Tanning after Cosmetic Surgery: Why you shouldn’t get SUN on your Scars
If you’re exploring Cosmetic Plastic Surgery and Liposuction, you’ll no doubt find yourself asking about scars. Many factors influence what type of scars you’ll end up with after surgery, and how they look over time. In this BLOG, we discuss sun exposure and tanning after cosmetic surgery.
Read more to find out what you need to know in relation to sun exposure on your incision lines while your scars are healing – and whether or not tanning is a good idea after cosmetic surgery.
First, what type of scars will you have after Cosmetic Surgery?
Scars after having Cosmetic Surgery will vary in length, width, shape, colour, location and visibility. It depends on which procedure you have. Remember, every patient is different, and results can vary. In general, however:
- Arm Reduction Surgery scars and Tummy Tuck scars are usually long, but fade nicely for many patients
- Primary breast surgery scars (in the breast crease or armpit area) are usually not that long and usually disguised in natural skin folds.
- Nose surgery scars are strategically placed to be less visible on most patients.
- Facelift scars will depend on the type of facelift you have, but these are usually hidden in the hairline or placed around the ear when possible (they will sometimes show).
- Eyelid lift scars are typically hidden in the eyelid crease (for Upper Blepharoplasty); for most patients, these Blepharoplasty scars usually not noticeable when your eyes are open or if you’re wearing makeup.
- Liposuction uses small incisions to allow the cannula to enter the fatty areas of the body needing suctioning, and these are usually quite minimal in nature.
- Breast Reduction scars are typically more intensive and visible than other procedures; but if your Plastic Surgeon is great at managing your scars and you follow instructions (including NOT tanning), you may end up with nicely faded scars that are not that prominent. The “lollipop method” or Le Jour Breast Reduction technique will usually result in fewer scars for most patients than the “anchor” breast reduction technique.
Where we place the “scar” (incision line) during surgery.
For breast surgery, it will depend on if you have your breast implant placement through the inframammary fold (IMF) or through the armpit area (known as a transaxillary approach). Either way, you don’t want your scars exposed to sunlight until they fully heal and settle – typically you’ll need to wait at least a full 6 months – but often 12 months is best before the skin is healed properly. Too much sun, too soon? You could end with a much more visible scar than you would have otherwise.
For breast reduction or breast lift scars, these are typically a lot longer and more noticeable than breast implant scars. But if you care for them properly using our scar minimisation strategies, surgery AFTERCARE tips and scar treatments, you can usually minimise them nicely.
For most body surgeries, such as Tummy Tuck surgery or Belt Lipectomy, Thigh Lift Surgery or Arm Lift/Brachioplasty surgery to reduce upper arm flab, the scars are typically long and need proper management to help keep them minimised.
As leading Female Plastic Surgeon, Dr Rebecca Wyten frequently advises her patients:
“…the scar that remains after plastic surgery is related to the type of incision line that is needed [to aim for optimal results from your procedure].”
Dr Barnett agrees. He states that for body lift surgery after weight loss (excess skin reduction):
“…you need to place the incision lines in the areas that need reduction. For Belt Lipectomy surgery, Brachioplasty (arm reduction) surgery and other body contouring surgeries after significant weight loss, we aim for strategic scar placements whenever we can. We aim to hide the incision line where a swimsuit or undergarment would cover it, when possible. But sometimes the incision line [has to be in an area where it will be visible, in order to get good contouring results].”
Scars tend to need a full 12 months to heal properly and there’s a lot you can do to help them heal better.
Incision scars can take several months to heal properly, and they tend to go through various stages as the skin heals where there has been a break in the protective dermal barrier.
Our top team of Melbourne Surgeons offer patients special scar management strategies, along with Rapid Recovery packages; to help the body heal and minimise the scars for certain procedures.
Getting the skin prepped BEFORE surgery can also help – ask your Surgeon or the Coco Ruby Dermal Clinicians and Aesthetic Medicine teams how to get your skin in tip top shape BEFORE you have surgery, to help with healing.
