Sunscreens Vs. Sun-Protective Clothing: Choosing After Surgery

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No matter what steps you took to protect your skin from the sun while growing up, you know you have to step up your sun-protection game if you've just had skin cancer surgery. It is never too late to increase the amount of protection you use, but if you do, you have to choose the right type for you. You could stick with sunscreens, go with sun-protective clothing, or go with sunscreens that you wash into your clothing. The more protection you use now, the fewer reoccurrences of cancer you may have later, but if you choose the wrong type of protection, you might end up not using it as much as you should.

Recent Surgery

If you recently had skin cancer surgery and are currently healing, sun-protective clothing, where the protection is due to a special weave and not a chemical, is best. When you are trying to protect a wound, you don't want chemicals that can run off with sweat or rain near the surgery site. That includes having the chemicals near the area where the surgery was and somewhere where the chemicals can get onto your hands and then contaminate the surgery site. You still have to ensure the clothing doesn't catch on the bandage and rip it off, but that's a minor consideration that's easy to control.

Sensitive Skin

Another vote for sun-protective weaves is if you have sensitive skin or are allergic to sunscreen chemicals. Basic sunscreens absorb into your skin, increasing the risk of a reaction (even if they're labeled as hypoallergenic, that means there's less risk, but not no risk). Sunscreen cloths that you place in a laundry load so they can coat your clothes with the sunscreen can also be a problem because the sunscreen can seep out of the clothing if you sweat or if it rains. Remember, the sunscreen in those lasts only for a certain number of washes, meaning it leaches out when the clothing gets wet.

Note, however, that some sun-protective clothing comes out of the factory with formaldehyde included in the cloth, which could irritate sensitive skin. You can wash the formaldehyde out, luckily. Just throw the clothing in the washer a few times before wearing it for the first time.


You have to reapply sunscreen every few hours, and laundry-wash sunscreens last for a limited number of washes. Sun-protective weaves generally last a lot longer, especially if you take care of the clothing properly.

Laundry Issues

Sunscreens and laundry-added sunscreens do have an advantage in that they don't require special washing instructions. Sun-protective clothing can have odd restrictions, such as not washing well with certain brands of delicate laundry detergents. If you do not want to deal with those restrictions, sunscreens would work better for you.

Your doctor may know of excellent brands of skin-based sunscreens, laundry-added sunscreens, and sun-protective clothing. Discuss your specific needs with your doctor as soon as possible. For more information, contact local professionals like Countryside Dermatology & Laser Center.