The Story Behind Not Smoking Before Cosmetic Surgery

If you're a smoker, you've heard it before: stop smoking at least a couple of weeks before your surgery and stay away from tobacco during your healing time. This is not nagging or scolding; there are serious surgical reasons to avoid tobacco, nicotine, and other products in the weeks before your surgery. Doing so improves your chances of having a successful procedure with great results.

Nicotine and Oxygen/Blood Restriction

Nicotine—not tobacco leaves, but nicotine itself—can restrict the flow of blood through your arteries. The substance causes arteries to narrow, reducing the flow through those narrowed spots and slowing down delivery of all the good oxygen and nutrients that blood cells carry. The reduction in those healthy nutrients and oxygen slows down recovery and can even contribute to additional side effects that ruin the surgery.

Wound Healing and Tissue Death

The nutrients and oxygen are needed so that your skin and muscle knit back together properly. Increased recovery time and extended wound healing increase the chances of infection; your surgical results can also look less than optimal. Tissue can actually die, too, creating more problems, including scarring and lumpy deposits under the skin. Surgeries that include implanted material can fail, with the implants being rejected.

This Might Help You Quit

By the way, if you were hoping to quit smoking anyway, or at least reduce the amount you smoked, this could be your ticket to that goal. Researchers found in 2017 that smokers who underwent plastic surgery—and the related ban on smoking before the procedure—had a higher quit rate.

A Note as More People Use Marijuana

With increasing acceptance and legalization of marijuana—and the marketing that positions it as less harmful—surgeons now have to deal with people who use the drug in one or more forms. A 2018 literature review found evidence that marijuana can interfere with anesthesia, create cardiac and pulmonary complications, and potentially contribute to bleeding problems. There is also concern over the lingering presence of THC, which can hang around for weeks in body fat. In other words, don't assume that because you're smoking something without nicotine that you can simply continue to use it in the days before your surgery.

When your surgeon tells you to stop smoking, don't assume he or she means only tobacco. Avoid all forms of inhaled plant matter, be it tobacco or pot; avoid all forms of nicotine, be it in cigarette, e-cig, or another form. Be open with your surgeon about what you use because your ability to refrain from smoking, chewing, eating, or otherwise using these products is crucial for a successful recovery.

For more information, talk to your cosmetic surgeon.