Is wearing paper tape over the incisions to help with scarring?

I had a mommy makeover, and was told to wear paper tape over my incisions for 2-3 months.Is this to help with scarring? It seems a long time to me to have to wear the tape. It gets really irritating in my skin changing the tape every day. Is it just as good to do some other form of scar treatment, like some of the creams?

Doctor Answers 8

Scar care after tummy tuck

Thank you for your post. In tummy tuck and other lift/tightening surgeries, tension is the enemy. The scar is healing gradually over 12 weeks or so, and until it is strong, it is the weakest link. As there is a great deal of tension in tummy tucks, body lifts, breast lifts, etc., the scar is at high risk of 'stretching' or widening. Silicone sheeting, although having the ability to make a scar flat, does nothing to prevent stretching of the scar. Creams or steroids or lasers also do not have the ability to prevent stretching of the scar. Those are used if scar is thick or dark, but not to reduce the wideness of the scar, which is the main problem. Massage also does not help keep the scar thin, and can actually worsen the scar in the first 12 weeks because you are actually adding tension to the scar. Massage is for softening a hard or thick scar, but if used early, will hasten the scar widening. Only tension reduction has the ability to keep the scar as thin as possible. You may notice in a lot of tummy tuck scars that the center portion of the scar is the widest with the sides toward the hips being the thinnest. This is because the maximum tension is at the center, and least amount on the sides. Embrace removes a lot of the tension by putting more tension on the skin on either side of the incision and drawing the incision together. It is expensive though at about $100 per week for 12 weeks. When patients do not want to spend the money for embrace, I tape the incision trying to remove as much tension as possible for 12 weeks and recommend no stretching back and to sit most of the time, keeping tension off the scar.
Best wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Incisions over scars

The use of paper tape or steri strip is to take the pressure off the incisions. If you are having concerns over its use, express your concerns to your surgeon and he/she may be able to better guide you.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 40 reviews

Told to Wear Paper Tape Over Tummy Tuck Scar for 3 Months

I think the idea here was to take some tension off the incision edges, but if it is irritating it makes sense to remove it and use scar gel like biocorneum or mederma. You can also use silicone sheeting that comes in tummy tuck shaped forms. Your plastic surgeon can discuss alternatives if the recommended tape is irritating. I have never used tape so I cannot comment on its efficacy, but I think that most plastic surgeons are inclined to use some form of silicone, either gel or sheet.  In my practice I also add Lux 1540 fractional erbium laser to prevent undue scarring.

Robert M. Lowen, MD
Mountain View Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Does paper tape help with scars

The use of aper tape or steri strips helps keep tension off the incision and applies pressure, both of which will improve the final scar. Skin irritation may have the opposite effect on a scar, so tape should be discontinued if there is any reaction. Silicone scar creams and strips also have evidence of improving the appearance of scars, and those can be used instead.

Dana Goldberg, MD
Jupiter Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Paper tape and mommy make-over healing

  • Six weeks of tape support is the standard.
  • Your scar has most of its final strength by then.
  • Tape adhesive can cause pain, blistering and skin color changes.
  • Your mommy make-over scar should now be fine on its own. 
  • Call your surgeon's office also to let them know you need to stop the tape. Best wishes.

Elizabeth Morgan, MD, PhD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Taping to improve mommy makeover tummy tuck scarring

Scars go through several phases of healing over a period of months and I believe that taping for at least 6 weeks in beneficial, longer in some cases depending on skin type. However, I usually place an extra adhesive called Mastisol, so the tapes only need to be changed every 2-3 weeks. Changing them daily could actually cause more irritation, as you are experiencing.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 52 reviews

Paper tape (pressure) helps with scarring.

Congratulations on your mommy makeover! There continues to be no proven way to eliminate scarring after surgery. You have been instructed to apply paper tape to the incision to provide pressure on the incision. Pressure is thought to decrease tissue metabolism and increase collagen breakdown within the wound. This concept is designed to help minimize the appearance of scars. I tell my patients that scarring is 50% how I put it together and 50% genetics. Unfortunately, as plastic surgeons we can't control the genetics component. So by doing appropriate post-operative scar management (i.e. pressure, massage, silicone cream) we hope to improve the component we can't control. The downside to using paper tape is it can irritate the skin. Try giving your skin a break for a few days and massage silicone cream (likely available at your plastic surgeon's office) over the incision twice a day. Then start up the paper tape routine again.

Matthew Blanton, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Is wearing paper tape over the incisions to help with scarring?

Hello! Thank you for the question! It is common for scars to fully mature for up to a year. In the meantime, there are a few things that may help to ameliorate your incision/scar. The most proven (as well as cheapest) modality is simple scar massage. Applying pressure and massaging the well-healed scar has been shown to improve the appearance as it breaks up the scar tissue, hopefully producing the finest scar as possible. Other things that have been shown to add some benefit, albeit controversial, are silicone sheets, hydration, and topical steroids. I typically allow after 4-6 weeks postop and once fully healed. In addition, avoidance of direct sunlight to the incision will significantly help the appearance as they tend to discolor with UV light during the healing process.

If unsightly scars are still present after approximately a year's time, other things that your surgeon may consider are intralesional steroid injections, laser, or just surgical revision of the scar itself. Lasers may also be an option for the appearance of your scars. If still no result, consideration for lasers, steroids, or scar revision may be entertained. Best wishes!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.