Scars, which were once the kind of physical feature often Photoshopped out, are suddenly proudly visible on magazine covers and in fashion campaigns alike. The important moment of representation has been a long time coming, but as we shed our layers and show off the marks that tell our stories, it's important to take some extra precautions — especially in the summer months.
"The thing is, a scar is very vulnerable," Manhattan-based dermatologist Anita Cela, MD, says. "The skin is trying to heal, and is much more sensitive. So it’s much more likely to get sunburned, and that goes on for almost a year."
Too much sun exposure might lead to something called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can cause the scar to go from pink to brown, and possibly appear more raised and inflamed. "When the skin gets inflamed via sunburning, [it] turns brown," Dr. Cela says. "The cells that make pigment in your skin get revved up, and so then the skin of the scar can darken, too. That can last years."
But it goes beyond aesthetics. Board-certified dermatologist Michele Green, MD, warns, "You also increase your risk of skin cancer exposing a new scar to the sun."
Covering scars with clothing is the most obvious way to protect them from too much sun, but plenty of sunscreens and scar products can also be immensely helpful, too. Dr. Cela specifically recommends slathering on a mineral-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen, which means that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with a minimum of SPF 30. Check to be sure it has zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, Parsol 1789 (avobenzone), or Mexoryl SX (ecamsule) in the ingredients list; zinc oxide and titanium oxide are known to be highly effective in creating a barrier against UVA rays.
We gathered five products that are Dr. Cela and Dr. Green-approved, and packed with the right ingredients to make sure your scar heals safely this summer.