If you’re getting a tummy tuck, you can expect to have a scar. However, there are steps you can take to reduce its visibility. What you do before your surgery is just as important as — if not more important than — what you do in recovery.

Here’s what you should keep in mind ahead of your surgery, what to watch for afterward, and what your options for scar removal are.

When selecting a surgeon, it’s important that you look at their portfolio. This will give you a frame of reference for their skillset and typical results. You’ll want to choose someone who has proven themselves as a reputable and with whom you feel comfortable.

Before your surgery, talk with your surgeon about the scarring. You can bring up any specific concerns you may have and determine what your scar is expected to look like. Depending on your individual surgery, you may have a V- or U-shaped scar.

Bring underwear or bikini bottoms to your surgical planning appointment so you can get a clear idea of where the scarring will be in relation to your panty line.

You should also completely stop for at least six weeks before your surgery. This will help to reduce complications.

It’s extremely important that you follow all of the instructions provided by your surgeon.

Some general guidelines include:

  • Try to walk as soon as possible after your surgery. This reduces swelling and the risk of blood clots.
  • Continue to refrain from smoking for at least six weeks.
  • Follow a healthy diet. Include plenty of liquids, fresh fruit, vegetables.
  • Refrain from lifting heavy items and avoid any strenuous activity for at least six weeks.
  • Avoid any activity that stretches, bends, or causes you to put pressure on your abdomen.
  • Avoid sexual activity for three weeks after your surgery.

Apply topical vitamin E

Some suggests that using vitamin E topically can improve the appearance of scars. It can also help to keep your scar moisturized.

Be sure to use 100 percent pure vitamin E oil. You should apply it to your scar at least once a day for the first couple of months. You can also use this as a chance to the scar tissue once it has healed.

If you experience any type of skin irritation or allergic reaction, discontinue use.

Don’t forget the sunscreen

It’s important to use sunscreen on your scar for after your surgery. If you can, it’s best to avoid sunning the area.

Scars are made of new skin and react differently to the sun than normal skin. Using sunscreen will prevent a scar from becoming darker than the surrounding skin.

If you can, use a formula that’s made specifically for scars. You should also use something that’s SPF 30 or higher.

A few popular options include:

Watch for signs of infection

It’s important to clean your incision daily. Not only will keeping your scar clean and healthy reduce its appearance, it will also reduce your risk of infection.

See your if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • excessive bleeding along the incision line
  • increased or severe swelling, bruising, or redness that isn’t getting better
  • severe pain that isn’t relieved by medication
  • yellowish or greenish drainage from the incision
  • any discharge that has an unpleasant odor
  • loss of feeling or motion
  • oral temperature over 100.4°F (38°C)
  • fever or chills

Your scar will be mostly healed after about 12 weeks, but it can take up to a year for it to fully heal. You may want to wait until it has healed to decide if you want to undergo any surgical procedures that will minimize its appearance.

These methods won’t be able to completely remove the scar, but they can help to improve its size, color, and texture.

Steroid applications and injections

You may choose to use steroid applications or injections to get rid of raised, thick, or red scars. These treatments may be used at the time of surgery for scar prevention or four weeks after surgery for correction.

The cost will depend on the size and severity of the scar. It’s usually a few hundred dollars per treatment.

Laser treatment

Laser treatments are also available. Vascular lasers collapse the tiny blood vessels on the surface of the skin that cause redness. Laser surfacing is one of the best options to improve the texture and color of scars. This technology can resurface the skin. Scarred skin is replaced with healthy collagen which improves the overall texture and color.

Check with your doctor to see how long you should wait before beginning laser treatment. Laser treatments are expensive. If you go with this treatment, you’ll likely need two or more sessions over the course of a few months.

Surgical scar revision

Scar revision is an option if you want your scar to be closer in tone and texture to your normal skin. Your doctor may use a combination of topical treatments, minimally invasive procedures, and surgical revision. You’ll still be able to see the scar, but it will be less noticeable.

As with laser treatment, you should check with your doctor to see how long you should wait after your tummy tuck to have scar revision surgery. They may advise you to wait at least a year so you can see how your scar has healed over time first.

Costs for this vary.

Punch grafts

Punch grafting is a where a small hole is made in skin using a small tool. The scar is removed and replaced with new skin from another place on your body, usually from behind your ear. You will still have a scar, but it will be smoother and less noticeable.

It’s important to take into account that a tummy tuck will leave you with a permanent scar. Think about why you are having a tummy tuck and what results you want to get from it. If the intended results outweigh the disadvantages of having a scar, then it will probably be worth it.

You can also think about the possibilities for scar reduction. Take steps before and after surgery to facilitate a healthy healing process so that the scarring is as minimal as possible.

Learn more: Should you get a tummy tuck after a cesarean delivery? »