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Navigating Mohs Surgery Recovery: What to Expect and How to Manage

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A surgeon performed Mohs surgery in the patient's hand

Mohs surgery is a specialized procedure that can help remove skin cancer with minimal scarring. It's an effective way to treat many forms of skin cancer. It also requires careful recovery and follow-up care to ensure the best possible outcome.

What is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs surgery is a type of skin cancer removal procedure that involves removing thin layers of cancerous tissue until only healthy tissue remains. 

The procedure is performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon and can be used to treat basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and other types of skin cancer.

The Mohs procedure begins with removing visible tumors on the skin's surface. Then, thin layers are removed one at a time and examined under a microscope for any remaining cancer cells. This process continues until all traces of cancer have been eliminated from the area being treated.

One benefit of Mohs surgery is that it allows for preserving healthy tissue while still treating difficult-to-reach areas.

This type of surgery has also been shown to have higher cure rates than other treatments, such as radiation therapy or traditional excisional surgery in some cases.

Mohs Surgery Recovery Timeline

It typically takes 1-2 hours to complete one layer during Mohs surgery, and patients may need more than one layer removed depending on how deep the cancer cells have spread into the skin tissue.

After all the layers have been removed, the treated area will take anywhere from 2-4 weeks for the treated area to fully heal. During this time, it’s essential to keep your wound clean and covered with a bandage or dressing as directed by your doctor to prevent infection or other complications.

Immediate Post-Surgery Effects

Once your surgery is complete, you will go to a recovery area where a nurse or doctor will check your vital signs and ensure you are doing okay.

You may experience minor pain during this stage, but it should pass quickly. Your surgeon will also take some time to discuss how your surgical excision went and your next steps.

Short-Term Recovery Process

The next few days after your surgery will involve a lot of rest. It’s important to give yourself plenty of time to heal and avoid strenuous activities, so your body can recuperate properly.

You may need to put a bandage over the affected area to prevent infection. If so, make sure you change it regularly and keep the wound clean and dry at all times.

Your doctor may also prescribe medications such as antibiotics to help reduce inflammation and minimize the risk of infection. You may experience redness and swelling around the affected area—this is normal but should subside over time with proper care.

Make sure you go to the appointments with your doctor and do any follow-up care instructions they give.

Long-Term Recovery Process

For most people who undergo Mohs surgery, long-term recovery isn’t too extensive—you should be able to return to regular activity within two weeks after the procedure.

Depending on how extensive the treatment was, additional follow-up care may be required from a specialist (such as a reconstructive plastic surgeon). 

Even once fully healed, scarring may remain on or around the affected area. This can be minimized through proper wound care practices during recovery, such as using topical creams or silicone gel sheets.

Make sure that you protect yourself from sun exposure afterward (or at least wear sunscreen) to decrease the chances of further damage developing in the future because of UV radiation exposure.

Are There Any Restrictions After Going Through Mohs Surgery?

Depending on the tumor's size and location, some restrictions may be in place during your healing process.

Activity Restrictions

Your doctor will likely recommend avoiding strenuous activities such as running or lifting heavy objects until you fully heal from the procedure. 

You should also avoid swimming or soaking in water until your wound has completely closed up and any stitches have been removed.

Sun Exposure

Sun exposure can cause further damage to skin that has already been affected by cancerous cells, so it’s important to protect yourself from UV rays following Mohs surgery. 

Wear protective clothing outdoors, such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats, and apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every two hours while outside.

Makeup and Skin Care Products

It is best to avoid using makeup or other skincare products directly over the area where you had Mohs surgery for at least one week after the procedure. This includes lotions, creams, ointments, oils, perfumes, etc., which could irritate newly exposed tissue and slow down healing time.

Are There Any Complications?

While complications from Mohs surgery are rare, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take proper precautions for a successful recovery.


Infections at the incision site are rare but can occur if bacteria enter through an open wound or surgical site. To reduce your risk of infection, keep the area clean and dry and follow any instructions given by your doctor for proper care.

If you experience signs of infection such as redness, swelling, warmth in the area, or drainage from the wound, contact your doctor immediately so they can provide treatment if necessary.


