Will My Child Have Scars After Cleft Lip Surgery?

Will My Child Have Scars After Cleft Lip Surgery?

Sometimes cleft lip surgery can leave scars on your child’s nose and mouth. Even though scars after cleft lip surgery are common, every cleft scar is a little different.

Deciding when—and if—your child should have surgery to reduce the appearance of these scars will depend on how much your child’s cleft scars affect them. Children can be quick to point out differences among their peers. Surgeons often try to improve how a scar looks before a child starts school so a child can avoid teasing. 

Improving how your child’s lip looks early in childhood can be an important step in ensuring your child has the confidence they deserve. 

What Kind of Surgery Will My Child Need?


Depending on the scar, your child may need a minor surgery or a larger surgery. As a parent, it might surprise you to learn that designing a surgical plan to correct your child's scar can be more challenging than the actual surgery itself.

Your surgeon can discuss your child's needs and coordinate any additional procedures they may need to help avoid surgical burnout. Even though having multiple surgeries at the same time can be hard for your child, coordinating these procedures in a thoughtful way can help limit how often your child has to recover from anesthesia and surgery.

Almost no two cleft lip scar revisions (or surgeries) are the same. Your surgeon will develop the best plan for your child's care. 

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Experts at Treating Scars

Pediatric facial plastic & ENT surgeons help children who have scars for many reasons. Some causes of scarring include:

  • scarring from a previous cleft lip repair,
  • dog bites,
  • car crashes,
  • falls,
  • other trauma,
  • or previous surgery.

Pediatric ENT surgeons have in-depth understanding of how to improve the appearance of your child’s lip and inside of their nose.

What To Expect

  • How quickly your child recovers from scar surgery will depend on how large and deep your child's scars are. Sometimes surgeons only need to move a small amount of tissue around. For more difficult scars, surgeons may need to move and reorient your child's muscle underneath the scar.
  • Even larger scar surgeries are usually not as challenging to recover from as some of the other surgeries your child has already had. Your child will have soreness only on their lip. Your child's lip may swell. 
  • After surgery, your child may have dissolvable sutures (stitches) along their lip and on the inside of their lip. If your child scars easily, your surgeon may decide to use stitches that do not dissolve. Surgeons usually remove these stitches seven to 10 days after surgery.
  • Almost all children go home the same day after a scar surgery unless the scar surgery is combined with another surgery.
  • Your surgeon will have you put ointment on the incision (where our child's cut is located) two or three times a day to help it heal. This will help skin underneath a crusting scab heal. After about five days, most children should use vaseline or aquaphor for any spot that has crusty skin. After the crusty skin is gone, your child should use strong sunscreen for a whole year after surgery.
  • Your child will receive pain medication. The hospital staff will adjust how much pain medication your child receives so they aren't in too much pain.

Our nursing staff cares for many children who have lip scar surgeries. They will give you suggestions on how to help your child heal quickly.

Common Questions

Is there anything my child and I can do to prevent scarring after surgery?

Most children heal well and do not develop thick or red scars. If your child has a history of developing thick scars, your surgeon will monitor them closely after surgery. 

If your child is having a hard time, they may need an injection of medication into the scar to help it heal. This is usually a steroid. Older children can receive this injection in the clinic. Younger children may need to receive their injection in the operating room under anesthesia.

To help prevent scaring, your surgeon will ask you to rub ointment on your child's scar. Once there is no more crusting or scab, your surgeon will work with you to help you prevent two types of common scar problems.

Common Scar Problems

Scars can change into a different color than the skin around them.

To prevent this problem, your child should use sunscreen (SPF 45 or higher) every time they go outside. 

Sunrays are even out on cloudy days. Make sure your child wears sunscreen every day for one year after their surgery. If your child is playing around water or snow, use a hat to block the rays from reflecting off the ground. 

On these days your child may get twice the sunray exposure. This is because sunrays are reflected off water and snow. 

Scars can become thicker and feel different than the skin next to them.

You can help prevent scars from becoming thick by gently massaging the scar about two to three weeks after your child's surgery.

You can also use products that reduce scars like Scar Fade. Lotion or vitamin E works well if these special products are too expensive. Your surgeon will show you how hard you should massage your child’s scar at your follow up visit.