When first deciding to go for skin removal surgery, we can be met with a whole host of emotions; excitement, nervousness – even dread! It can be a little overwhelming to go through, but rest assured that it’s normal to experience them all!
Having had a tummy tuck myself, as well as nursed more than one person after plastic surgery – I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to make life easier both before and after the surgery. If you want to read more on my tummy tuck experience, please click here.
I’m currently scheduled for another round of skin removal surgery in August ’21 and will utilise every one of the tips that I have learned!
In all honesty, I’m really disappointed with the lack of cosmetic surgery information we have here in New Zealand. Even jumping over the ditch to Australia, there is just so much more information as well as more results to look at. This was one of the driving factors in my choice not to have surgery in New Zealand. I just find it really off-putting that most surgeons have a lack of result photos, and on top of that its almost as if the topic of cosmetic surgery is swept under the rug. The use of injectables and their results is prevalent, but it seems cosmetic surgery in New Zealand simply hasn’t kept with the times and made it to the social media day and age.
I’ve sectioned this blog roughly into pre-surgery and post surgery, but will also make a list of supplements I use in each, as well as items I have purchased for my own recovery.
Please note – these are my tips and tricks as well as my own opinion. This is not meant to replace medical advice from your own doctor or surgeon, but simply a resource to help you plan your own surgery journey.
Preparation for Surgery
By this point you should have chosen your surgeon, (ideally) finished losing weight and have booked your surgery date. Most surgeons want to be at your goal/lowest weight at least 6 months prior to surgery and to have actively finished your weight loss. Some can ask you to lose a few more kilos before surgery if they feel that you are able or that the result will be better.
The fact of the matter is that the lower body fat you have, the less fat will be in the skin and the tighter your result will be!
Each time I or someone I know has booked in a surgery date, there is usually a good 3 months before your surgery itself. This time is valuable for your pre-surgery preparation!
For me its really important to use this time to prepare my body for the trauma that surgery is to the body. I ensure that I work out regularly, focusing on the areas that will be used more to compensate for the areas that will have downtime because of the surgery. For example, before my tummy tuck I focused a lot on leg strength as well as my ‘pulling’ strength for my arms since I knew my legs would be taking the brunt of my weight when I needed to sit down, but I would need my arms to pull me back up.
I also focus on the areas that will get operated on so that they are the strongest they can be going into the surgery; for example for my upcoming surgery, my personal trainer Josh and I have been doing a lot of lower body since my arms won’t be very usable, but we also do a lot of arms and back to make sure they’re as toned as we can get them for the best finished result.
Nutrition during this time is also super important. You want to have the most nutrient dense food that you can, so that your body gets everything it needs for the best recovery. I’m currently 2 months out from surgery, and will be switching to strict paleo shortly to ensure I have a maximised vegetable intake for the best kind of micronutrients.
You want to also be maintaining your weight, or losing the last couple of kilos. I have spent the last few months getting rid of the last few kilos so I can be at my optimal surgery weight.
Additionally, I cannot stress enough how important having a support person during your recovery is. You will need someone to drop you off and pick you up on the day of surgery, and do not expect to be able to get around by yourself after. You simply need someone, and could compromise your results and healing if you don’t. I would recommend having someone for at least a week. You will need someone who you can rely on, and who you don’t feel worried about asking for help. Choose someone who fits this description, and who won’t make you feel like an inconvenience.
There are a few things I take in the lead up to surgery, but also a few you must stop taking. Your surgeon will go over these with you. I will continue my regular supplements right up until the day of surgery, but will stop fish oils 2 weeks prior.
Supplements I take in the lead up, specific to preparing to surgery:
- Vitamin C (I’ve opted for a high quality Liposomal)
- Mediherb St Mary’s Thistle (7 days prior – this helps to rid the body of anaesthetic)
- Arnica (only 3 days prior to surgery – to help with bruising)
- Jeuneora Renew+ – collagen that also contains vitamin c and bromelain
The top three are to help look after my health and immunity so that I’m as strong as possible. Vitamin D is another good one to add, but unfortunately I find it gives me a bit of a rash on my chest so I tend to steer clear. These supplements I will be taking regularly from at least a month prior.
The Arnica I will take 3 days prior, and this will help minimise my bruising and help with my body’s trauma response. I took this with my tummy tuck and experienced almost no bruising. My sister took this with her recent surgery and also had minimal bruising. I will stop arnica once I’ve taken it the day before surgery.
St Mary’s Thistle is a new one to me, but recommended by my naturopath so I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes. I hate having anaesthetic in my system, so anything to help clear it out is definitely going on the list for me. This one will have to be purchased from a herbal store directly, and always consult them when going in to purchase. The brand I have is Mediherb.
I take Renew+ daily anyway, but the collagen is great for healing. Jeuneora’s Renew+ also contains vitamin c and bromelain, which is another way to accelerate healing.
Additionally, well moisturised skin heals better than dry skin. This is written in the pre-surgery instructions I have from my surgeon, and I have also seen others preparing their skin before their operation – so I’m following suit.
