While winter is often the season where we pack on a few ‘comfort kilos’, it’s perhaps the perfect time to get those body contouring procedures done to shape your ideal summer body, advises Dr Isabel Do Vale.
Body contouring surgery refers to several different plastic surgery procedures that all aim to remove excess skin and fat, tighten loose skin, and lift any areas of the body that are sagging.
The goal is to achieve a more shapely figure or to recontour the body after some of the unwanted changes that follow from significant weight loss, pregnancy and breastfeeding, or simply to address those stubborn fat deposits that don’t respond to diet and exercise.
Body contouring can treat a number of different body parts and regions, including the tummy, hips, thighs, buttocks, breasts, arms and neck. Patients sometimes prefer to combine different procedures into one surgery, allowing them to recover from a single operative event and anaesthetic, rather than undergoing multiple procedures and recovery periods over an extended period.
Body contouring techniques include the surgical excision and tightening of excess loose skin, the repositioning of anatomical structures (such as the nipple or umbilicus), the removal or liposuction of excess fat, and sometimes implants or fat grafting to fill and contour depleted areas. Combinations of these techniques allow the plastic surgeon to carefully sculpt the body into an improved shape.
Body contouring may seem like a quicker route to a better figure but – like diet and exercise – body contouring is a process that requires careful consideration, planning and time. They say ‘summer bodies are made in winter’, so we’re looking at why winter might just be the best time for body contouring surgery.
A new shape for summer
With any type of plastic surgery, it is important to have a realistic expectation of what can be accomplished through surgery and the recovery time needed. Patients often consider body contouring surgery when they start thinking about the summer holidays or other celebrations usually planned for the summer months.
As with most surgeries, the recovery from body contouring surgery requires a few weeks of downtime, but the entire healing process can last much longer. Usually, the final results will not be complete until a few months after the operation.
For this reason, winter is a good time to undergo body-contouring surgery, as it will give you sufficient time to heal and recover, and for swelling and scarring to settle and diminish. By the time summer, the festive season and holidays are here, you will be ready to flaunt your new figure.
In most instances, plastic surgeons will advise patients to wear compression garments (or a supportive post-surgical bra in the case of breast surgery), for a few weeks after surgery.
These elastic compression garments are designed to help control and improve healing by applying constant pressure that helps to minimise swelling, improve lymphatic drainage, reduce the risk of haematoma or seroma formation, and encourage skin contraction. By holding the treated areas in position, the garments support and reduce tension over incisions, thus improving patient comfort and reducing pain, while also working to minimise scarring.
For all their benefits, the one downside is that the garments tend to be thick and fairly tight, making them a lot easier to wear as an extra layer in the cool winter months. In summer, the high temperatures, sunshine and humidity may lead to the compression garment feeling hot and sweaty.
Bulky winter clothes
Bulky winter clothes not only keep you warm but are ideal for hiding compression garments and other signs of recent body contouring surgery, such as bruising, redness, swelling, healing scars and drains, in some cases.
Loose, baggy, clothing is not only more comfortable during recovery but can often cover the entire body – something that would be challenging in most summer outfits.
Thick jerseys, scarves, pants and tracksuits make it easy to keep the signs of body contouring surgery under wraps until you are fully recovered and ready for a more revealing summer wardrobe.
Cool temperatures reduce swelling
The application of cooler temperatures to an area of the body causes blood flow to that area to slow, thus limiting swelling.
In summer, blood vessels tend to dilate close to the skin surface in order to dissipate heat; however, this can also exacerbate swelling, as fluids leak from blood vessels into nearby tissues. With the cooler winter temperatures, post-operative swelling tends to be less, as peripheral blood vessels are constricted, reducing the capacity for fluid to move into the tissues –thus somewhat minimising swelling.
Reduced sun exposure
As plastic surgeons, we often ask our patients to wear high-SPF sunscreen and avoid direct sun exposure immediately after surgical procedures. Direct UV exposure can negatively affect healing. Fresh scars that are prematurely exposed to the sun’s UV rays may thicken or hyperpigment, turning red or brown, rather than fading into a thin pale line.
It’s worth noting that full scar maturation takes 12 to 18 months, so sunscreen is a must, even well after your wounds have healed. In the cold winter months, most of us tend to naturally ‘hibernate’ – staying indoors more than usual and thus avoiding the harsh UV rays of the sun. Of course, when we do venture outdoors in winter, we are most likely well covered up, protecting any scars from the sun.
For all the reasons discussed, winter is potentially an ideal time to undergo breast or body contouring surgery. The one downside to winter, however, is that staying healthy can be more challenging.
If you have scheduled your breast or body contouring surgery for the winter months, try to maintain optimal health before and after your surgery, and avoid any potential exposure to seasonal colds and cases of flu.
If you think you are coming down with a cold or flu virus, it is best to discuss it with your surgeon and reschedule your procedure. Allow yourself to fully recover before proceeding with your surgery.