Blog — Notes of a Plastic Surgeon

Welcome to my blog. I am a plastic surgeon in Seattle and have been in private practice since 1991. I've seen more than a few interesting faces and cases through my years spent in the exam room, the operating room and the emergency room. And I have an opinion on just about everything relating to plastic surgery (and a lot of unrelated stuff). If you like my blog, let me know. Thanks for reading! Lisa

Category: sun damage

Tan lines and patient satisfaction

November 7th, 2011 — 10:11pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder blogs about patient satisfaction. 

I can usually tell when a patient really, really likes the result of their breast or body contouring surgery, at least if they have had any sun lately.  I just take a look at their tan lines!  (Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I am totally anti-tan and I am not advocating any activity that causes tan line nor do I advocate non-tan line nude sunbathing!)

Sometimes I’ll have a patient who is super picky about a very minor imperfection but who has tan lines that tell me he/she is comfortable not wearing much at the beach or pool.   Once I had a tummy tuck patient, well into her 50s, that was upset that her string bikini didn’t cover her bikini line scar.  That is what I call a happy problem!

Hey, thanks for reading and stay away from those tanning beds.  More on that in an upcoming blog.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Body Contouring, Breast Contouring, Breast Implants, Breast Lift, Breast Reduction, Mommy Makeover, Plastic Surgery, Skin Care, sun damage, Tummy Tuck

There may be an old fashioned parasol in your future.

July 28th, 2011 — 5:14pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder is smitten with an old fashioned parasol.

I saw a patient recently who was carrying a lovely, old fashioned parasol.  I commented on her very cool accessory and got the whole story.

She had a large bald spot just above her anterior hair line where, several years ago, a melanoma had been excised and her scalp reconstructed with a skin graft.  Her hair was already quite thin and she was uninterested in any sort of hair grafting or scalp rearranging procedure to rid her of her bald spot.  She opted to keep her hair super short and wear a very high quality wig.  (I would have never known had she not told me.)

The down side of the wig is that it is hot and she cannot bear to wear a hat in the summer.  Being a melanoma survivor, she is very, very careful about sun exposure.  Thus the parasol which she uses in addition to a good sunscreen.  She is smart and oh so stylish.

Seattle has a very cool umbrella and parasol store, Bella Umbrella, located in the Ballard neighborhood.  If you live around here, you ought to check it out.  A pretty parasol might be just the summer accessory you are looking for.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Skin Care, sun damage

Seattle Plastic Surgeon Falls Hard for a Tree

July 26th, 2011 — 6:23pm

Seattle Plastic Surgery, Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder blogs about her newest obsession and Seattle’s lousy summer.

Last weekend my daughter and I went to Swanson’s, which is a lovely nursery in north Seattle.  We had a light lunch at the cafe and then went browsing.  (Now that I am most definitely a woman of a certain age, I would rather cruise a nursery than a boutique).

Marie and I saw it as the same instant, just sitting there like a beautiful young orphan, so tiny and out of place with the much taller quotidian deciduous ornamental trees.  And we fell hard for this Japanese Umbrella Pine.  I put it on our cart and found a staff member to ask about it.  He could have said you need to water it with sterile thrice deionized water 4 times a day and apply platypus feces as a side dressing in the spring and fall and I would have still purchased this beauty.  Actually all he said was that it will grow to 20 feet over 20 years and I can’t let it dry out.

And drying out won’t likely be a problem, at least this summer.  While the rest of the nation is sweltering and frying, Seattle is experiencing the coldest and wettest summer in any one’s memory.  But this is good for my sweet, beautiful Japanese Umbrella Pine.  It is native to the rain forests of Japan and I’m sure I can keep it happy in the rain forest of Seattle.

So what does this have to do with plastic surgery?  Okay, how’s this?

  • Just because it’s cloudy, you still need sunscreen!
  • And the real reason I do plastic surgery is to support my gardening habit.

Thanks for reading!  Seattle Plastic Surgeon and Plant Freak, Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Gardening, I Love Seattle!, It's All About Me., Now That's Cool, Plastic Surgery, Skin Care, sun damage

Can’t call it “Sunblock” anymore.

June 15th, 2011 — 9:42pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon discusses sun block and sun screen lingo.

Yesterday the Food and Drug Adminstration issues new rules on the labeling of sun protection products.  These rules have been many years in the making with many stakeholders involved.  This news  is welcome to me and my patients as is any regulation that promotes accurate information and truth in advertising.

Only sun protection products that protect against a broad spectrum of ultra- violet rays can claim protection against skin cancer and skin aging No product can call itself a sunblock.  Strong sunscreen, yes but sunblock, no.  The SPF system will be redone to give patients a more accurate way to measure protection.  No longer will we see promotions of SPF 100 which really does not exist (SPF 100 means you can spend 1500 minutes or 25 hours in the sun without getting much more than a little “color”).    Also, sweatproof and waterproof labels will disappear.

So expect some better information on sun protection products’ packaging and remember:  It only works if you use it.

Here’s wishing you a great and tan free summer.  Thanks for reading.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Aging Issues, Government and Politics, Skin Care, sun damage

Not worried about the sun? You should be!

June 13th, 2011 — 7:15pm

Can you guess which twin spent years with a “healthy” tan?

Seattle Plastic Surgeon discusses sun damage and skin protection – again.  Inags because Icare.

Summer officially starts in two weeks and it’s time for my yearly scold about facial tanning.  As usual, a picture is worth a bajillion words so take a look at these twins.  They have had no surgery or skin treatments and neither one smokes.    They are the same age (duh) and the same weight.

Take a look at the damage that years of sun exposure have caused in the twin on the left.  Not only does she have fine wrinkles and uneven pigmentation, her face is less plump than her younger looking twin.

