How and Why to Reduce Sun Exposure after Plastic Surgery

March 01, 2013

Relaxing in the sun may sound like a good way to pass the time while recovering, but there are many reasons why plastic surgery patients should avoid sun bathing for several weeks after treatment. Excess exposure to both the sun and to excess heat can worsen potential negative side effects. Dr. Marcus Crawford recommends that patients avoid sun and heat exposure after surgery. Here is why.

  • Swelling and Inflammation: One potential side effect of plastic surgery is swelling. Any exposure to heat sources, especially the sun, can cause more swelling and inflammation. In order to reduce swelling and inflammation, avoid all heat sources (including the sun, fireplaces, warm computers, and heating pads). Instead, apply ice or a cold compress to the swelling area. Avoid the sun completely for at least a week after surgery, and for best results, limit your exposure the following week as well.
  • Scarring: The sun’s rays can easily change the pigmentation of the skin, causing a displeasing discoloration, or a darkening of the scars. Try and protect your sensitive scars by avoiding direct exposure to the sun for up to a year after surgery.
  • Burning: The skin around your incisions is particularly sensitive after surgery, so it is important to protect the skin as much as possible. When you avoid the sun, you also avoid burning sensitive skin. Burning sensitive skin will cause scars to darken and potential skin tissue damage.

Avoiding sun and heat exposure really will speed up your recovery process by reducing swelling, limiting scarring and helping you avoid any potential skin burns or tissue damage. While avoiding the sun aids in a quicker and more comfortable recovery, sometimes avoiding the sun is easier said than done. Here are some ways to avoid sun exposure after surgery, even if you are outside.

  • Shield yourself completely: The best way to avoid sun exposure is to either stay in the shade, under an umbrella, or cover up completely. This may work for a few weeks, but will be difficult if you are actually planning on doing any activity in the sun.
  • Cover the incision: If you are not able to shield your whole body from the sun, then make sure to at least completely cover up your incisions. Again, to avoid any potential swelling or scarring, cover those incisions with clothes for up to a year after surgery. Now is the perfect time to invest in some great sun hats, cover-ups, or the perfect sundress.
  • Use sunscreen: Applying sunscreen is another excellent way to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. The sun can sometimes penetrate even the perfect hat, cover-up, or sundress, so adding another layer of protection is always a good idea. Before going out into the sun, apply your regular sunscreen to all of your skin, and a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to the scarring areas.

If you have any other questions or concerns about sun, or heat, exposure after surgery, please feel free to contact Dr. Crawford, or bring up any questions during your consultation.


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