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How To Protect Scars In A Tanning Bed

Are you tired of feeling self-conscious about your scars while tanning? Scars can make it difficult to enjoy the sun without worrying about how they will look afterward.

But fear not, as there are ways to protect your scars while still achieving a beautiful tan.

In this post, we’ll be discussing simple steps you can take to safeguard your skin in the tanning bed.

How To Protect Scars In A Tanning Bed

What Happens To Scars When Using A Tanning Bed?

When you expose your skin to the ultraviolet (UV) rays in a tanning bed, your skin’s melanocytes are stimulated to produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color.

However, scars behave differently under UV exposure compared to normal skin tissue.

  • Sensitivity: Scar tissue is generally more sensitive to UV light than the surrounding skin, making it susceptible to burning and further damage.
  • Pigmentation: Because scars have a different cell structure, they can either become darker than the surrounding skin or not tan at all. This results in a contrasted appearance that can make your scars more noticeable after tanning.
  • Healing Scars: For newer, healing scars, tanning can potentially slow down the healing process and may lead to uneven pigmentation.

Here are specific effects based on the types of scars you may have:

  • Hypertrophic Scars: These may become more pronounced when exposed to UV radiation from tanning beds.
  • Atrophic Scars: Such as acne scars, tanning might make these indented scars more visible due to the surrounding skin darkening.
  • Recent Scars: New scars, or those still in the healing phase, should be kept out of UV light entirely to avoid negative effects on the healing process.

Can Scars Tan?

When considering tanning, it’s essential to understand how your scars will react. Generally, scar tissue differs from normal skin as it is the body’s way of repairing itself.

Due to this difference, scars may tan at a different rate, if at all, when compared to the surrounding skin.

  • Fresh Scars: It’s crucial to know that fresh scars—those still in the healing phase—should not be exposed to tanning. This exposure can lead to delays in healing and potentially worsen their appearance.
  • Mature Scars: For scars that have healed completely, which usually takes about a year, the ability to tan depends on several factors:
    • Skin Type: Lighter skin may see scars tan more quickly, while darker skin might notice less change.
    • Scar Type: Flat and smooth scars are more likely to tan than raised (hypertrophic or keloid) scars.

Sun Protection: Regardless of your scar type or skin color, protect your scars with high SPF sunscreen or cover them completely to prevent further damage.

Applying sunscreen directly on the scar can offer a barrier against harmful UV rays, which is especially important since scar tissue lacks the normal melanocyte cells that help protect skin from sun damage.

Scar tissue does not contain the same melanin levels as your surrounding skin. Without melanin to shield the delicate area, your scars can become more visible—darker or even lighter than surrounding skin—after tanning. 

Can Scars Tan?

How To Protect Scars In A Tanning Bed

When using a tanning bed, protecting your scars is crucial to prevent them from becoming more noticeable.

Scars are sensitive and can darken more than the surrounding skin when exposed to UV rays. Here’s how you can safeguard them:

  • Use Sunscreen: Always apply sunscreen with a high SPF level directly on the scars before getting into a tanning bed. A thick layer is ideal for adding an extra line of defense against UV radiation.
  • Cover with a Patch or Bandage: For physical protection, consider using a patch or bandage to completely shield the scar from UV exposure.
  • Opt for Self-tanner: If you’re looking to blend a scar with your skin tone, use a self-tanner or spray tan as an alternative to tanning beds.

Protection Methods

Method Description
Sunscreen Apply a high SPF sunscreen thoroughly on scars.
Bandage/Patch Cover the scar with a bandage or a patch.
Self-tanner Use self-tanner or spray tan to camouflage the scar.

Remember, scars need extra care, so these methods should be applied every time you plan to use a tanning bed.

If your scar does not completely heal or is relatively new, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist before exposing it to a tanning bed.

What’s The Best Sunscreen For Protecting Scars From UV Rays?

When selecting sunscreen to protect your scars within a tanning bed, you want to ensure that you choose a product offering broad-spectrum protection. 

Broad-spectrum refers to the capability of sunscreen to block both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, potentially causing premature aging and some forms of skin cancer, while UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn.

Recommended Products:

  • EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46: This sunscreen is often recommended for scar protection as it’s formulated for sensitive skin types and includes niacinamide, which can be beneficial for skin healing.
  • EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41: A tinted, physical sunscreen that can aid in disguising scars while providing robust UV protection.

Application Tips:

  • Apply sunscreen liberally over the scar. Be sure to cover the entire scarred area thoroughly.
  • Reapply every two hours, or more often if you’re sweating or rubbing the area with clothing or a towel.
  • Daily use is crucial. Even when not using a tanning bed, scars should always be shielded from UV exposure to prevent darkening and further damage.

While using a tanning bed, the concentrated UV exposure can be particularly harmful to scar tissue.

Scar tissue is more susceptible to damage and may not tan at the same rate as unscarred skin, making protection paramount. 

What's The Best Sunscreen For Protecting Scars From UV Rays?

Can Tanning Make Scars Go Away?

Tanning cannot make scars go away. In fact, exposing scars to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to adverse effects.

When your skin gets tan, it’s because melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, have been activated to produce more melanin. However, scar tissue reacts differently to UV radiation than normal skin does.

Here are some key things to remember about tanning and scars:

  • Melanin Production: Scar tissue has fewer melanocytes. This means it may not tan in the same way as the surrounding skin, leading to a more noticeable appearance rather than a blended one.
  • New Versus Old Scars: Fresh scars are particularly sensitive to UV light and might become darker than the surrounding skin if not properly protected, suggesting a hyperpigmented response.
  • Long-term Exposure: Repeated tanning with unprotected scars might lead to permanent changes in the scar color, which could become harder to reverse.

You should always protect your scars if you choose to use a tanning bed. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF rating to create a barrier against UVA and UVB rays.

Covering the scar with clothing or a UV-protective patch is also advisable. Your aim should be to shield the scar and minimize exposure to prevent contrasting tan lines and pigmentation issues.

Does A Tanning Bed Improve Acne Scars?

Does A Tanning Bed Improve Acne Scars?

Engaging in the use of tanning beds has been a topic of discussion regarding acne scars.

It’s essential to discern the potential impacts on your skin, especially if you’re considering this method to deal with acne-related issues.

Misconception of Drying Out Acne: Some believe that tanning beds help with acne because they can dry out the skin. This drying effect, however, is not an appropriate treatment for acne scars. In fact, the dehydration of skin may lead to more pronounced scarring.

Collagen and Elastin Damage: The ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds can harm crucial skin components, like collagen and elastin fibers. These fibers are vital for skin healing and regeneration. When damaged, the skin’s ability to repair and heal from acne scars is compromised.

  • Skin Preparation: If you decide to use a tanning bed, proper skin preparation is crucial. Protect your scars from the intensity of UV radiation.
  • Sunscreen Application: Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to the scarred areas. This will act as a barrier against UV rays that can exacerbate scarring.

The use of tanning beds is not a recommended method for improving the appearance of acne scars. Instead, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist for suitable acne scar treatments and to discuss the health of your skin in the long term.