Each night I use the brand Institut’s (Skinstitut in some countries) 14% Glycolic Acid Scrub in the shower on the areas I’m having operated on. I then alternate between Kiehl’s Creme de Corps one night, and ASAP’s Cellulite + Firming Lotion the next. I have started this routine just over 2 months out to ensure I will be well moisturised and prepared. Since I’m having a back, extended arm and breast lift, these are the areas I am concentrating on. I will admit my back gets a little less love as I can only really reach the sides, but after 1 week of this routine, my skin is so soft already!
The Day and Night Before Surgery:
The day before surgery you’ll want to ensure you have prepared everything ready for your return home. This means making sure you have all of your groceries purchased and your home set up.
Usually you’ll have to fast from midnight the night before surgery, of both water and food so that you’re empty when you get on the table. This can also be dependent on what time your surgery is the next day. If you have the choice, opt for first thing in the morning! That way you get up and don’t have time to think too much or get anxious before your surgery.
I would definitely recommend drinking as much water as possible before your fasting cut off, so that you are well hydrated and can flush your system that much more easily on the other side. I’d also recommend a really good solid meal the night before too – good quality starchy carbs to line the gut and assist with sleep.
Try as hard as you can to get a good night’s sleep prior to surgery, but chances are you’ll be pretty nervous and not sleep too much.
You’ll also need to remove all jewellery before your surgery, so now is a good time to do this. Make sure you store it all in a safe place, so you can easily locate it when you’re home.
If you’re like me and get your nails done regularly, ensure you leave polish off one or both index fingers. They’ll need this so they can put your heart rate monitor on.
Food I Have on Hand:
Depending on who the cook is in your house, you may also want to prepare some nourishing food for the fridge or freezer. Often you’re not hungry after, but eating is important so pretty much you just want to get whatever you can in! After my surgery, I didn’t feel like much except fresh fruit. This is pretty typical for me – its normally fresh fruit I crave when I’m not feeling my best.
- Fruit Puree Pouches – yes, baby food!
- Fresh Pineapple – naturally contains bromelain, a great post op support for recovery
- Bone Broth – naturally healing plus contains a collagen as well as protein. Chicken is usually more pleasant to drink warmed up!
- Rice Crackers – the puffed rice type. If you’re someone who tends towards nausea, its nice to have something dry on hand. I like these with butter and peanut butter haha.
- Easy to Eat Protein – whatever is your favourite. Whether its whey protein drinks, or shredded chicken! Protein is important for recovery.
Items I Have Bought in Advance for Surgery Aftercare:
There are quite a few things I have on my list for surgery aftercare, that I buy in advance and set up ready and waiting for me. I did many of these for Sophie too. I’ll try to include a description with each item on what I used them for and why I like them.
- Loose fitting button up night shirts/dresses – especially if you’re having your arms done, the buttons are really important. The last thing you want to be doing after surgery is trying to lift your arms above your head. These will make having someone dress you so much easier.
- Stretchy pants! Loose fitting and ultra comfortable. If you’re having a tummy tuck, try to choose one with a flat waistband.
- Pillows – and lots of them! I had so many during my own recovery, and they are useful in so many ways after surgery for propping you up, or elevating your legs, or to keep your body in a comfortable position. Don’t skimp on them! I kept at least 6 handy.
- Towels. Leaking is pretty common after surgery, and towels are a good way to protect furniture and beds.
- Puppy training pads or adult incontinence sheets. I personally bought these adult incontinence sheets, because I thought they would be more comfortable to sleep on and I preferred the idea of them being machine washable instead of single use. Plus they have a grippy texture so that I wouldn’t have to worry about them moving. I bought multiple so I would have extra when one was being washed. A cheaper alternative is puppy training pads that you can find at Kmart. We got these for Sophie and they’re commonly used by cosmetic surgery patients. They’re also really inexpensive.
- Neck pillow – like those used during travel. These can be really helpful instead of a regular pillow when trying to sleep more upright.
- Extra long charging cable. Helpful if you’re in hospital and the plug is further away, and the same for at home. You’ll likely be spending plenty of time on your phone during recovery – and we all know how fast instagram reels can drain battery haha!
- Wet wipes – they’re just handy full stop. You never know when you may have a leak that needs one!
- Reusable straw. If you’re not able to move much, this can be helpful in hospital if your cup is just that bit further away!
- She-wee! I didn’t have one, but would have if I thought about it for my tummy tuck. I will definitely get one when I eventually have a thigh lift! Sophie bought one before her operation (tummy tuck, thigh lift and breast lift), and honestly it has made life so much easier that she doesn’t have to get up and down off the loo when going for a wee.
- Compression socks. These are great to reduce swelling, and of course to reduce risk of blood clots. These are important if you are travelling for your surgery for your plane ride home. You will be given compression garments by your surgeon for the rest of your body.
