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.
A Guide to Plastic Surgery Cost
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, 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.
Liposuction scars are relatively small in size, but still, benefit from proper scar management and staying out of the sun after Liposuction. The risk if you don’t? More noticeable scars.
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 a 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 Patrick Briggs 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.”
Read more about Finding the Best Swimsuit After Breast Implant.
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 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 Skin; 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 1300 264 811 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 sunblock 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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Download our free guides or phone 1300 264 811 today – and ask for a no-obligation consultation.
Does a Suntan Help Hide Scars? Tanning Guidelines After Breast Surgery
TANNING AND SPRAY TANNING RECOMMENDATIONS AND WARNINGS: SUN EXPOSURE AND BREAST SURGERY SCARS
If your breast augmentation or breast lift surgery goes to plan this Spring, you may feel amazing after your initial recovery. You’ll want to hit the beach or pool-side chairs for a bit of warmth and relaxation. But is tanning too soon after surgery a good idea? And is any form of tanning really a good idea, after all? If you are wondering if tanning will help hide your scars – or heal them – read on to find out the real story about why you need to WAIT before you exposure surgery scars to sunlight or spray tanning chemicals.
DOES TANNING HELP HIDE SCARS? DOES SUN EXPOSURE AID YOUR HEALING?
No, UVA and UVB exposure from sun tanning can actually make scars look worse. Sun exposure on fresh surgery scars is NOT recommended and can make them appear more visible as well as impede the healing processes of the dermal layers.
Tanning Guidelines and Time Frames after Breast Augmentation Surgery – FAQs
After recovering from breast augmentation surgery in particular, you may feel your new curves look wonderful and want to share your results with the world by heading to the beach. The summer sun may finally be lancing the blue waters of Australia’s coastlines again and your pool-side recliners are calling to you after the emotional surgical experiences of your last few weeks. You figure you’ve earned some time under the sun’s warm rays, especially as you’re potentially still a bit sore. That noted, your incisions are healing and moving has become easier again. Even the gym beckons. But your Surgeon warns you that you’re not quite ready for a session on the elliptical trainers yet. But the beach? The pool? Or Bali? You can do this, you tell yourself. But should you?
Is tanning too soon after breast augmentation really a good idea? Or is getting sun exposure and tanning harmful to your incision lines and scar formation? Originally Published in Feb 2014 and revised/updated in October 2018.
TANNING AFTER BREAST AUGMENTATION: WHEN IS IT SAFE TO GET SUN EXPOSURE ON YOUR BREAST INCISIONS?
There is a lot of data that suggests excess sun exposure causes all kinds of havoc to the body’s cells. It can prematurely age your skin, lead to hyper-pigmentation problems and mottled-looking skin, pre-dispose you to Melasma and increase your Melanoma risks. That noted, Australia is an outdoorsy, coastal-focused country, with much time in the sun.
If you’re going to tan, just be serious about limiting exposure, following the time frame guidelines and wearing sun protection.
Consider the alternatives too, like using mineral bronzer makeup.
WAIT UNTIL YOUR SCARS ARE FULLY MATURE BEFORE YOU HIT THE BEACH FOR TANNING SESSIONS. OTHERWISE, YOUR INCISION LINES CAN LOOK WORSE.
People mistakenly think that tanning will help disguise their post-breast augmentation surgery scars. But tanning after surgery can actually make them appear more visible – initially and over the longer term.
- Catching a few rays may seem initially harmless (aside from the variety of skin maladies resulting from over exposure, including an aged-looking decolletage), but you WILL want to HOLD OFF on plonking yourself down on a striped towel and smoothing those newly acquired curves with tanning oil.
- Sun exposure on newly healing incision lines – such as your breast augmentation or breast reduction scars – is definitely a NO NO.
Why are sun exposure and spray tanning NOT RECOMMENDED after breast augmentation?
- Sun exposure is damaging to incision line healing because it changes the skin’s responses.
- UVA & UVB rays change the dermal tissues forming around your incision area – but not in a positive way.
Sun-baking too soon after surgery means it’s before your skin is ready to bear the brunt of those brutal UV rays, which will tend to darken or worsen your scars in terms of textural and colour differences.
- Remember, your skin is trying to repair itself after breast implant-incisions are made under the breasts (or in the armpit area for transaxillary procedures).
- Sun exposure changes the process of how your skin responds.
- Tanning and sun exposure too soon after breast augmentation can lead to permanent hyper-pigmentation, potentially larger scars and – ultimately – far more visible scarring than if you let those incision lines heal away from sun exposure.
- Plus, some tanning oils and chemical sun block may contain fragrances, bacteria and other ingredients that you shouldn’t be using on fresh incision lines – ask your Specialist Plastic Surgeon for recommendations.
TEMPTING AS IT MIGHT BE OVER SUMMER, BE SURE YOU KEEP YOUR NEW BREAST AUGMENTATION SURGERY RESULTS AWAY FROM SUN EXPOSURE UNTIL YOUR SCARS HAVE FULLY SETTLED.
It’s best to keep your newly operated-on breast skin OUT of dangerous sun exposure and away from damaging UV rays for at least a year.
