Getting Plastic Surgery Poses Different Risks For People of Color - Here's How

Danielle Jackson
Cropped image of female surgeon reaching for syringes on table. Close-up of healthcare worker's hand wearing surgical glove. She is in emergency room.
Cropped image of female surgeon reaching for syringes on table. Close-up of healthcare worker's hand wearing surgical glove. She is in emergency room.

Now that the shelter-in-place orders in almost every state have ended, interest in plastic surgery is surging, with many clinics seeing increases in requests for procedures like facial contouring, butt enhancements, body contouring, and more. In general, the country's attitude toward plastic surgery is slowly shifting, but if you're a person of color in this boat, there are a few post-operation facts you should consider before you book a consultation.

People of Color and Plastic Surgery

According to a report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2017, people of color made up 27 percent of all reported plastic-surgery patients. When broken down, the numbers show that 11 percent of that group identified as Hispanic, nine percent identified as Black, and seven percent identified as Asian.

Potential Plastic-Surgery Risks For People of Color

One issue that's not commonly discussed among patients of color and surgeons is that people of color have different postsurgery scarring issues to be aware of than non-people of color. "There are risks of keloids and there are a different set of complications you should speak about before surgery in relation to your ethnicity," Dr. Tanya Judge of Judge MD Plastic Surgery Clinic in San Francisco told POPSUGAR. "Scars are more likely to be hyperpigmented, raised, red, keloid, or the scar can enlarge beyond the boundary of the scar itself."

According to a briefing given by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, patients of color are more susceptible to adverse scarring and hyperpigmentation because of melanin, and these scars are most commonly found in areas around the breasts, chest, and shoulders. Patients can seek out other types of procedures that are slightly less invasive and don't cause as much trauma to the skin to prevent this from happening, though you can also simply talk to your doctor about what the risks are and how you can avoid them.

"Patients should be asking things like, 'How is my skin going to help or hurt the healing process?' and 'What should I be considering based on my ethnicity?'" Dr. Judge said.

How to Prevent Postsurgery Scarring

In the event that scarring and hyperpigmentation do occur, there are solutions that can help.

"To manage [scarring] and heal in the best way possible, we may consider steroid injections, silicone tape - the only thing FDA approved to help with the appearance of scars - or topical ointments to help with the pigmented spots," Dr. Judge said. "All can aid in healing." Silicone itself has long been a go-to when managing scars because it helps to keep them hydrated and stops them from getting too irritated, hence why silicone tape is commonly used by medical professionals for patients with fragile skin.

On the topical-ointments front, products like Vaseline, vitamin D, and cocoa butter are all good options to apply to the skin during the postsurgery aftercare process.

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