Tips for After Surgery:
This is when your preparation and hard work before surgery really shows! Your post-surgery journey is what you make it. I have heard and seen so many people struggle post surgery, but I truly breezed through my tummy tuck recovery. I was off pain meds after 3 days!
My sister also followed many of my tips, and whilst at the time of writing this, she only had her surgery yesterday – if you follow my instagram stories, you’ll see how well she is doing! And she has a self confessed low pain threshold.
As listed above, there are several items I have bought for my own aftercare, and we have done the same for Sophie during hers. Having these before hand as well as set up and ready to go made it really helpful.
Neither of us have been in our hometown for our surgery, and in the US it was treated as a day surgery for me, plus Sophie’s here in New Zealand was a day surgery – meaning no hospital overnight stay to help. I did pay to stay in an aftercare facility the first night after my own surgery but was back at my airbnb the next. I will have a 2 night stay in hospital for my next surgery in August.
Chances are, you’ll be in hospital for the first night or two after your surgery, but in my experience, the third day after surgery can be the hardest. That being said, thats the day I came off my pain medication! So it really depends on the individual.
I personally only had a bed and couch at my airbnb, so set those both up with plenty of pillows, a towel, the tv remotes, water and everything I thought I made need at a fingers reach. You really do want to do absolutely nothing, so make sure you have everything ready and available to make that possible.
Where we stayed for Sophie’s surgery had a recliner, and honestly if you’re having a tummy tuck or thigh lift, I would even go as far as to encourage you to rent one! This has been where she has slept, and is the most convenient for getting up and down. If you have this one, I recommend setting this up with your puppy training pads and towel as well as pillows before having surgery. A smaller couch cushion is often better for directly behind your back.
Immediately after surgery, you’ll be in recovery for at least a couple of hours. After that time, you’ll either wake up in your post-surgery clothes or you may need to get into them. This is why they recommend loose fitting, easy to put on clothes. Button up tops if you’re having arm surgery, or a zip up hoodie, plus loose sweat pants and slip on shoes. Don’t choose anything that you need to bend to get your foot into – any kind of slide or slip on is best!
Unfortunately its often not long before you have to get up and walk for the first time, which is pretty daunting after a tummy tuck or thigh lift. If you need to use the toilet, this is often where the she-wee is really helpful so you don’t have to add an extra step to your routine.
When you go to get into the car on your way home, a tip one of my followers gave me was to have a trash bag on the seat you’ll be sitting on – not just to line the seat, but to also make sliding in easier. Sophie said this was a huge help to her getting into the car for the first time. Instead of having to try and painfully shuffle, she was able to simply slide gently far enough in to close the door.
Additionally, I would highly recommend having a pillow in the vehicle to hold on to for your drive. It’s really great to brace yourself against for the drive in case of bumps in the road. It’s also good to hug if (heaven forbid!) you cough or sneeze. Again, this is mainly for after a tummy tuck.
Once you’re home, its up to you to rest and recover! It’s likely you will spend plenty of time sleeping – and this is great! Sleep is essential for your healing, so sleep as much as you want. You’ll have all of your medications as prescribed by your doctor, and they’ll give you a run down on what to take when. I have a few additional post-surgery supplements, but they’re to complement and not replace what your doctor has prescribed. I recommend you clear these with your surgeon first, since individual surgeons have different requirements.
- Bromelain – another one to help speed up the healing process and get rid of bruising faster.
- Laxatives/Probiotics – laxatives are often the better choice here as probiotics may not work if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics. Anaesthetic and pain medications will often cause constipation. Your doctor may prescribe you a laxative after your surgery, but regardless, ensure you have them because otherwise it’s not going to be comfortable.
- Jeuneora Renew+ Collagen – same as before surgery, its just great to promote healing.
- Mediherb Milk Thistle – again, to speed up eliminating leftover anaesthetic.
- Vitamin C – to keep your immunity up.
Again these will all be in addition, and are not to replace what your are prescribed by your doctor.
It’s self explanatory, but drink plenty of water, hydration is key and important to your recovery!
Your doctor should go over scar care with you for once your incisions have healed, but there are many options. Since my wedding is 6 months after my surgery, I’ll be doing all I can for the best healing, and will likely head to KM Surgical for any additional scar laser treatments. Silicone tape is really popular, and wearing your compression garments as long as possible to keep strain off your incisions too.
Other than that – that’s pretty much all of your tips! Buckle up for a lot of rest and recovery.
Please go into this knowing that you need to spend time recovering and don’t try to do too much too soon. Walking is good, and essential, and in the first few days just to the bathroom and back is good. But you do need to build this up a bit. Save yourself plenty of Netflix shows to binge, and get a few good books ready. Take the adequate time off of work, and try not to get yourself back too soon. A couple of weeks off is usually ideal.
Everyone heals differently, but if you go into your surgery prepared then you set yourself up for the best possible outcome. Know your limits, and don’t compare your healing to any one else – it won’t help your individual recovery! You don’t need to be a hero, you simply need to rest and heal.
Relax and enjoy your new body – you deserve it! x