Bleeding at the site of incision is also possible following Mohs surgery, but should be minimal and stop on its own without medical intervention. 

If bleeding persists or increases in intensity, seek medical attention immediately, as this could indicate a more serious issue that must be addressed promptly.


Scarring is another potential complication associated with Mohs surgery. It can vary depending on how deep into the skin tissue was removed during treatment and where on your body it was performed (i.e., face vs. back). Your doctor will discuss any scarring risks before performing Mohs surgery, so you know what to expect afterward.

Scars fade over time with proper care. This includes keeping the spots moisturized using silicone gel sheets or creams containing vitamin E oil.


Pain associated with Mohs surgery typically subsides within a few days after recovery. However, pain medication may be prescribed to manage discomfort during this period until symptoms improve naturally. Applying cold compresses to affected areas helps reduce swelling while providing temporary relief from pain when needed throughout the recovery process.

How Can I Manage Pain or Scarring?

Pain management after Mohs surgery is an important part of the recovery process. Depending on the size and location of your wound, you may experience pain or discomfort during healing.

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce inflammation and swelling. You can also apply cold compresses to the area for 15 minutes several times daily to reduce pain and swelling.

Scarring is another potential side effect of Mohs surgery that should be managed properly. The best way to do this is by keeping the wound clean and covered with a bandage until healed completely. Your doctor may also suggest using silicone gel sheets or topical treatments for scar prevention and reduction.

When Will I See Results?

Most patients will see results after undergoing Mohs surgery within a few weeks. Complete healing can take several months, and any scarring may not fade completely.

Patients should expect swelling, redness, and discomfort in the area around their surgical site as they recover from Mohs surgery. Swelling usually peaks after 48 hours but should subside over time with proper wound care.

How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer in The Future?

It’s important to take proactive steps to protect your skin from the sun and other sources of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, as UV rays are the primary cause of skin cancer.

  • Wear Sunscreen. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily, even on cloudy days. Reapply every two hours if you’re going to be outside for extended periods.
  • Cover Up. Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses outdoors. This will help shield your skin from harmful UV rays.
  • Avoid Tanning Beds. Tanning beds use artificial UV light, which can increase your risk of developing skin cancer over time. Avoid them altogether if possible.
  • Perform Regular Self-Exams. Check your body regularly for any changes in moles or freckles that may indicate early signs of melanoma or other skin cancers. If you notice anything unusual, make an appointment with a dermatologist immediately so they can provide treatment if necessary.

FAQs about Mohs Surgery Recovery

How long does it take to heal from Mohs surgery?

The Mohs surgery recovery process can take up to 2 weeks. During this time, keep your wound clean and dry, apply ointment, and protect the area from sun exposure. 

Stitches may need to be removed after 7-10 days. Most people experience minimal scarring following Mohs surgery.

How long do you wear a bandage after Mohs surgery?

After Mohs surgery, you may need to wear a bandage for at least 24 hours. After that, you may remove the bandage and clean the area with mild soap and water or as directed by your doctor.

You may need to wear a light dressing or ointment over the wound until it has healed completely. Depending on how quickly your skin heals, you may need to continue wearing a bandage for up to 1 week after surgery.

How long should I take off work after Mohs surgery?

The time you take off work after Mohs surgery depends on the complexity and size of the area being treated. It’s a good idea to take 2-3 days off for a minor procedure, 3-4 days for a medium-sized procedure, and 5-7 days for a large procedure.

Your doctor will provide instructions about when you can return to your normal activities. It is important to follow these instructions to ensure proper healing and avoid complications.


a dermatologist

Recovery from Mohs surgery may take some time, but it's important to follow your doctor's instructions for post-op care to ensure that you heal properly and quickly.

At Dermatology & Skin Health, we understand that Mohs Surgery can be intimidating. We are dedicated to helping our patients recover with specialized care and compassion. 

Our team of experienced medical professionals is here to provide personalized advice on how best to manage your healing journey following surgery so you can return to feeling confident in your skin!

Contact us today for more information about our services and resources for Mohs Surgery.

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