For best results, smokers need to quit smoking before and after cosmetic surgery.Numerous studies have shown that smoking leads to premature aging, especially of the face. For example, one recent study comparing twins found that the twin with the longer smoking history was easily identifiable by their more pronounced facial wrinkles, droopy upper eyelids, bags beneath the eyes, and sagging jowls. Unfortunately, correcting these issues is not as easy for a smoker as for a non-smoker. While almost any non-smoker is typically a good candidate for facelifts, eyelifts, necklifts, and other surgical procedures designed to deliver a younger look to the face, a smoker will not be a good candidate unless they are able to quit smoking for several weeks before and after the surgery.
Here are some key facts you need to know about smoking and cosmetic surgery.
Smoking inhibits healing
Cells need oxygen and nutrients to heal, but the chemicals present in cigarette smoke interfere with this process. Nicotine constricts blood vessels so that tissues don’t get enough blood flow, carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in hemoglobin so what blood the damaged cells do receive contains less oxygen, and hydrogen cyanide inhibits the enzymes relating to oxygen transport and metabolism within the cell. The end result is an increased risk of infection along with more pronounced scarring.
No nicotine products should be used. Switching to a nicotine gum or patch may be better for your overall health than smoking, but it still does not make you a great candidate for cosmetic surgery. Nicotine in any form will result in constricted blood vessels and interfere with normal healing.
Certain procedures are riskier than others. In general, procedures where a flap of skin is created during the surgery present the most risk for smokers. These skin flaps will have a partially compromised blood supply, and in a smoker the constriction of blood vessels can actually cause the flaps to die. Procedures requiring just a small incision present less risk.
Decisions are made on a case by case basis. Ultimately, many factors will go into your doctor’s decision as to whether or not you are a good candidate for a given cosmetic procedure. Therefore, smoking is not necessarily an absolute contraindication for all cosmetic surgeries. However, smoking is always bad for your health, and many patients find that using cosmetic surgery as a motivation to quit is very helpful in their efforts to stop smoking entirely.