Post–procedure care is the key to getting results and avoiding complications.

Consider yourself informed: Caring for your skin doesn't stop when you leave the doctor's office. In fact, whether you've undergone laser resurfacing, had injections or engaged in surgery, to ensure best results, meticulous at–home maintenance is important, says Dr. Anthony Lockwood, MD, FRCSC, of Winnipeg.

"Not adhering to a doctor's post–procedure instructions can set patients up for problems with infection and inflammation, and could even compromise the final outcome of the procedure," says Dr. Lockwood. And, adds plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Rice, MD, M. Sc., FRCSC, of Toronto, "When you've spent a lot of time and money on a procedure, the last thing you want to do is jeopardize the outcome by not complying with your post–op instructions."

Post–laser: Doctors advise that patients avoid the sun for two to three weeks, take antibiotics for up to four days, and apply post–procedure–specific creams—such as Alchimie Forever Treatment Recovery Cream ($80, skinboutique.ca ) or Dermalogica Redness Relief with SPF 20 ($60, dermalogica.ca). Keep cold compresses at–the–ready, use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil ($7, at drugstores), and follow with a good moisturizer, like Keri Hydrating Body Lotion ($8, at drugstores), to keep skin supple.

Post–injection: After going under the needle, doctors advise that you avoid physical exertion, stay out of direct or extended sunlight (always wear sunscreen and a wide–brimmed hat when going outdoors), use doctor–approved cleansers and moisturizers, and don't scratch the skin around an injection site, even if it's itchy—doing so could open sutures, potentially causing an infection and/or permanent scarring. You should also keep your head above your heart following an injection to prevent swelling and delayed healing, so be cautious throughout the day, and sleep with two pillows under your back for the first two nights, says Dr. Lockwood.

Post–surgical: Post–op care instructions differ based on the area treated, but general tips include having someone on–hand to help during the first 24 to 48 hours, wearing loose and front– opening clothing, taking anti–swelling medication prescribed by your doctor, and avoiding physical exertion for at least three weeks. Sit upright as much as possible in the days following facial–specific procedures to reduce swelling, sleep with your head elevated, and continuously wear a compression garment like AqueCool Masque ($350, spamedica.com), which reduces swelling and bruising by delivering cool–water therapy to the incision site(s). Following an upper or lower body procedure, try to walk every few hours to keep your blood circulating and prevent clots, use extra pillows at night to cushion sore areas, and use doctor–recommended lotions or balms (see previous page) to reduce bruising, says Dr. Lockwood. Your doctor will also likely recommend compression shape wear, such as Keir Surgical Post–Care garments ($20 – $350, mycarecentre.ca), to reduce fluid build–up, promote skin connectivity, hold dressings in place, and to improve the results of your procedure overall. Take advantage of Keir's fitting specialists, which offer over–the–phone and in–person consultations to ensure you're wearing the right garment for best results, and limiting the time they're not worn—talk to your doctor about specific recommendations—to avoid issues with swelling or infection.