How soon can I tan after surgery?

How soon after surgery can I go tanning?

Most of the recommendations I found online and literature were from plastic surgeons.  Their discussions are considering different type incisions (face lift, abdominoplasty) which have different exposure and lengths, so their recommendations are more aggressive.

The go-to answer is one year, being that scars mature up to that time period.  Scars are healing and remodeling up to one year after surgery, so after that, scar and surrounding skin should react equally to the sun/UV radiation.  Incisional scar is more sensitive to light, and will scar darker. Also consider that incisions are less sensitive, so one may receive more exposure before feeling damage effect, so increased chance to burn.  Therefore, if getting any sun/UV radiation exposure SPF protection is recommended.

SPF stands for sun protection factor, and it indicates how long it will take UV rays to redden your skin when using sunscreen, compared to how long your skin would redden without product. For instance, SPF 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without protection. Another way to describe this is SPF 15 screens 93% of UV rays, SPF 30 screens 97%, and SPF 50 screens 98%.  Current recommendations for incision protection is an SPF of at least 35.

Now this does not mean no sun exposure.  Sunlight is the most natural way to get Vitamin D, which is an important topic in bariatric surgery regarding vitamin deficiency and calcium absorption, which we will discuss in another article.

Then there is the discussion of tanning bed use. There is a plethora of information online regarding UV radiation, exposure risk and skin cancer.  There are many professionals pro tanning bed use, and even more are critics.  This is personal preference, as long as you realize all the data and opinions.  Overexposure in the sun or a tanning bed can be harmful.

Burning of the skin/sunburn correlates with increased skin cancer ie those that are fair skinned, office workers (less outdoor exposure), and/or those that purposefully burn when exposed (no protection, long exposure) are at increased risk.

This article was to answer “How soon after surgery can I go tanning?”  Bottom line is to make responsible choices, follow common sense and moderation, with proper protection.  The safe recommendation, post surgery, is one year, understanding everyone scars and tans differently, and less than one year may result in a darker incision.

An old surgeon once taught me that surgery, medicine, and for that fact, life, is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears (sadly, I met a 20 year old of recent who did not know the story). You don’t want the chair that’s too soft or too hard, you want it just right. You don’t want your porridge too hot or too cold, you want it just right.  You don’t want too much sun, or too little, you want the right amount.

About Deb Hart

Deb Hart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For the last 28 years, she has been helping bariatric surgery patients reach their health and weight goals. She teaches people how to set up a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight. Deb set up her own lifestyle to include lots of long walks with her furry family members, workout classes at her local wellness center, meal prepping, and finding new ways to enjoy foods without added sugar.
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