Planning to Heal Top Surgery Scars with Essential Oils?

Planning to Heal Top Surgery Scars with Essential Oils?

Hello everyone. This is not Sandy speaking! It’s Sebastian the Editor here, and I’m taking over for this article. I want to talk to you about dangerous misinformation that I have found on a topic that is very personal to me: Natural ways to heal from transgender-specific surgeries.
 
First off, let’s set the scene and get a bit personal. I’m the graphic designer/social media manager/Sandy’s assistant/whatever Sandy needs me to be here at Nascent Naturals. I am also a transgender man, and I recently had top surgery. This in Doctor terms is known as a double mastectomy with nipple grafts and masculine contouring. This is a gender affirming surgery where they removed my breast tissue and gave me a more masculine chest structure
 
Before surgery, I was researching natural ways to help my body heal as I am not big on the ‘just use vaseline’ method. During my search, I was very shocked to find this recipe targeted towards transgender men who are looking to minimize surgical scaring. This was on a high regarded website for safe advice on transgender specific surgery and healthcare. I have seen this article often touted as the ultimate guide for scar care and recovery and shared in many LGBT online forums.

Can you say: ‘unsafe dilution’?

There are multiple things wrong with this recipe. The first and most concerning one is the dilution. 66% essential oil to 33% carrier is far past the threshold for a safe dilution intended for any use, let alone for use on delicate scar tissue! This would very likely cause harm and irritate the skin. While the two essential oils listed are beneficial for scar healing, one ounce each is far too much! Not only is it an unsafe dilution, but both these oils are expensive! They are precious oils and you only need a small amount for them to be effective.

Immortelle Flowers

 
Secondly, rosehip seed oil is a thicker oil, and it will not absorb effectively into skin on its own. It needs to be mixed in a thinner, better absorbing carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil.
 
To Improve this recipe, a few things can be done. Firstly use fractionated coconut oil as the main ingredient. It’s stable, it will allow the rosehip seed oil to absorb, and soaks into the skin without feeling greasy. Secondly, use about 5-10% rosehip seed oil. You don’t need any more than that. Finally, only use 1.5% total dilution for both essential oils!
So for example, in a 1 oz scar massage oil you would use ten drops total essential oil, and up to 3ml rosehip seed oil.
 
When planning to use essential oils for any use, especially after surgery, be wary of recipes on the internet. There is heap-loads of misinformation circulating, even on what seems to be trustworthy websites. Double Check any dilutions or ingredients, and consult an aromatherapist, naturopath, and/or your surgical care team. While this article is focusing on top surgery for transgender men, this is generally good guidance for anyone recovering from any surgery who is looking to use aromatherapy in their healing processI’ve included below the safe practice tips that I followed after my surgery, along with some carrier oils and essential oils that are beneficial for scar healing
 
Safe practice suggestions for treating scars that I followed during my recovery:
 

Desert Dry – Not the Ideal Scar Healing Conditions

Don’t jump in too soon! – While early intervention may seem like the best plan, beginning to treat surgery scars too soon may cause more harm than good. Wait at least 3 weeks to allow for the incisions to fully heal, and at first apply carrier oils with a very mild essential oil dilution around the incisions instead of directly on them. You could also use a good quality plant based lotion or cream as a carrier.

Keep the area hydrated – Making sure that scars have plenty of moisture can help with the healing process. Using an ointment will help hold in moisture and prevent scars from drying out and becoming irritated while they heal. I have personally found this to be a good alternative to vaseline. I added 10% calendula oil to my ointment to help soften it and to provide anti-inflammatory qualities.
More is not better – Stay on the safe side for essential oil dilution and stay at or below about 1%. Too strong a dilution could irritate scars, making them itchy and inflamed. 
Consult your surgeon – They likely have a healing protocol established for patients. Consult them and see if they will be accommodating and work with you on adding aromatherapy to your scar healing plan.
Consult a naturopath/aromatherapist – Like your surgeon, they will have medical knowledge of what you can do and when in terms of using essential oils on your scars.
Listen to your body – If something appears to be irritating your scars, consult a naturopath and/or your surgical care team and discontinue use.
Be patient, be reasonable – Rome wasn’t built in a day, recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Give your body time to heal and be consistent on your scar care routine. It takes months and years for scars to heal to their full extent, not days and weeks.
 
