Post-Mastectomy Skin Care

One of the under-considered outcomes in the acute post-op recovery period following a mastectomy is the complete re-arrangement of skin that has occurred. Whether or not reconstruction was part of your mastectomy recovery journey, the skin on the chest has been majorly manipulated. Skin is pulled and stretched throughout surgery and then sewn together for closure. Following closure the skin can be tight in some areas and bunched in others. For lack of a better term, the skin and incisions can appear a bit “Frankenstein” ish. 

In those first few weeks following surgery it is vital to care for your skin in the right way. Incisions may be dry and crusty in some areas, yet moist and almost macerated in others. The skin surrounding incisions might be hypersensitive, completely numb, or irritated from surgical dressings. 

Below are some essential skin care tips to help you promote healing, soothe sensitive skin, and embrace your recovery journey with confidence and comfort.

WHILE you heal (incisions are not perfectly closed, there are areas of skin that are open)

Keep it Clean:

Gently cleanse the surgical sites and surrounding areas daily using a mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water. Overly hot water can cause the skin to dry out, so a comfortably warm temperature is best.  

Pat the area dry with a clean soft towel, avoiding rubbing or harsh motions. It is important to use a clean towel daily while incisions are healing to prevent infection.  

Allow for air exposure. Overly moist environments can delay healing and breed bacteria. If you find that your surgical incisions or the surrounding skin are not maintaining a dry environment for one reason or another remove surgical garments and allow your sites to be exposed to air for a few minutes several times daily. A tiny portable fan like this one works great!

Keep recovery garments clean. ACE bandages, surgical recovery wraps, and many recovery bras are machine washable. Wash bandages as needed to maintain a clean healing environment.

Report any spreading redness on the skin or surrounding an incision that is warm/hot to the touch to your provider immediately. Send photos of the sites of concern to your care team if possible. 

ONCE skin is healed (incisions are perfectly closed and scars are pink, all surrounding skin is intact)

Keep it Hydrated:

Once your surgical incisions have fully healed, you can gently massage the scar tissue to help soften and flatten it. Using a good scar treatment product like Biocorneum or Scar Away massage the scar in circular motions, applying gentle pressure without causing any pain or discomfort. Do this in three minute increments three times daily.

Apply a quality moisturizer to the rest of the skin on the chest daily to maintain hydration. 

If skin on the chest remains hypersensitive, touch it more! The nerves in your skin creating the hypersensitivity will learn to calm down the more they are stimulated. 

For long term care, shield your scars from direct sunlight by wearing loose, comfortable clothing that covers the surgical area, and when going outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to protect your scars from harmful UV rays. 

Be mindful of clothing choices by opting for loose-fitting clothing made of soft, breathable fabrics to minimize irritation and friction on the surgical scars. 

Avoid tight bras or clothing that may rub against the scars or sensitive areas and consider using specialized mastectomy bras or camisoles that provide gentle support and cushioning for added comfort.

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