RECAP OF WHY SUN EXPOSURE IS NOT A GREAT IDEA AFTER HAVING BREAST AUGMENTATION OR A BREAST REDUCTION:
- Your breasts, your body and your incision lines NEED to heal.
- Excess sweating, chlorine, sauna bacteria, chemicals, oils and damaging sun rays are NOT going to help you heal – they may also delay your recovery process or harm your dermal recovery and scar formation.
- Remember, you’ve just gone a round with a surgery table and your breasts came out the other side, either larger, smaller, higher, perkier or more symmetrical (depending on which surgery you had).
- They’ve been adjusted and you have incision lines and breast tissues that require adequate rest and gentle recovery time – not harsh heat and intensely damaging sun light.
- You and your new breasts are better off getting essential rest in comfort and kind seclusion – AWAY from the sun’s burning UVA/UVB rays – and away from damaging lotions and potions commonly used at the beach, pool or sauna.
So if sun exposure isn’t recommended after Breast Augmentation, what about Spray Tanning?
- Spray tanning has come a long way from the Oompa Loompa orange coat of yesteryear.
- Colours now range from Brazilian Beauty to Barely There Bronze, with so many options available you may not even recognise your natural skin tone.
In fact, most of us walking down the street with a bit of colour to our faces, legs and arms in winter, have likely had a regular spray-tanning appointment at our local beauty therapist, chemist warehouse or spray-tanning salon.
BUT read spray tanning recommendations or guidelines after breast augmentation – and why it’s not necessarily a good idea.
Cream or Liquid Tanning Solutions – are they okay to use on scars after Breast Surgery?
- Step inside your local Chemist Warehouse or Priceline shop and peruse the beauty and skin care aisles.
- While a regular skin routine will certainly improve your resilience and overall health, these days, it can also give a decent tan or tinted coverage.
- Many moisturiser products now include tinted coverage options and/or skin-tanning compounds to gradually darken the pigment of your skin (temporarily).
- These creams can grant you some control of how far you want to go with your seasonal chameleon shtick or tanning products.
- They may not have adequate safety data on some self-tanning creams and lotions; these likely contain some chemicals you might want to explore and research well before deciding whether or not to use them.
BUT NOT ALL OF THESE TANNING SOLUTIONS WILL BE RECOMMENDED FOR YOUR BREAST SURGERY SCARS.
- It’s best to avoid using chemicals and other tanning solutions on the areas that have been sutured after breast augmentation.
- Ask your Dermal Clinician for a recommendation of a natural mineral-based skin-tinting product or a tinted sun screen that is more physical in nature than a chemical block.
- DO ask your SURGEON for suggestions, and DO wait at least 8 and ideally up to 12 weeks or longer before using any potions or lotions – and do NOT use these products on your skin if your dermal area (skin incision lie) is still healing or maturing.
- Read up on the suspected dangers of ingredients and products frequently used in spray tanning or self-tanning.
Bronzer Makeup for your Decolletage for Cleavage Enhancement after Breast Augmentation
- One of today’s makeup essentials, bronzing powder or skin bronzing creams are an entry level alternative for adding some colour and oomph to your face and neck instead of tanning.
- But now that you have upper-body cleavage and uplifted breast curves, you may find you’re wanting to enhance that upper pole fullness cleavage with a bit of bronzing sculpting.
Here are our suggestions, but as always, ask your Surgeon for specifics.
- Remember, always follow your Surgeon’s advice.
- Recognise that results can vary.
- Understand that information or guidelines on our web pages is general in nature – it may also become superseded.
- This information is NOT medical advice and should never be substituted for direct advice from your personal medical and surgical team.
- Further reading and research into these issues is always recommended. You can phone us on (03) 8849 1444 and ask for helpful Guides or resources if you want more surgery recovery information.
BRONZING MAKEUP FOR THE FACE, DECOLLETAGE AND BREAST AREA AFTER BREAST AUGMENTATION
- If the makeup is high quality and kept sterile (we recommend a fresh, high-quality mineral bronzer AND a fresh new sterile brush that you cleanse and sterlise well on a regular basis), then you may dab a bit of bronzer around your cleavage to emphasise your new curves.
- AVOID the breast crease (IMF) and/or armpit area (transaxillary scar).
Treat the surgical areas exactly as your Doctor or Surgeon recommended. It’s also a good idea to check with your medical/surgical team before making assumptions a certain product, medicine or activity is okay AS YOU RECOVER from your breast procedure.
- We know it’s hard to WAIT to get back into the sun or onto the beach AFTER having a breast lift, Augmentation or Reduction.
- Especially when you’re feeling revitalised and confident about your new curves or when summer is approaching.
- But be patient and explore your options.
Soon, the beach will be yours again, but DO wear sun protection.
In the meantime, protect those scars. You may carefully fake it with self-tanning but understand the risks. Avoid incision lines, wait the required time period that your Surgeon recommends, and keep those incision lines clean, dry and protected – as well as OUT OF THE SUN – for at least 12 months or longer – until they mature.
And remember, sun will age you prematurely! So limit your exposure and avoid the most intense sun-exposure hours in Australian summers.