Post-surgical scarring and sun exposure
If you are considering any kind of cosmetic surgery procedure, you might be asking yourself about tanning the post-surgical scars. A lot of factors come into play when it comes to the visibility of scars. The right surgeon will try to conceal the scars within the contours of your body. However, they can still make you feel self-conscious. Some of us enjoy that tan, bronzy glow. While it looks great, it is not ideal for your post-surgical scarring. In this article, we will discuss how sun exposure will impact your scars and the steps to minimise them.
Development of Scars After Surgery
Scars are a natural and expected part of your skin’s regeneration process. Most of the injuries result in scarring which can last for quite a long time, if not for a lifetime. In order to understand the mechanism, you need to understand multiple phases of scar healing:
1. Inflammatory Phase
This is the phase when the dermis of your skin is damaged. The dermis is the deep and thick layer of the skin. When this happens, your brain will signal the blood vessels in wounds to contract and stimulate blood clot formation. Once the bleeding stops, the blood vessels become wider and allow the white blood cells to fight against infections in order to repair the tissue damage. As a result of all this, the area surrounding your wounds will become warm, swollen, painful, and red. In a couple of days, you will end up with a crusty, and dry scab which protects your incisions.
2. Proliferation Phase
The proliferation phase comes after the inflammatory phase. During this phase, the granulating tissue will migrate to the site to fill in the wounds. At this point, your new blood vessels will also start to form in the new tissues which provides all the essential nutrients and oxygen to the skin cells. It also eliminates waste products from the healing tissues. By the end of this stage, your wound will close up and the edges of the wounds will be pulled together which will result in a smaller wound size.
3. Maturation Phase
This phase comes several weeks after the surgery and lasts the longest. During this phase, your wounds start to mature. Your body starts to thin out the blood vessels which aren’t needed and replace them with newer collagen. The wound continues to contract and the damaged tissue becomes sealed with the collagen scar tissue. The skin might become rough, elevated, and not very pleasing to look at.
Most scar removal treatments are done when all these three phases are over.
Scars Will Take 12 Months to Heal Properly
The first thing you need to understand is that scar healing takes some time. Scars go through multiple stages and allow your skin to heal properly. Dr Hunt can assist you with scar management strategies after the recovery.
It is important to start with proper skin prep prior to getting the surgery to ensure your skin is in impeccable shape prior to the surgery. You can opt for multiple scar treatments post the surgery. Some of the most popular options include Collagen Induction Therapy (CIT) using DermaPen, Fraxel Laser treatment, silicone strips, special ointments and more.
Some of the factors that can influence your scars negatively include smoking, inadequate nutrition, and tanning.
Sun Exposure and Post-operative Scars
There is no doubt about the fact that tanning will make your scars look worse. This is due to the fact that scar tissues aren’t able to create protective cells that help minimise the damage from harmful UV rays. Scar tissues aren’t the same as your usual skin. They have a very different texture and function. Hence, the skin involved is less resistant to the damage of UV rays. It essentially means that your skin is more prone to getting sunburnt while the scars are fresh.
It will take the scars almost one year to fully heal. During this time, it is important to avoid sun exposure. Any form of tanning before and after the surgery is a big no. Sun exposure will result in permanent darkening of scars.
Luckily all sorts of scars can be treated with the right treatments, but it will take some time. Nothing works like magic, and you shouldn’t expect any treatment to eliminate your scars overnight.
Protect Your Skin from the Sun
- Get your hands on a high-quality physical sunscreen and use it over your scars while stepping out in the sun
- Choose a sunscreen with a higher SPF rating. Make sure to use at least SPF 50 and above. You can also top it off with protective garments
- Select a sunscreen that is sweat resistant especially if you live in a hotter climate. Sweating tends to wash off most of the lotions and creams. So, select one that is resistant to sweat and water
- Choose a non-comedogenic sunblock especially if you have acne-prone skin
- Wear protective clothing. Sometimes a sunscreen isn’t enough. Invest in sleeves, a hat, and whatever else you need to cover your incisions
- You can also choose different kinds of sunscreens. For instance, a lotion is really effective to be used on the body. A cream works better for face, and a spray on sunscreen works well when you need to reapply the sunscreen throughout the day
Self-Tanning and Spray Tanning Recommendations and Warnings
You might love to get a glowy, bronzy tan especially if you want to show off your new shape after the surgery. As sun exposure is not recommended, a lot of people want to know about fake tanning options. Like direct sunlight, tanning beds are also a big no. What you can do, is opt for a fake tan instead.
These days, you have multiple options when it comes to fake tanning. You can either go for spray tans or do it at your home with your favourite tanning product and a glove. However, it is important to get a confirmation from Dr Hunt first. Most of the fake tans require you to exfoliate your skin beforehand. Make sure your scars are fully healed and exfoliation won’t create any harm. Other than that, fake tans are a great alternative to achieving that bronze glow, minus all the harmful side effects.
