Treating post-op skin -- To wash or not to wash one’s face

Treating post-op skin -- To wash or not to wash one’s face
Treating post-op skin -- To wash or not to wash one’s face

By: Ron Robinson

You know what I love most about those plastic surgery shows? It’s seeing the people during the healing process. It’s the days or weeks later that really interests me. We might see them changing their bandages or going to the doctor’s office for a follow-up, but what I always want to see is how they take care of their sensitive, postsurgical skin.

I’m a cosmetic chemist, so of course I am obsessed with their skincare regimen. Is post-op skin super-sensitive? Should they even wash their face at all? Are there any ingredients that we should avoid/use? So many questions go racing through my mind.

Well, I chatted with Skincare Specialist and consultant, Claudio Pinto -- he’s a licensed aesthetician working in the plastic surgery field in New York City -- and he gave me the lowdown on how to properly take care of your face after you have just come out of surgery.

Whether you received a facelift, chemical peel or rhinoplasty, the skin in general is very tender and sensitive, even if one doesn’t usually suffer from sensitive skin. Claudio suggests using gentle products to help soothe the skin, no active ingredients (like glycolic products and vitamin C) or exfoliants are welcome. And that goes for facial cleansing devices too like the Clarisonic -- you just want to be as gentle as possible while still being able to rid your pores of dirt and sweat.

There are even some products that can help speed up the healing process. Claudio recommends the following ingredients and tips:

  • Use soothing hydrating masks and products that contain hyaluronic acid (HA), which delivers and maintains water hydration. It holds 1000 times its weight in water and prevents transepidermal water loss.
  • Arnica gel/cream will help with bruising and redness, depending on what procedure was performed.
  • Calendula is also very beneficial and will speed up the healing process.
  • A good SPF for protection outside and stay AWAY from makeup; if absolutely necessary, use mineral makeup.

Even if the healing process may seem like it is taking forever, it’s important to not be tempted to use any of your at-home exfoliating treatments. Claudio says to stay away from glycolic acid, Retin-A and any scrubs.

“Normally after week 3 we can start slowly incorporating active ingredients depending on your skin’s tolerance, thickness and condition,” explains Claudio. “Start with a gentle cleanser, vitamin C every other morning as tolerated and SPF every morning. During the healing process, you will want to use a rich moisturizer in the evenings.”

So, post-op skin is exactly what I thought it was: extremely sensitive but in much need of hydration and soothing ingredients. The best part is that there are topical ways to quicken the healing process - just another reason why skincare know-how is so important - whether you’re going to get surgery or not.