The dangers of sun exposure after plastic surgery

The dangers of sun exposure after plastic surgery

06th Jan 2020

The dangers of sun exposure after plastic surgery


Often it happens that after undergoing plastic surgery, the surgeon will give the patient certain recommendations to be followed by the letter. These instructions have the role of helping the patient have a faster and smooth recovery and avoid complications at the same time. One of these instructions is to avoid sun exposure for a minimum of six months, preferably twelve months post-op. To reduce the length and visibility of scars, you should follow these recommendations. 

Many patients wonder why it is so important to avoid sun exposure after plastic surgery. Sun exposure on the operated area too soon after the procedure can lead to the aggravation of the scars, and returning to the natural color of the skin can take much longer. Moreover, there is a higher risk of getting sunburns in the first few weeks post-op. Sunburns can determine the permanent discoloration of the scars. It is important to mention that once the scar has been affected by sunburn, there are little options to remedy the damage on the skin. 

It is recommended to avoid sun exposure for a minimum of three to six months after the surgery. If you live in a climate where it is always hot and sunny or you had your procedure during the summertime, make sure to use sunscreen creams and lotions with minimum 30 SPF. You should apply sunscreen on the incisions even if they are under the clothes. The sun rays can get through clothes, so it is important to protect the scars. Of course, make sure to get the plastic surgeon’s consent before applying sunscreen on the incisions. The surgical wounds need to be fully closed before applying any creams on them. Otherwise, infections can occur. 

Because of this, some patients prefer to schedule their plastic surgery during the less sunny months of the year and don’t have to worry about sunscreen and protection from sun rays. 

When talking about sun exposure after plastic surgery, we also need to mention another aspect. A potential side effect of plastic surgery is swelling. Any exposure to heat sources, including the sun, can cause more swelling. To reduce the swelling and bruising, the patient has to avoid heat factors and even apply ice packs on the operated areas. 

The sun, as well as any other heat source (like heated pillows or blankets) that get in contact with the skin can cause more swelling in the first 24 to 72 hours post-op. During these first days after the surgery, the recommendation is to apply ice packs every hour to reduce the inflammation and speed up the recovery. 

It is safe to resume sun exposure a year after the procedure when the cicatrization process is complete. However, make sure to discuss this with your plastic surgeon. 


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