One downside of any surgical procedure is post-surgical scarring. Most people are concerned about them for all the right reasons. A lot of people are eager to show off their new look along with a bronzy tan. However, tanning too soon post the cosmetic surgery will worsen the appearance of your scars. It can also take a toll on your healing. It is important to stay out of the sun for 12 months post-surgery. When it comes to fake tanning, you can go for them once the initial 12 weeks have passed.
It is important to get a list of recommended self-tanners to use post the surgery. Not all self-tanners are created equal and some can harm your skin.
FAQs about Cosmetic Surgery and Tanning
Here is a list of frequently asked questions we get regarding tanning post-surgery:
Can I get a tan after surgery?
- The answer is No. You have to avoid the sun for satisfactory results and minimal scarring. Sun exposure is not only bad for your surgery scars/incision lines but it is bad for your skin’s health as well. You will end up with pigmentation, and premature ageing and will have an increased risk of hematoma. Avoiding all sorts of sun exposure for the first 12 months can give you optimal results when it comes to scar healing. So, invest in a high-quality sunblock, wear protective gear, and avoid spending a lot of time in the sunlight.
When is it safe to get sun exposure on your breast incisions after breast implants?
- There has been plenty of research on the fact that exposing your skin to the sun can affect the skin condition. It will not only worsen your scars but lead to hyperpigmentation, premature ageing of the skin, and melanoma risks. It is recommended to stay out of the sun for a minimum of 12 months before exposing your breast surgery scars to the sun. Meanwhile, stick to fake tan and mineral bronzer makeup. After one year, you can go out in the sun but make sure to protect your skin.
How soon can I tan my skin after a surgical procedure?
- You need to wait till your scars have healed fully before hitting the beach for tanning. Otherwise, you will end up with very prominent incision lines that might not completely go away even with scar removal treatments.
Why are sun exposure and spray tanning NOT RECOMMENDED after breast augmentation?
- Sun exposure is extremely damaging to the healing of your skin as it alters your skin’s responses. Both UVA and UVB rays will alter the dermal tissue around the incision site in a negative manner. Baking your skin in the sun will worsen and darken your scars and lead to textural and colour differences. Your skin is trying very hard to repair itself post breast implant surgery. Sun exposure will slow down the healing process and alter your skin’s response. You have to be cautious even with fake tans. Certain fake tanning oils and products contain fragrances and chemicals that can harm your incisions and create skin problems. All in all, it is recommended to avoid sun exposure at all costs after breast augmentation or any kind of surgical procedure.
What about Spray Tanning post a surgical procedure?
- We have come a long way in terms of spray tanning. Unlike before, you get a wide range of colour options. Sometimes the spray tans are so effective that you won’t be able to recognise your natural skin tone. If you are a fan of spray tanning and regularly schedule your tanning sessions with the local beauty therapist, you might be wondering which the right option for you is.
Spray Tanning Guidelines after Breast Surgery
If you choose to get spray tanning here are a few things to keep in mind. You will find plenty of cream and liquid tanning solutions available in the market. You can get your hands on one from the local beauty supply store. Try to use a fragrance-free option as fragrant products can irritate your skin. Most of these creams will give you full control over how tan you want to be. You can opt for a natural tan or a darker shade.
The right way to choose a tanning product for yourself is to select a natural mineral-based skin-tinting product. That way, you will get the tan of your dreams without risking worsening the scars.
With that being said, it is recommended to wait for 12 weeks before using any fake tanning products on the scars. This will give your incisions due time to heal and prevent any sort of skin irritation. It is always better to be safe than sorry. You probably have invested a lot of time and money in your cosmetic surgery and you don’t want to ruin that for the sake of tanning.
Further Reading about Plastic Surgery Procedures
Medical References about Tanning after Plastic Surgery
- After Cosmetic Surgery: Taking Care of Your Skin – WebMD
- Hypertrophic scars: Tips, prevention, and outlook
About Dr Jeremy Hunt – Specialist Plastic Surgeon
Dr Jeremy Hunt is a specialist plastic surgeon performing breast, body, face and nose surgery. He is a member of FRACS & ASPS and has over 20 years of experience providing cosmetic and plastic surgery in Sydney.
Careful, considerate and honest, Dr Jeremy Hunt works with you to find a solution that is optimal for your body and your lifestyle. Every patient is unique and, through his guidance, can achieve good results.
Dr Hunt’s personal, one-on-one service and attention to detail has given thousands of women and men from the Sydney & Wollongong NSW area and across Australia the aesthetic results they desire.
Dr Hunt’s qualifications and education
Dr Jeremy A Hunt MBBS FRACS graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine degree from Sydney University in 1990 and is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and member of ASPS – the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. He completed a Fellowship at the prestigious University of Texas in the United States, where he learnt from some of the world’s very best plastic surgeons.
Next Step – Make an Enquiry or Request a consultation with Dr Hunt
Want more information before scheduling your consultation?
- Find out more about pricing, medical payment plans and paying for your surgery
- Request more information about the procedure – call on 1300 157 200 or contact us
If breast reduction is something you’re considering, Dr Hunt can thoroughly explain all the options to you in a one-on-one consultation.
- Make an Enquiry or Request a consultation with Dr Hunt
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health professional.