Scars in the sun: How should you protect yours?

Scar tissue is incredibly sensitive and delicate, more so if it has recently developed, and due to this extra care must be taken when exposing your scars in the sun. How important is it to keep your scars out of the sun, and what measures can be taken to make sure you are protected?

In the year or two following an injury, a scar will go through a ‘maturing’ process. When a scar is fresh and still healing it is considered an ‘immature’ scar, usually pink or red in appearance, and tender and sensitive to the touch. It is during this phase that your scar is at its most vulnerable and much more prone to getting sunburnt. Prolonged sun exposure can also permanently darken a scar, leaving it more visible.

Salisbury NHS Burns Trust describes in more detail how this sun exposure can change the appearance of your scar, “When you suffer a deep burn you lose the outermost layer of skin, which is called the epidermis. Melanin, which gives the skin its brown/black colour or ‘pigmentation’, is found in the epidermis and will also have been lost. Injured areas in some burn survivors may therefore end up lighter in colour when healed…sun exposure increases ‘pigmentation’ in the skin. This is what we usually call ‘tanning’. However, sun exposure may also affect the final colour of a burn injury. Too much exposure may result in the injured area becoming darker than the areas surrounding it.”

Due to the sensitivity of scar tissue, you should use a high factor SPF all year round to stay protected from direct sun exposure, and not just during the warmer summer months.

Here are some of the top tips you can use to protect yourself from those unwanted UV rays:

  • Avoid the use of artificial UV sources (e.g.; sunbeds and nail lamps).
  • Apply an SPF sunscreen frequently and liberally over the scar tissue to ensure you are as protected as possible.
  • Wear at least a factor 30 sunscreen and re-apply it regularly. The majority of sun care brands now provide products with protection with SPF 50+ so you are never short of options.
  • Further to applying sun cream, try to wear clothing that covers the scarred area when in the sun.
  • Try to stay in the shade as much as possible.

If you do experience any sunburn, adequate after sun care is recommended. For extreme cases of sun burn on scar tissue, it is best for patients to make an appointment to visit their GP or a scar specialist.

If you have any questions or you would like to find out more about ways in which you can care and look after your scar in the sun, please visit our talkscars forum and join in the conversation with our growing community.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request.

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkmusic based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkmusic does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.

Information written by the talkmusic team

Last revised: 18 Septemeber 2016

Next review: 18 September 2019