Considering a cosmetic procedure? Why skincare is so important

During all cosmetic surgeries, and especially facial procedures, the quality of a patient’s recovery depends in part on the quality of their skin.

Despite a surgeon’s best efforts, poor dermal tone and texture can impede healing, whereas skin that is supple and pliable will respond well, and lead to better results.

Following a bespoke skincare regime before and after surgery can not only facilitate recovery and promote wound healing but can also reduce the severity of possible side effects to surgery including bruising, post-traumatic hyperpigmentation, milia, erythema, itching, dryness and tightness.

Surgeon’s will therefore typically advise patients start preparing their skin a minimum of three weeks prior to surgery, and will outline a customised regime suited to the individual needs of each patient.

Post-surgery, skincare formulas that contain regenerative, cleansing, anti-bacterial, and calming ingredients will help bring the skin back into balance, reduce scarring, and speed recovery.

Vital vitamins

No matter what part of the body is being operated on, the skin can benefit from topical vitamin therapy, including varying concentrations of Vitamin A, C and key antioxidants. Indeed, many skin specialists believe the most important nutrient for healthy skin is Vitamin A.

Most people have some degree of Vitamin A deficiency in their skin because it is easily destroyed by exposure to light. The major form of Vitamin A in the skin is retinyl palmitate, the most sun-susceptible version of the retinoids. Because retinyl palmitate is destroyed by the sun, it is this exact molecule that should be replaced by daily skincare treatments leading up to surgery.

Retinyl palmitate is converted continuously to retinol, then to retinyl aldehyde and finally to the various isomers (variations) of retinoic acid. Retinoic acid controls the normal activity of cells through its effects on DNA. It directs the keratinocytes — the important basal cells of the epidermis — to grow to normal size, with a healthy metabolism. Vitamin A speeds up the rate of growth of keratinocytes and, as a result, wounds heal faster. Healthier collagen is produced and, in combination with Vitamin C, scars will heal better and knit stronger.

Vitamin C is also damaged by exposure to light and is used up in fighting free radicals induced by ultra violet (UV) radiation. It’s therefore important to restore the normal balance of Vitamin C in the area of the operation. The addition of other free radical scavengers, particularly Vitamin E and beta-carotene, will boost the antioxidant status of the skin and preserve more Vitamin A and C in the skin.

Both Vitamin A and C act on the production of melanin. Vitamin C is a tyrosinase inhibitor and also provides an antioxidant-rich environment in the cell that acts against the production of melanin. Vitamin A also controls the production of melanin and tends to even out the distribution of melanin in the skin, as well as reduce the total melanin. For that reason, high levels of both Vitamin A and C will help reduce the chances of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. By adding antioxidants, Vitamin C will be able to function better to control pigmentation.

How to prepare the skin

Low concentrations of Vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate, should be applied well in advance of surgery, increasing the level as the skin becomes acclimatised. The main advantage is that the patient’s skin will be healthy and easily primed before the operation.

Vitamin C is best used in the form of ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. As it is oil soluble, it is readily absorbed into the active layer of the skin where it has its effect. This powerful antioxidant assists in protecting the cell membranes, as well as improving the skin’s resistance to the damaging effects of the sun. Water soluble Vitamin C is unable to penetrate into skin cells as effectively.

Make sure that when using Vitamins A and C they are protected by their normal accompanying antioxidants, Vitamin E and beta-carotene. These four vital nutrients act in concert with each other and should always be used together.

For optimum results from vitamin skincare it is essential that correct strengths and combinations are used, as part of a program prescribed by the patient’s surgeon or recommended paramedical skincare therapist.

The minimum preparation period should be three weeks. The area where the scars will ultimately form should be treated at least twice a day.

For facelifts, surgeons will advise topical treatments be applied to the skin in front of and behind the ear. Surgeons may also recommend treatments such as microdermabrasion or limited chemical peels, especially if the patient has thick facial skin. One or two peels should be enough to make the skin more permeable so that the vitamins can have more effect.

Patients are advised to wear an SPF 30+ sunscreen during this pre-op treatment period no matter what time of year, and even if the weather is overcast.

Post-operative care

Following a cosmetic procedure, skin can be extremely sensitive and tender. Due to the delicate nature of healing skin, it is important to use skincare products that are gentle and non-irritating.

Depending on the type of surgery it may not be possible to start a skincare regime immediately, however, the surgeon will advise when it is suitable to do so. At this stage, patients should begin using their recommended skincare regimen to maintain healthy doses of Vitamin A and antioxidants in the skin.