Useful carrier oils:
 
Avocado Oil:Is considered to have impressive skin healing properties, due to being rich in lecithin and vitamin A, B and D. Use 5-10% in creams, massage oil or ointment.
Calendula Oil: Calendula oil is an anti-inflammatory, and can aid in scar healing. It can used at a 5-10% dilution in ointments or 5-25% in massage oils. It was also help soften ointments so that they will warm and blend onto the skin more easily.

Hemp Seed Oil: Hemp seed oil is very nourishing for the skin as it contains nutritional fatty acids, lipids and omegas. Hemps contains more naturally occurring essential fatty acids than most of the other plant-derived oils. You can use 5-10% in lotions, 1-5% in massage oils and 1-10% in ointments.

Hemp Oil

Hemp Seed Oil

Rosehip Seed Oil: Research has been done that finds that rosehip seed oil helps accelerate wound healing. The article linked includes a supporting information page with some very gross but very impressive images showing how rosehip oil aids in the wound healing process. Be sure to follow the recommended dilutions. You only need small amounts, and smaller amounts work better than full strength.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is moisturizing and promotes wound healing. Be sure to use natural, non-synthetic vitamin E that is plant derived. Natural vitamin E is thick and dark brown. Use 1-5% in ointments, 2-3% in massage oils, 1-2% in lotions.
 
Useful essential oils: 
Benzoin: Considered to be cytophylactic, this oil is known to stimulate the growth of new cells. It is also a gentle anti-inflammatory.

Immortelle: Also known as French Immortelle or Italian Everlasting. This essential oil is an anti-inflammatory and is widely renowned for its gentle healing effects on the skin. Dr. Penoel, an essential oil researcher and aromatic medicine practitioner has conducted extensive studies on the healing properties and abilities of the skin According to his research, Immortelle essential oil blended with rosehip seed oil has shown promising results in reducing the effects of scarring. We can thank Dr.Penol for bringing Immortelle to the forefront of aromatherapy, as most of the initial research and studies on this essential oil were done by him.

A professional photo of Dr. Penoel

Dr. Penoel Image Credit

Frankincense: According to the study, Biological activities of frankincense essential oil in human dermal fibroblasts, Frankincense essential oil: “…dramatically lowered the level of collagen III, and therefore, it would likely improve healing by reducing the chance of scar formation or wound persistence. Additionally, the robust, anti-proliferative activity of FREO in skin cells could also contribute to better wound healing,” (Han, Rodriguez, Parker, 2017). 
 
Disclaimer
This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice, grossly over expensive drugs which may or may not help if you can afford them, or treatment of any illness identified by medical overlords. Conversely, weekend warrior essential oil sellers with nary a shred of anatomy, medical, clinical or chemistry training in essential oils should not be providing treatment advice to those with serious illnesses or those recovering from major or minor surgery.
This article is the personal experience and advice of someone who has had surgery, but is not a medical expert and is not attempting to replace or give medical advice.
Essential oils are not meant to be a replacement for traditional medical treatment of diseases and conditions.  When in doubt, please consult a physician, naturopath, aromatherapist, or your surgical team.
Further reading:
Han, X., Rodriguez, D., & Parker, T. L. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801908/Biochim Open4, 31–35. doi: 10.1016
Lei, Z., Cao, Z., Yang, Z., Ao, M., Jin, W., & Yu, L. (2018). Rosehip Oil Promotes Excisional Wound Healing by Accelerating the Phenotypic Transition of MacrophagesPlanta Medica85(07), 563–569. doi: 10.1055/a-0725-8456

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