Summary: Your cosmetic surgeon might tell you to stay out of the sun after microneedling or laser skin resurfacing. That’s because the sun has significant potential to cause damage to human skin—and you’ve just invested in looking more youthful. The UV light emitted from the sun can be quite detrimental in many ways.
Staying Out of the Sun and in the Shade
After some plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures, patients are given some pretty simple (sometimes baffling) instructions: stay out of the sun. But why should you stay out of the sun after a plastic or cosmetic surgery procedure? That doesn’t make a whole of sense right on the surface of it. The sun is good for you, isn’t it?
The more you know about the sun—and how it interacts with your skin—the more this simple piece of advice makes a whole lot of sense. Sunlight is good for you in certain ways. It helps your body produce Vitamin D, and it can improve your overall mood. However, the sun is incredibly potent.
And that power needs to be respected. Because it’s not always what the doctor ordered, as it were. After you get certain cosmetic procedures performed, your skin—a natural defense against the sun’s power—is a bit weaker than usual, requiring a little more care during your recovery.
What is Sunlight?
There’s an old song by They Might Be Giants, called “The Sun Song,” that tells of the sun as a “mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace.” The band later revised the song, keeping up with the latest science, but their basic point remains intact. The sun is a hugely powerful nuclear machine, pouring out incredibly amounts of energy.
Much of that energy makes it to earth as light. Light is, well, a form of energy. That’s important in that not all light/energy is visible. Ultraviolet light, in particular, is not visible to the human eye, but it’s incredibly potent. Ultraviolet light has the ability to actually damage your genetic material. These UV rays can start to break down your DNA when you’re exposed to sufficient quantities.
That’s, basically, what a sunburn is. It’s skin damage. Over time, Ultraviolet light can cause several distinct issues:
- Sunburn (as discussed above)
- Permanent damage to the skin
- Extended exposure to sunlight can cause the skin to develop a leather-like texture
- UV rays can cause damage to the eyes over time
- UV light can also cause the development of skin cancer in some cases
Of course, there’s no specific timeline or exposure level that predicts when skin cancer might occur. The best defense against that—and against all sun damage—is pretty standard: high SPF sunscreen.
Procedures That Weaken the Skin
There are several cosmetic procedures that are designed to enhance the way your skin looks. From fractional laser systems to microdermabrasion, these procedures all have one thing in common: they tend to target the very outermost layer of your skin.
- Microdermabrasion: This procedure is designed to promote healing in your skin. By making a large number of very tiny cuts (abrasions—the “cuts” themselves are usually smaller than 1mm), your skin’s healing response is triggered. Your body releases a variety of helpful, healing chemicals, including collagen. But because there’s nothing to really “heal” and no permanent damage has occurred, all of your body’s energies instead go into rejuvenation. This procedure is often paired with something like platelet-rich-plasma injections in order to really take advantage of the healing. As might be obvious, however, most of this activity occurs in the outermost, shallow layer of the skin—so protecting yourself from the sun is quite necessary.
- Laser Procedures: Many cosmetic surgery clinics offer a wide variety of laser procedures for their patients—and these procedures can accomplish a diverse set of goals. Some laser procedures are designed to remove tattoos or get rid of body hair. Other laser procedures are designed to rejuvenate the skin by eliminating the outermost layer of skin cells (where most of the damage is). This exposes the next, mostly undamaged layer. However, that new layer is pretty sensitive at that point. It has fewer lines, wrinkles, and damage, but it’s brand spanking new. This means that it’s particularly susceptible to something like sunburn—or, UV radiation. That’s why most clinics will advise patients to ensure they use a strong SPF sunscreen when they go outside.
I noted above that these procedures “weaken” the skin—and that’s true, but only temporarily. In most cases, the skin heals quite well. And once that healing is complete, the patients will look more youthful. Lines and wrinkles will likely be diminished (or age spots and uneven skin tone, depending on the treatment). In other words, the results of these procedures usually tend to be more youthful looking skin.
But much as the skin of youth is sensitive to the sun, so too is your skin during your recovery period. You’ll want to avoid significant exposure to sunlight after a laser treatment or after your microneedling. And you’ll definitely want to avoid anything that resembles a tanning bed.
Taking Care of Your Skin
Both microdermabrasion/microneedling and laser fractional resurfacing procedures are designed to restore a certain youthful look to your skin. But there are some things you can do to prevent your skin looking aged in the first place, and some of these behaviors involve (you guessed it) avoiding significant exposure to UV light.
You can keep your skin looking youthful by:
- Refraining from the smoking of cigarettes. There’s almost nothing that gives you lines and wrinkles more quickly than this
- Limit your exposure to UV light. Wear sunscreen or a hat when you have to go outside (really, with no exceptions)
- Stay hydrated. This is a great and simple way to keep your skin looking smooth
- There’s some evidence to suggest that getting dermal filler or Botox injections before wrinkles form can actually keep those wrinkles from appearing for a longer period of time
- Practicing good health can help your skin stay in good shape
But there’s no getting away from the fact that the sun can cause significant, long term damage to your skin. One of the best ways to protect against that damage—and keep your skin looking great—is to put on sunscreen before going outdoors.
I know that sounds kind of like a chore. Putting screen on all the time is kind of a drag. But the ozone layer simply can’t do all the work. If you want your skin to look smooth and silky, sunscreen is a must. This is particularly true after you’ve just invested in a procedure designed to generate specifically that result.
So why should you stay out of the sun after a laser procedure or microneedling? You just invested in youthful-looking skin. Nothing will evaporate that sensitive skin more quickly than unfiltered UV radiation. So if you’ve recently underwent microneedling or laser skin resurfacing, do yourself a favor and listen to your surgeon: stay out of the sun (or at least wear sunscreen).