A skin graft is one of the most basic cosmetic surgeries, but also one of the trickiest due to all the different steps involved! Luckily, professional cosmetic surgeons have trained their skills on this procedure so you can rest assured that what they do is perfect.
Fortunately, your doctor will likely use either your own tissue or that of a close relative to cover the area where there is no skin. It is important to take special care of the new layer of skin while it heals to ensure its long term health.
This article will go over some general tips as well as some specific ones related to caring for a facial skin graft.
Pat dry gently with a soft towel
After your skin graft is done, it must be cared for properly! Your new layer of skin will not stick to anything else, so make sure you are very careful when washing or drying it.
Never rub water onto your skin graft, this could irritate it. Instead, use a soft cloth to wash it and then let it air-dry.
Be gentle when pulling off any remaining dressings or bandages, as these can hurt the newly healed skin. Also, do not pull too hard as you may accidentally damage the graft.
Once it is fully dried, put it in the refrigerator or freezer until it is time to apply another layer of dressing or bandage. This will help preserve the integrity of the graft and prevent infection from happening.
Apply a moisturizing cream to the graft
When your donor site has healed, it is time to apply some extra care to your new skin. Make sure to use a gentle cleanser with warm water to wash away any dried blood or fluid that may remain from the surgery.
A good product to using before bedtime is night-mode concealers, which are usually white in color. This helps blend in the newly transplanted skin and prevent darkening of the area.
Many people also recommend using light concealers under your eyes as well as sunscreen to protect your newly exposed areas.
Apply sunblock to the graft
One of the most important things to do after any skin graft is make sure you are protecting your new layer of skin from the elements! This includes using adequate sunscreen, protective gloves, and plastic covers to protect it while you’re working with it.
It also means making sure it has an even coat of protection as the graft will act as both a barrier against moisture and infectious agents as well as preventing swelling or wrinkling that could affect its look later.
Sunscreen can be applied directly onto the protected area or use a thin cover (like a washcloth) first to help let dry.
Do not pick at your graft
Even though it seems tempting, pulling on the skin can cause it to become stuck or dislocate completely, requiring another surgery to re-attach it! Avoid picking at your graft by using a washcloth to gently remove any dried blood or fluid that may be present.
If you do happen to accidentally pull off some of the graft, try rolling it between your thumb and index finger to roll up the excess tissue. Then apply gentle pressure with a piece of cloth until it pulls away naturally.
Removing too much of the graft can also require a second surgical procedure to re-attach it.
Seek the advice of a dermatologist
When your skin starts looking more worn out or you notice it changing, it is important to see a doctor to have proper evaluations done. This includes having a physical exam with your doctor, who will check your lymph nodes, oral cavity, nails, and general appearance and condition of your skin.
They may also perform tests such as biopsies or blood draws to determine if anything is wrong physically. It is very common to do this during an appointment when doing a cosmetic procedure like a skin graft.
After the evaluation, the doctor will probably recommend either topical or internal treatments to help improve the health of your skin until the transplant heals properly. These can take up to eight weeks depending on how well your body responds to them.
There are many things that affect how quickly your skin recovers after a graft, so making sure your overall health is at its best is crucial.
Tell your dermatologist if you are experiencing any changes
Although most patients recover quickly, there may be times when skin grafts do not take or need changing or tweaking. If this happens, your doctor will tell you what to expect and how to care for your wound.
He or she will also recommend protecting the area with a layer of moist dressings until it heals. It is important to keep the area as dry as possible to help promote healing.
It is normal to feel anxious at times while caring for your wounds, but staying focused and taking good care of yourself can make things go more smoothly. Talking about your worries with friends or family can also help you feel less alone.
Changes to the color, texture, and thickness of the new skin typically fade over time, so watching for them is helpful. Some people develop dark undertones in their healed skin due to natural pigment shifts.
Re-expose your graft to sunlight for up to 30 minutes each day
When you re-expose your skin graft to the sun, try doing it at one location every other day to ensure adequate healing.
You can also use a special gel or cream to protect the new layer of skin. These protective layers help prevent your skin from drying out too much, which would impair its function.
Many people begin using these gels in the first few days after their surgery to avoid this problem.
Use sunscreen when going outside
When your skin is healed, you will want to use some form of sun protection cream to prevent your new layer of skin from hurting or even being damaged by sunlight.
Most patients are advised to apply a thin coaticle-style sunscreen every day using both hands. Make sure to spread any leftover product evenly onto all areas of exposed skin.
Sunscreens with an SPF (sun protective factor) of at least 30 are considered adequate for protecting your graft against sunburn. More advanced sunprotection products have a higher SPF which may be better for very sensitive skin.
Research shows that lower doses of UV light can help preserve the integrity and function of the transplanted tissue.