How does the sun affect healing scars?

Bandages covering up healing knee injury.
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery The best way to protect a healing scar from the sun is to keep it covered. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
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Scars are like opinions: Everyone has one. Whether it's under your chin or on your knee, your scar probably serves as a reminder of some ill-fated choice, unfortunate accident or surgery from your past. Many of us wish we could get rid of these unsightly marks, and today, new healing techniques can reduce the appearance of scars considerably -- unless you get too much sun during the healing process.

Scars are a natural part of the skin's healing process, and they require extra care because scar tissue is very sensitive. This sensitivity makes it very easy for scars to get sunburned, which can cause them to turn brown and become more noticeable [source: Baumann]. This is why scrapes you got at the beach will often turn brown and remain on your skin. Sun exposure not only discolors scars, but it can also cause the tissue to thicken. Both of these effects make a scar more conspicuous and more difficult to treat in the future [source: Baumann].


The best thing you can do to protect a scar from the sun is to keep it covered with clothing or a bandage. You may have to keep it covered for weeks because scars can take a while to heal. If you have a facial scar that's difficult to cover, liberally apply sunscreen -- with a sun protection factor of at least 15 -- to the area before going outside [source: Mayo Clinic]. Check out the links on the next page for more information on protecting scars from the sun.

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Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Baumann, Leslie, M.D. Personal Interview. August 20, 2009.
  • Mayo Clinic. "Cosmetic Surgery." (accessed 9/1/2009)