Why stop smoking before having cosmetic surgery?

Patients often ask me why they need to stop smoking several weeks before an operation; the assumption is that I, like everyone else, am just concerned about the general ill effects of smoking on their health.

However, the truth is that smoking can have serious implications for anyone undergoing any type of surgery, and here’s why.

Smoking affects the body’s ability to heal itself

The nicotine in cigarettes and tobacco acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it tightens the blood vessels in the body. This means that it can decrease the blood flow to certain areas of the body, which in turn can prolong healing time.

In some very severe cases, this longer healing time can result in infection, severe scarring and even the need for further surgery in future. Many surgeons will refuse to operate on smokers at all.

Smoking ages the skin

I’ve explained why you should stop smoking before any form of surgery, but with cosmetic surgery it is especially important, particularly if you are having the surgery to look younger. Smoking, as we have already heard, decreases blood flow to certain parts of the body, including the skin.

This can result in the formation of free radicals, which attack the healthy cells in the skin, causing accelerated ageing. For this reason, it is essential to stop smoking before having any anti-ageing procedure, otherwise you will undo all the good work.

How long before surgery should you stop?

The earlier you stop, the better, for all the reasons mentioned above. If you can’t manage to stop earlier though, I would recommend quitting a minimum of six weeks before surgery, and continuing to avoid nicotine for at least six weeks afterwards.

All surgeons will have slightly different requirements here, but I can guarantee that any reputable surgeon will insist that you stop smoking prior to surgery.