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Shield Scars From the Sun

Sun damage lasts longer on skin that's healing

SATURDAY, July 31, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- While it's always important to protect your skin from the sun's rays, it's especially important to cover up scars.

That's because sun damage to healing skin can last much longer than that weekend suntan.

A number of factors go into how visible a scar will be once the skin's healing process ends. Factors such as genetics and the nature of the wound cannot be controlled, but another factor -- care of the scar -- can, and one of the most important ways to care for a scar is to protect it from the sun.

Scars are particularly sensitive to sunlight and can sunburn faster than healthy skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Once a scar becomes sunburned, it can remain discolored or darkened and may not fade back to match the color of your healthy skin.

For that reason, if you've got a fresh scar, doctors advise avoiding exposing the wound to the sun altogether. Try wearing protective clothing such as shirts with long sleeves, long pants or large-brimmed hats.

If clothing doesn't cover the scar, make sure to use a sunscreen. Sun blocks that use zinc and titanium are recommended, but any sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater should be acceptable if applied frequently.

In addition to avoiding the sun, you can also take a proactive role in helping your scar heal by rubbing or massaging the wound for about five to 10 minutes twice daily. And if the wound required stitches, avoid rigorous activity such as contact sports or rough activities for about two weeks.

More information

The National Institutes of Health offers more useful information on caring for scar tissue and healing.

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology
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