As the seasons change, it is tempting to soak up the sun. However, it is generally smart to limit sun exposure to prevent sun damage, skin cancer, and photo-aging. Before a procedure or surgery, it is especially important to minimize sun exposure and use sun protection to avoid burning, irritating, or inflaming the skin. The recommended length and importance of sun avoidance after a procedure varies. For some in office procedures, such as chemical peels or laser hair removal, sun avoidance is recommended for the first few days/weeks after treatment when your skin may be extra sensitive. It is also best to avoid sun exposure before laser hair removal, as it is most effective on untanned skin. Depending on the specific treatment or peel, the recommended time may differ so be sure to consult your provider for individualized advice. For injectables like Botox or fillers, sun avoidance is generally not required, but may be advised to help limit any swelling. For any surgery that results in scars that may be exposed to sunlight, staying out of the sun is very important for optimal healing.
After surgery, it is essential to avoid sun exposure for at least the first several weeks. Especially in this early phase of healing, sun exposure can lead to swelling and increased scarring. Heat from the sun, or any heat source, can increase swelling. Increased swelling can lead to discomfort and prolong the healing process. Additionally, sun exposure causes skin pigment changes. Classically, this results in a suntan or a sunburn. Fresh scars are extra susceptible to pigment changes, which can lead to darkened, reddened, or more pronounced scars, even after the scars have finished healing. Even after a complete recovery, it is important to limit sun exposure, wear at least SPF 50 and protective clothing, and seek shade in order to minimize sun damage and increase the longevity of your surgical results.