After a burn injury, the healing skin remains highly susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun for at least a year. Some burn scars remain sensitive to the sun long after the injury occurred. According to the University of Iowa Health Care, you must protect burn scars from the sun for at least a year, and potentially longer. Sun protection after a burn injury is critical, as this new skin is much more vulnerable to damage from the sun when compared to uninjured skin.
Not only can the sun damage healing skin, it can also cause unsightly discolorations. A study published in Burns, the Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, found that burn scars may darken or become blotchy after even short sun exposures. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, damage can occur in only 15 minutes during the peak afternoon hours.
It is important to note that it is not only severe burns that make skin more vulnerable to the sun’s rays. Even sunburned skin is more susceptible until it fully heals. To avoid additional damage to burned skin, follow these practical sun protection tips:
Cover your burn scars.
Your doctor may recommend special protective wraps to cover your burn-scarred skin, or you may have pressure dressings to wear. Even if not, it is a good idea to cover these areas when you are in the sun. While most would consider wearing thinner, lighter fabrics like linen, thicker fabrics offer more protection. The best choices include:
- Clothing with added UV protection
- Brighter colors
- Clothing that is loose fitting and dry
- Tightly-woven fabrics
If your face, head, or neck suffered burns, covering these areas can seem difficult. Consider a wide brimmed hat to protect your skin from the sun, or a collared shirt to cover your neck.
Follow your doctor’s advice about sunscreen.
Anytime you are in the sun, it is paramount to apply sunscreen to healthy skin to protect it from the sun’s damaging rays. Wear an SPF of at least 15, and reapply every two hours. Reapply more often if you are swimming or sweating.
When it comes to using sunscreen on burn scars, however, ask your doctor for the best options based on your individual needs. New skin is often thinner and more sensitive, so some burn survivors may need to avoid putting sunscreen on healing burns, and just cover them instead.
Avoid the strongest UV rays.
When possible, it is best to avoid midday sun exposure until the skin on any affected area has fully healed and matured. This means avoiding outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wearing protective clothing, or staying in the shade when the sun is at its strongest.
UV rays are stronger during the summer months, but it is possible to get a sunburn or other negative effects of exposure during the winter. Overcast skies are also often misleading. While damage usually does not occur as quickly, it is still possible to receive harmful levels of sun exposure when it is cloudy outside.
Keep in mind the effects of your surroundings.
Your surroundings can play a huge role in the damaging effects of the sun. Sun damage occurs faster on highly reflective surfaces, such as snow, water, sand, and metal than it does on grass or asphalt. For this reason, it is important to take even greater precautions to reduce your sun exposure when kayaking, enjoying the beach, or even snowboarding.
Help After a Burn Injury
As you well know, dealing with a burn injury is difficult, but you do not need to do it alone. The Burn Victims Resource Center helps burn survivors and their caretakers get the information they need to learn more about their injuries, discover potential treatment options, and gain support and encouragement thanks to the stories of other burn survivors.
If you have questions about your legal rights, call us now at 844-549-8774 to talk to one of our lawyer referral specialists who can connect you with a lawyer who can answer your questions.