Is suntanning harmful to your incision scars after BA? (photos)

I am 2.5 weeks post op, I always go tanning prior to summer. I am very cautious not to burn or go for extended periods of time, I just like to get a base tan before the summer season. My incision sites are healing very well but is this harmful to them? Should I wear a bikini top or cover my incision sites in the tanning bed?

Doctor Answers 11

Is suntanning harmful to your incision scars after BA?

Great Question! Everything you have heard about tanning beds is true. They are awful for scars (& the rest of you), but especially fresh scars that are less than 6-9 months old.  The UV light can permanently tattoo the red to purple hue into the dermis which makes it very difficult to fade properly over time. I would keep the scars covered as much as possible for 9-12 months, the scar needs to be completely mature to avoid this risk.

Idaho Falls Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Is suntanning harmful to your incision scars after BA?

Thank you for your question, You are very early in the healing process. You should keep your scars covered. UV light will darken them. 


Martin Jugenburg, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 457 reviews

Sun exposure and scars

It is important to not get sunlight on scars during the healing phase.   I recommend for at least 6 months.   As scars fade, they progress through a red/purple stage.  UV light can cause the scars to be permanently discolored.  

Best wishes,

Dr. Michelle Spring

Michelle A. Spring, MD, FACS
Missoula Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Tanning and Scars

Most plastic surgeons will tell you to avoid suntanning and tanning beds period!  Sun damage to skin is often irreversible and can predispose you to skin cancers.

That said, if you are going to tan, it is very important to cover your scar and avoid sun exposure until it is fully mature.  Like the rest of you, a scar that is still healing will darken with UVA/UVB exposure.  The problem is that scars don't always fade when the rest of you does - leading to a hyperpigmented (or dark) scar.  These can be very visible and unsightly.  The process of scar maturation can take up to 18 months.

Maybe try a spray tan, which is much less damaging to your scar and to your skin!

Kirsty Boyd, MD, FRCSC
Ottawa Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Tanning isn’t recommended if scarring is a concern.

Generally speaking, it’s not recommended that you expose your scars either to the sun or UV light from tanning beds this soon after your procedure. Sun exposure can affect the pigmentation of your scars, which can result in unwanted discoloration of the skin. Keep in mind that it can take up to 18 months for a scar to fully mature and heal, and it will gradually fade on its own during this period. If you must go tanning, cover your incision sites very well.

Jeremy Pyle, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 109 reviews

Scar Management

Best Scar Management is important to minimize or completely hide from view, the telltale signs of your surgery—namely, scars. Both you and your surgeon want you to have the most minimal scarring possible. There are many possible causes for scars that are enlarged or not healing well. Unsightly scars are most commonly due to genetics, underlying medical conditions, or improper scar/wound care. The last part is very important and patients can make a noticeable difference in their scars’ appearance by following best scar management practices.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 154 reviews

Tanning after breast augmentation?

Thank you for your question. I tell my patients that any surgical scar breast or otherwise, while it is red, is more sun susceptible to turning brown. I would recommend that you cover this new incision while in the tanning bed. Congratulations on your surgery.

Marc J. Salzman, MD, FACS
Louisville Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 54 reviews

Sun tanning and scars

Thanks for sharing your question. I can appreciate your concern.

Sun tanning will favor pigmentation of the scars making them more noticeable. Avoid it for a year if possible.  

Finally, make sure that your doctor is aware of your process. He should be able to guide you best in your care.

Wishing you the best in your journey

Suntanning after BA

Hello, I'd suggest speaking to your surgeon before tanning your chest area.  I advise my patients to avoid sun exposure to their scars for at least several months postoperatively.

William Andrade, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Tanning after surgery

Thank you for your question.  In general, tanning isn't a great idea because of how unhealthy it is for your skin.  Yes, having a tan is nice in the short term but it also leads to higher rates of skin cancer as well as dry, leathery skin down the road.

However, if you have to go tanning, please be sure to cover your incisions.  For the next few months the skin where your incisions are is going to be much more sensitive to the sun/tanning booths.  If they are exposed to the sun, the incisions can get dark very quickly and can stay permanently dark.  I advise my patients to keep their incisions out of the sun for 3 months in order to prevent this.

Good luck,
Dr. Seth

Seth Eberlin, MD
Walnut Creek Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.