How to prepare for plastic surgery

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail – Benjamin Franklin

We should not argue with Ben. Your efforts around preparing for your plastic surgery procedure will impact your recovery and successful result.

He also said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  This strikes me as directly pertinent to preparing for plastic surgery.

Once you’ve done the research, made the decision, analyzed the cost, and scheduled the appointment, there are some definite milestones you’ll want to keep in mind when you prepare for your plastic surgery procedure. There are medicines to take, medicines to avoid, habits to stop, habits you can start, and household matters to get in line.

If you start planning from about a month out, by the time you have your surgery, you should be in a position to recover very well.

To help you get ready for your plastic surgery, the following timeline is offered. After the timeline is a more detailed discussion about some of the subject matter. At the end of the article is a link to a downloadable checklist you can hang on your fridge.

Always consult with your surgeon or your patient counselor to ensure you follow their instructions – their instructions trump this checklist.  Ready?

7 step schedule to prepare for plastic surgery

1. Four weeks before your plastic surgery

  • Some surgeons will require that you have a physical – your own physician can complete this. Your plastic surgeon will want to see the results
  • This is a good time to talk with your surgeon about treatment for the eventual scars and, if approved, start on preemptive scar treatments such as lotions or gels. This can prepare the skin for the eventual trauma of surgery, so you have the best options to prevent scarring later.  We have a dedicated post regarding scar treatment (will open in a new window)
  • Talk to your surgeon about post-surgical compression garments to see what is recommended.  You’ll want to get these ordered earlier rather than later to ensure it is on hand when you need it.  Many surgeons will recommend wearing it to the surgery so you can wear it home and start benefiting immediately.

2. Three weeks before your plastic surgery

  • Stop smoking and drinking
  • Consult with your surgeon or patient counselor about any medications you are currently taking
  • Talk with your surgeon or staff about relaxing medication you can take the morning of your surgery. They can prescribe something to take the edge off of the eventual anxiety.
  • Stock your kitchen with lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein-based foods
  • Start identifying and avoiding foods that contain salicylates (list below)
  • Start planning your recovery area and stocking up on books to read, movies to binge-watch, Hulu shows to watch, knitting to do, etc.
  • Consider purchasing ice packs to help with the post-procedure pain  – a couple of popular options are available from Amazon below:
      • Ice Roller (you have to check this out…very nice!
  • Consider getting some Bromelain (reduces swelling) and Arnica Montana (pain relief, reduce swelling, promote healing) to help with the recovery process – both are typically recommended for Plastic Surgery recovery.  These are covered in more detail below as well.
      • You can find top-rated Now brand Bromelain here.
      • You can find the best Arnica Montana by Boiron here.

3. Two weeks before your plastic surgery

  • Recheck your medications. What was acceptable last week may not be acceptable this week or in the next two weeks. Talk with your surgeon or patient counselor about this again
  • Start taking a daily multivitamin and specific vitamins recommended by your surgeon or patient counselor. Normal recommendations are for Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Bromelain, all twice daily
  • Stop taking Vitamin E in large doses. The amount in the multi-vitamins is acceptable, but you should not be taking Vitamin E pills.
  • Talk to your doctor about any herbal supplements you are taking to uncover any possible problem areas.
  • Stop taking any medicine that contains aspirin.
  • Stop taking anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis – consult with your physician before doing so
  • It’s not too late to order post-surgical compression garments.  You can find them online at Amazon, and many are on Amazon prime, so you can take advantage of 2-day shipping if this has slipped through the cracks up to now.
  • Stop taking anti-coagulants
  • You’ll be taking some pain reliever after your procedure – some pain medications can cause constipation, so proactive doses of a good medical grade probiotic will ease this unfortunate side effect.
      • One of the best and most highly rated probiotics can be found here.
      • Organic Chamomile tea is also a good bet.  Find it here.

4. One week before your plastic surgery

  • Reduce sodium intake. 1,200 – 1,500 mg daily is a good target
  • Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and high protein meals
  • Drink lots of water
  • Get your prescriptions filled – you will not want to try to do this after the surgery
  • Ensure you have somebody to drive you to and from your surgery
  • Finish work on your recovery area. Books, tv, video games, knitting.  Whatever you plan to do during recovery, now’s the time to make sure it’s all ready.
  • Get lots of rest and focus on good nutrition.

