it or over-stretch it during your healing period, your scars will tend to heal well over approximately 12 to 24 months. They will often become barely noticeable, but a lot of their visibility after surgery depends upon:
(a) where you have the surgery incision (e.g. breast incisions are often hidden in the inframammary fold);
(b) your genetics including skin tone,
(c) your overall health
(d) whether or not you get a skin infection or other complication after surgery, and
(e) how well you follow your post-op instructions including but not limited to having good nutrition, using the Rapid Recovery protocols, wearing the right garments as prescribed, avoiding strenuous activities as advised, care for your bandages (and other sterilisation efforts and wound treatments), and your rest and recovery requirements.
Can Silicone Strips Help Reduce Scars?
Silicone strips are a topical treatment, but they have the ability to reach deeper layers of the skin to help reduce the presence of visible scars over time. They are not inexpensive and they require extra care during your healing period, but for some patients, they may help reduce scars over time.
What Silicone Scar Treatments Involve
- Silicone strips are an ultra thin sheet of silicone that are applied and are often worn for 24 hours per day.
- Once approved to use these (be sure to ask your Surgeon or Nurse first), you’ll be able to place it over the scar formation area.
- These strips have a self drying technology that allow them to dry on the skin within about 5 minutes after application.
It is important to note that they might not work effectively for every patient, and not every patient’s surgery might be suitable for Silicone Strips. That noted, some Silicone Strip product providers have reported these strips can produce up to:
- an 86% reduction in scar-texture (e.g. helping with smoothness)
- an 84% reduction in color
- and a 68% reduction in height (elevation) of the scars.
Our Specialist Plastic Surgeons and Dermal Clinicians are keen to see more evidence-based, non-sponsored research being done to assess just how effective these treatments are and what patients might benefit most. But from what is known currently, it is likely that silicone strips might be an effective method for treating various scars after surgery for some patients.
These types of scar-treatment products have several effective actions than can be benefit in relation to scar formation after surgery.
Silicone strips can help:
- Increase hydration of stratum corneum (outer layer of the skin).
- Facilitate the production of fibroblasts (cells that manufacture and maintain connective tissue) and restructure collagen in the ‘traumatised’ skin, to help you gain a softer or flatter scar.
- Protect the scarred tissue from bacteria and prevent excessive production of collagen which can be induced by bacteria in the scar tissue area.
- Modulate the production of FGF β. “FGF β normalizes the production of collagen in an abnormal scar and increases the production of collagenases which help breaks down excess levels of collagen.” (See Reference 4)
What are the Pros and Cons of Using Silicone Strips?
All products have its strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to silicone strips, it has its pros and cons too.
- Staying power: Silicone Strips can aid in faster scar healing than gels. That’s because the silicone strips ensure your scar tissue are continuously exposed to silicone – unlike gels, which can be inadvertently or easily wiped off.
- A non-invasive and painless way of helping reducing scar tissue.
- Can also help minimize redness, pain, bumpiness or itching of scar tissue as your skin heals.
- Comes in multiple sizes.
- Blends well with your natural skin contours so not overly obvious that you’re using these products (but depends on what you’re wearing and wear the strips are placed).
- Easily accessible and readily available.
- Duration: Needs to be worn 24 hours a day and can be visible under some forms of clothing.
- Silicone strips are expensive compared to gels.
- Allergic reactions are possible, and you might be allergic or sensitive to the products.
What Types of Scars do Silicone Strips Treat Best?
Silicone strips are noted as most suitable for elevated scars – and may work best to prevent or treat hypertrophic scars as well as keloid scars.
- Hypertrophic scars remain within the boundaries of the injury or damage but are raised
- Keloid scars extend beyond the incision or wounded area and into the surrounding skin.
Both types of scars may be itchy or painful. In severe cases, these scars can affect one’s mobility.
Can I use Silicone Strips on an Old Scar?
You can use silicone strips on old scars as well as recent scars.
When Should I Begin using Silicone Strips?
For newly healed wounds, be sure to wait until there is no further bleeding, oozing or crusting on the area you are treating. Ask your Surgeon for specifics as this is general information only, but for post-surgical scars, you might be able to begin using it 1 to 2 weeks after your sutures are removed – but don’t use it until and unless your Surgeon gives you clearance to do so.
Can I use Silicone Strips on any Part of my Body?
Yes, mostly. Silicone strips can be ideal for use on most body parts as long as the tissue has healed adequately.
How long should I use it?
- Treatment duration will vary from person to person
- Duration depends on the extent and severity of the scar and your skin’s healing and scar formation processes.
- Sometimes the recommended duration of silicone strips usage is 8 to 12 weeks for new scars, or 3 to 6 months for existing scars. That’s a fairly long protocol to follow but if you do, you may be rewarded by less visible scars (that noted, for many people but not all, scars fade a lot naturally within 12 to 18/24 months after surgery).
- The results of these treatments may vary.
Is Silicone Strip Scar Treatment Safe?
Yes, it appears this is a safe treatment and the FDA even recommends silicone strips for the treatment and reduction of scars. There have been no reported side effects from using silicone strips because it is made of non-toxic, medical grade silicone. Every person is different, however, and you could have an allergy to it (rare but possible).
How will I use Silicone Strips Properly?
- Scar massage should only be done gently around the scar.
- Remove the strips when showering.
- Swap out weekly (each strip may last for approximately one week – so it is recommended to change it weekly on average).
- Report any changes in your skin sensation, itchiness, redness, irritation, and other abnormalities in your scar tissue to your Surgeon immediately for further medical evaluation.
Send an enquiry form to our Patient Care Coordinators below for more information on how our Surgery Team and Dermal Clinicians minimise or revise scars for minimum visibility where possible.
Scientific References and Evidence of efficacy of silicone strips for scar healing:
1. The molecular basis of keloid and hypertrophic scar formation.
Tuan TL1, Nichter LS. The molecular basis of keloid and hypertrophic scar formation. Mol Med Today. 1998 Jan;4(1):19-24. Accessed on 01/03/2018.
2. The use of the silicone gel sheeting in the management of hypertrophic and keloids scars
Poston J1. The use of the silicone gel sheeting in the management of hypertrophic and keloids scars. J Wound Care. 2000 Jan;9(1):10-6. Accessed 01/03/2018. See also: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10927682