Does a Suntan Affect Healing?

I am noticing on after photos of breast procedure patients that they have new and very pronounced tan lines. My understanding is that sun exposure can have adverse affects on surgery results. As a result I intend on avoiding the sun after my abdominoplasty and breast lift/augmentation. Am I being too cautious? Is it safe to tan after plastic surgery?

Doctor Answers 8

Tanning after tummy tuck

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You're smart to avoid tanning after your surgery and I applaud you for being so cautious. Tanning makes scarring more noticeable.

Sun exposure and scars

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Sun exposure on scars especially early post-op should be avoided. It may lead to hyperpigmentation.  Sun protection or staying out of the sun are important.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Tanning and surgery

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Thanks for the question Nancy -

You are correct - sun exposure can make scars either darker or lighter (hyper or hypo pigmented). Which happens is not completely predictable. As a result avoiding sun exposure on new scars (either with avoiding the sun or a good sunscreen) is an excellent way to minimize the appearance of scars.

I hope this helps.

Tanning post op

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Keep the sun away from scars is your best bet. Scars behave differently in different people and can become too dark permanently (hyperpigmentation or dyschromia) if exposed to the sun. Better to spray tan if you want to hide it. Definitely use a strong SPF (>30) sunscreen on it even though it is hidden by your bathing suit as some sun goes through the fabric.


Does a suntan affect healing?

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Hello! Thank you for your question! After any surgical procedure, you should be careful with incisions as well as avoidance of direct UVA and UVB rays in order to lessen the chance for hyperpigmentation of the skin and scars, which can take several months to resolve, if it ever does. Sunblock is recommended regardless. The ability of the affected area to heal has been slowed and you should try to avoid additional swelling to the area. The area will likely be numb for several weeks to months and will be difficult to feel when sunburn is coming on.

Typical recommendations include wearing a hat and/or sunblock to the affected area for at least 6-12 weeks following the procedure. It takes up to one year for scars to fully mature. You should also avoid trauma to the area for several months to protect the refinements made during the procedure. Also, avoidance of pools/lakes/jacuzzis/etc for 4-6 weeks is usually recommended to allow adequate healing and protection from stagnant water, that could potentially harbor bacteria. Lifting/exercise restrictions are common for at least 7 weeks. Certainly discuss the postoperative instructions with your surgeon, as thoughts differ among surgeons. Hope that this helps! Best wishes!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Tanning after tummy tuck (abdominoplasty)

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You are very astute in your observations and yes, we generally advise avoidance of sun exposure after a tummy tuck or any surgery. However, the vast majority of patients have been so distraught by their abdominal appearance that they had previously avoided the use of bathing suits. The improvement in their abdominal contours and overall self esteem is one of the motivating factors for them proudly showing off their results. In any case, extremes of sun exposure should be avoided particularly in the early postoperative period. Burns and or scar hyperpigmentation may occur and the skin will eventually show signs of photo-aging and loss of elasticity.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Suntan and its healing after a tummy tuck

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Tummy tucks are a very popular and effective way to contour the abdomen. Like all surgery, tummy tucks will leave a scar and if done properly, this car will be in a position that will be least noticed. However, keep in mind that a scar is made of fragile and young skin tissue that is very sensitive to sunlight. For this reason, in our practice, we recommend that patients protect their scar from sunlight for at least 10 to 12 months. We recommend that patients use the two compression garments that we give them for at least 5 to 6 months. During this time, patients began the skin care treatment of their scars with a skin cream and silicone sheets. We ask that patients continue to use a sunblock with an SPF of at least 50 as well as the silicone sheets on the scars for at least 10 to 12 months after their surgery. Using this regimen, our patients are able to benefit from a thin and faint scar that they can appreciate for the rest of their lives.

To learn more about tummy tucks, see photos, and help you decide which one is best for you, please visit us at the link below:

Stay out of the sun after surgery

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Most surgeons prefer their patients stay out of the sun after surgery. Tanning can increase the appearance of your scar and/or any bruises making them more noticeable.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon

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.