Scar treatments AFTER Surgery may include:
- Collagen Induction Therapy (CIT) using DermaPen
- Fraxel Laser treatments
- Recommendations for silicone strips
- Special ointments to help the skin heal
Smoking RUINS your Healing Capacity and Makes Your Scars Worse.
If, however, you smoke, are not getting good nutrition and/or experience wound complications, your incision line scar may end up more visible or wider than it would otherwise.
And if you tan too soon? Sun exposure on a fresh surgery scar can make your scar look worse.
Can you tan after Cosmetic Surgery – or will sun exposure make your scars look worse?
Tanning after surgery can make your scars look worse. That’s because scar tissues don’t create the protective cells that help reduce the damage from the sun’s rays.
Why is that? Scar tissue is not the same as normal skin; it has a different texture and function. The skin involved where the scar area is located (the incision line area) is less resistant to ultraviolet rays. This means that area of the skin is actually MORE prone to sunburn, not less, especially while the surgery scars are still fresh.
And because scars take 12 months to fully heal, you’ll be best off avoiding sun exposure on your incision lines for a full 12 months (or longer) to maximise the fading processes of your incision line scars.
So tanning after surgery and before your scars have fully settled is a NO NO.
Prolonged sun exposure and tanning may also permanently darken a scar, making it worse; especially in people with melanin-rich, darker skin complexions.
But depending on your skin type and responses to incisions and skin wounds, your scar may end up either darker OR lighter than the surrounding skin. However, you won’t know the full outcome of your scar for approximately 12 months after surgery. And even older scars can be treated by the scar treatment team at Coco Ruby; but the fresher the scar, the more chances of getting a good result from special scar treatments.
- Surgery Scars – and other types of scars – need to be protected from prolonged, direct sun exposure at all times of the year (not only during summer).
- Use physical, top-rated sunblock over any exposed scar PLUS wear high UVP clothing.
- The higher the SPF rating of the sunblock, the better – and wearing at least a 50 UPV sun-protectant clothing may help. But DON’T let the fact you’re wearing protection convince you staying in the sun for a longer time is “okay” – it’s not.
- Sweating washes off most types of sunblocks; so use a water-resistant sunblock even if you’re not going swimming.
- Phone (03) 8849 1400 and ask the COCO RUBY Dermal Clinician team about their new award-winning sunblocks for use after cosmetic surgery (or send an enquiry form in).
- Be sure you select a sun block that is non-comedogenic, particularly if you suffer from acne (or see us for effective acne treatments).
- If you have reason to be in the sun and cannot avoid it completely, cover your surgery incision line or scar with sun protective clothing, preferably with a high UPV (50 would be great).
Cosmetic Surgery Scars and Tanning: Should you tan after surgery? No. Avoid the sun for best results.
In summary, when it comes to sun exposure and “sun-based tanning” of scars after cosmetic surgery, wear adequate sun protection and avoid the sun as much as possible.
Tanning is BAD for your surgery scars/incision lines.
Not to mention that tanning prematurely ages your skin, particularly on the face, decolletage, shoulders, arms, legs and hands! It also leads to heightened Melanoma cancer risks and can be deadly over time.
Scars also need a full 12 months (sometimes longer) to heal properly (meaning scars will change colour over time but tend to fade nicely for a majority of cosmetic surgery patients, depending on your skin type and healing capacities and how well you follow your Surgeon’s instructions).
- NO SUN on your scars for at least 12 months will get you the best results and minimise preventable discolouration risks.
- We know that you’ll be wanting to get tanned, especially if you have a new breast augmentation or breast lift you’re wanting to flaunt at the beach this summer.
- But if you can WAIT until the incision line skin is fully healed and settled (12 months), you’ll likely be happier with your scars than you will be if you expose your scars to sunlight as they’re healing.
So purchase the right gear, stay under a UPV tent and away from sunlit windows, and wear high SPF sun block PLUS top-rated UV protective clothing (50 UPV) whenever you DO find you’re going to have your scars exposed to sunlight. And happy Summer!
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