I am often asked which sunblock is the best for the face.  My answer is the sunblock that you will use every day.  It may take a while to find the one you like the best but shop around.  There’s one out there for you.  I really like one of the non-greasy sunblocks that Neutragena makes.  I have yet to find a sunblock compatible with my very sensitive eyes so I skip that area.  But I do have a great pair of shades that I live in when outside and I have a collection of hats.

Remember, the skin tans as a response to injury.  So take care of your largest and most visible organ and it will take care of you.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Aging Issues, General Health, Skin Care, sun damage

Road Repaving and Skin Resurfacing

May 24th, 2011 — 12:05am

Smoothing out those wrinkles

Seattle Plastic Surgeon discusses facial rejuvenation with skin resurfacing.

Many of the streets in my Seattle neighborhood are being repaved and it’s about time.  I’m happy to trade some slowdowns and detours for the potholes.  Today I drove by a big rig that was tearing up the old surface of the road so the new asphalt could be laid down by the dump truck and then smoothed out by the steamroller.  I then passed from the detour lane onto some brand new smooth roadway and my car just glided over that new surface.  Sweet.

This, of course, reminded me of Plastic Surgery because almost everything reminds this Seattle Plastic Surgeon of  Plastic Surgery.  I don’t have a one track mind, just a very, very elastic one.  Sooooo…..

This morning I was reminded of skin resurfacing.  There are many ways to resurface the skin but they all involve first removing the old and worn out surface.  Dermabrasion sands off the old surface, chemical peels burn off the old surface and lasers vaporize the old surface. 

Removing the old surface allows the middle part of the skin (the dermis) to regenerate.  The miracle of  skin regeneration occurs mostly from the pores.  The cells that line the hair follicles, sweat glands and pores divide and push their way up to the surface and then spread over the surface.  Growth factors which are stimulated by the removal of the old layer stimulate collagen growth and new blood vessels.  Newly healed skin is fresh looking and nice and smooth, like that new pavement.

And no big dump truck of asphalt or a steamroller is needed.  All that is needed is good health and a lot of patience.  Medium and deep resurfacing procedures can be very challenging for patients because the healing period can look very frightening.  But the benefits of resurfacing can be amazing and often cannot be achieved any other way.  Check out my photo gallery for resurfacing examples. 

I’m looking forward to driving home on that brand new asphalt.

Thanks for reading!   Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Aging Issues, Skin Care, sun damage

Please, no bidding war for a facelift at the school auction!

May 16th, 2011 — 11:34pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon won’t donate surgery to her children’s school.

My children’s school had its annual fund raising auction this past weekend. This year was a 60’s theme and we all got to dress up like hippies. It was a blast.

Every year someone inquires about me donating surgery to be auctioned off and I always have to decline. The two national associations I belong to – the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery forbid the donation of surgery to raffles, auctions, wet t-shirt contests, and the like by their members.

When one gives this some thought, it is a very good policy. These events are set up to get participants excited and enthusiastic so they will bid higher or buy more tickets and the winner of the item may never have had an inkling to purchase such a service and in fact may not be a good candidate for a particular service. I would hate to see an unhealthy, overweight, indoor tanning, 2 pack a day smoker in my office expecting a face lift because he or she was the high bidder at the auction. Participation in these events really undermines the usual process of doctor and patient selection. We are allowed to donate non-invasive procedures such as skin care, Botox and filler injections because these have a much broader range of appropriate patients than surgery.

This year I donated our medical skin care system, Obagi Nuderm. It works like a charm for fine lines and uneven pigmentation and is safe for just about everyone. I know the lovely woman who had the high bid this year and I am looking forward to helping her transform her complexion. It’s a win, win, win. She gets great skin, I get a great patient and the school gets a nice chunk of change.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Aging Issues, Facial Rejuvenation, Now That's a Little Weird, Plastic Surgery, Skin Care, sun damage

Seattle weather – great for moss and nice skin

April 19th, 2011 — 4:50pm
Beautiful moss weather we're having

Beautiful moss weather we’re having

Seattle Plastic Surgeon discusses the joys of a soggy climate.

The front page of the Seattle Times today featured a great story on moss. We’ve had one of the wettest and coldest springs in recent memory and the moss is just loving it. I must admit, when I was in college and taking botony, I had a great admiration for moss, especially when I got down to moss level and really looked at it. And under the microscope – wow.

Everyone with a moss garden is estatic about this weather and I also think anyone who cares about their skin should be estatic too. I spend the winter months slathering on skin cream because I get so dried out and the summer months I slather on sun block, but the last two months I’ve headed out the door with just a dollop of sun screen on my face and that’s it. It’s so moist here, my dry skin just soaks up the ambient humidity and with this cloud cover, I can be a little lax about endless my battle with the UV. Let’s here it for Seattle’s moisture festival!

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Aging Issues, I Love Seattle!, Skin Care, sun damage

Now For Something That Really Does Work

December 6th, 2010 — 10:20am

Blog, (20101206124926686) 20101206124933098

Seattle Plastic Surgeon discusses the magic of  Retin A

I’ve spent the past few blogs presenting non-surgical procedures that are not very effective. So how about something that is totally non-invasive and really works like a charm?

Take a look here. This beautiful cheek belongs to a lady who is pushing 65. Look at the quality of that skin. Doesn’t it remind you a a baby’s bottom?

What is her secret? It’s no secret at all. It’s Rentin A. She started using it years ago for mild acne and noticed how smooth and healthy it made her skin, so she just kept it up. She’s been using it for 30 years! Every night.

I don’t know of any surgical procedure or any injectable or any laser that could deliver this type of result.

Thanks for reading,


Non-invasive, Plastic Surgery, Skin Care, sun damage

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