5. Two days before your plastic surgery

  • Begin taking Arnica Montana every 8 hours for 10 days (as directed)
  • Continue taking Bromelain every 12 hours between meals (as directed)
  • Ensure you have a ride set up to get you to and from your procedure
  • Set up your recovery area with reading material, tv, gauze, peroxide, bacitracin, water, and other drinks, medicine, pillows, surgeon and pharmacy phone numbers
  • This is a great time to re-use your old pajamas since there may be some oozing from the surgical incision sites.
  • Move essentials from high or low shelves to where you can reach them more easily. For the first week or two, you will not want to be stretching to get anything.
  • If you have pets that will need walking, ensure this is set up.

6. One day before your plastic surgery

  • Get a good night’s rest
  • Nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before
  • Check one more time to ensure your ride to and from your surgery is locked on

7. Day of…

  • No breakfast
  • You’ll have anxiety – that’s normal.  If your surgeon prescribed you relaxing medications for this, now is the time to take them.
  • Think happy thoughts (seriously!).  This is a big day!

Foods to avoid and foods that are OK to eat before your plastic surgery

Salicylate is a chemical found in many foods, and it is also the chemical in aspirin. We all know aspirin is a blood thinner and that we should not take it before or after surgery, but foods containing salicylates should be avoided.

Below is a list of foods to avoid before surgery and some that are OK:

  • Beverages
    • Avoid: beer, birch beer, root beer, carbonated drinks, distilled drinks, tea, wine.
    • OK: cereal drinks, coffee, fruit juices (made from the fruit on the OK list below), milk (any kind)
  • Breads and Starches
    • Avoid: potatoes
    • OK: breads and cereals, popcorn, pasta, peas, rice, rolls, croissants, bagels
  • Desserts and Sweets
    • Avoid: mint or wintergreen products, pies, and cakes made with fruits.
    • OK: homemade cakes and cookies made without the avoided fruits (listed below)
  • Fats
    • Avoid: almonds, peanuts, avocados, mayonnaise, olives, olive oil, salad dressings.
    • OK: butter, margarine, cashews, pecans, vegetable oils
  • Fruits
    • Avoid: apples, apple cider, apricots, berries (most of them), cherries, currants, dates, grapes, raisins, melon (all kinds), pineapple, oranges, nectarines, peaches, plums, prunes, pomegranates.
    • OK: bananas, blueberries, cranberries, grapefruit, lemons, mangos, papayas, pears, rhubarb, strawberries, tangerines
  • Vegetables
    • Avoid: canned mushrooms, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, tabasco peppers, tomatoes.
    • OK: asparagus, carrots, fresh mushrooms, green beans, wax beans, greens, lettuce, spinach, squash
  • Miscellaneous
    • Avoid: cloves, pickles, mint.
    • OK: chocolate (yay!), cocoa, salt, pepper, some spices, sugar, syrup, vinegar

Vitamins to take before your plastic surgery

  • There are several vitamins to talk to your surgeon about taking before your surgery.  Please take a look at the below information:
  • Vitamin A – taken in too large of a dose, this can cause several maladies you’d rather not deal with right now. Be sure to get a recommendation from your surgeon or patient representative for this. Vitamin A is important to the healing process as it plays an important role in collagen production and formation and aiding in protection against bacterial and viral infections.
  • Vitamin C – you’ll want to take this before your surgery, as the surgery itself will deplete your body’s vitamin C stores. Taking it before and after the surgery significantly reduces your healing time. Vitamin C is also an essential element in collagen production, which is important for healing wounds of any type and a means to boost your immune system.
      • You want a high-quality Vitamin C to ensure you get the most benefit.  Keep in mind that Vitamin C helps promote Collagen’s creation, which is instrumental in healing your tissue.  It is also a free radical scavenger that helps remove unstable molecules in your body created during normal cell metabolism.  These free radicals can increase your risk of cancer or other diseases, so a high-quality Vitamin C is always recommended.
      • The highest quality Vitamin C we have seen can be found is by Thorne and can be found here.
  • Bromelain – used to reduce swelling. Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple juice and the pineapple stem. When used as a medicine, it fights pain, reduces swelling, promotes wound healing, and has even been shown to contain chemicals that interfere with tumor cells’ growth. Your surgeon or patient counselor may recommend a steady dose of Bromelain before your surgery.
      • You can find top-rated Bromelain by NOW here.
  • Arnica Montana – used to soothe aches, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Arnica is available as an ointment or gel and is made from the Arnica Montana plant found in the mountainous regions of Europe and southern Russia. Arnica is topical only and should not be ingested as the plant is poisonous.
      • You can find the best Arnica by Boiron here.

Vitamins to avoid before your plastic surgery

  • Vitamin E – since Vitamin E is associated with increased bleeding, it and surgery seldom mix well.
  • Your surgeon will most likely recommend you stop taking any Vitamin E supplements you are currently taking, although the Vitamin E in your multi-vitamin is probably acceptable. Do not confuse this with using Vitamin E topical lotions or gels, as these are used post-operative to help scars heal.
  • Many herbal supplements can have the same effect as Vitamin E in that they can cause bleeding or other complications. Talk to your doctor, but the usual recommendations are to avoid Ginko Biloba, Garlic, Ginseng, Ginger, Gond Quai, Ephedra, Feverfew, St. John’s Wort, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Again, talk to your surgeon or patient representative for a comprehensive list and more detail.

There are two items in the above list that many prospective patients typically like a little more information on, so let’s go into a bit more detail on them (and then give you two excellent links to do a bit more research):

Why should I stop smoking before my Plastic Surgery?

  • The negative effects of smoking on just about every part of your body are well documented. Still, critically, as it pertains to Plastic Surgery, smoking compromises the healing process by inhibiting or restricting blood flow. During plastic surgery, the tissue is cut and moved to improve appearance and/or function. When the tissue is moved, blood vessels are cut by the surgeon intentionally but done so with expertise and experience so that healing can occur. However, in a smoker, that tissue may not get the necessary blood flow to heal appropriately, sometimes resulting in the tissue’s destruction and even leading to necrosis. Summary – blood flow is critical to healing after Plastic Surgery, and smoking hampers that healing. Stop smoking!
  • Also, it’s important that this “stop smoking” typically extends for 2 or more weeks after the surgery as well, so that’s a month of no smoking. It might be a good time to stop smoking altogether.
  • You’re spending a good bit of your time and money on your procedure – it makes sense to do everything you can to ensure success.  Those who stop smoking increase the chance of a full and successful recovery.

Why should I stop drinking before my Plastic Surgery?

  • There are a couple of reasons, one is very obvious, but others are less so.
    • Alcohol thins your blood – we all know this. During surgery and the recovery process, your blood must be as close to normal as possible. The process itself, of course, involves cutting and moving skin, tissue, and sometimes muscle – this all results in bleeding. If your blood is thinner than normal or thinner than expected, the surgeon may have a harder time stopping unexpected bleeding. For this reason alone, most surgeons will refuse to work on a patient who has not followed their instructions in this matter.
    • Alcohol also causes your skin to dry out, which is an obvious problem for plastic surgery and the recovery period. Dry skin is harder for the surgeon to work on, harder to staple, harder to stitch, and more likely to form visible scars. The recovery process is also compromised as the dry skin won’t heal as well.
    • There are many other reasons to stop drinking before and after your Plastic Surgery per your surgeon’s directions – your surgeon will, I’m sure, explain these in detail if you ask.
    • As mentioned in the stop smoking section, plastic surgery is expensive and takes up a good bit of your time, so it makes sense to do everything you can to ensure success.

What if I’m already using Botox?

If you are taking advantage of Botox treatments, you should certainly share this with your surgeon, as they will need to know.  Most likely, your procedure will be scheduled around your Botox treatments, and you’ll be asked to halt them during the pre and post-surgery timeframes for your procedure.

Much of the information for this article was found on the following excellent websites – make sure to visit them!

  • VitaMedica – this site has an excellent explanation of additional supplements to avoid and a pretty cool and useful infographic
  • UCLA Health – as you would expect, the UCLA site is a goldmine of information on just about every aspect of plastic surgery or anything medical related
  • Cosmetic Surgery Center – Virginia Beach – this is a great site for their “cosmetic surgery preparation” page and other resources.
  • David B. Reach MD – this site has a great explanation and list of vitamins and herbal supplements to use or avoid.  Also, a great plastic surgery planner