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Effects Of Smoking Before & After In Plastic Surgery

Before crossing the threshold of the plastic surgery operating room, you have probably refrained from smoking for quite a few days, following your doctor’s advice. And you did right. Nicotine before or after plastic surgery is not a good idea. In this article, we’ll talk about the plastic surgery complications caused by nicotine and offer cosmetic surgery candidates some helpful advice on how to facilitate a safe and speedy recovery.

woman smoking

What Products Contain Nicotine?

Nicotine is not just hidden in the smoke of cigarettes. It can take several forms, like smoking substitutes that might seem harmless, but they are not. Here’s a list of popular products – in addition to common cigarettes – that contain nicotine:

  • E-cigarettes
  • Nicotine Gum
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Pipes
  • Cigars
  • Nicotine Patches
  • Smokeless Tobacco (Snuff)

Complications of Nicotine Use Before Plastic Surgery

Not all medical surgeries are the same. You might have had an appendectomy or a knee surgery a few years ago and have healed greatly, even though you were smoking before the procedure.

However, cosmetic surgery is different. The most important problem caused by nicotine intake before plastic surgery is tissue necrosis.

During cosmetic surgery procedures, the surgeon performs lateral incisions, cutting through the top layer of the skin. The sidewise incisions allow for more accurate and efficient tissue repositioning. Thus, when the surgeon lifts the top skin layer, he/she can pull it, stretch it, move it around or remove it completely. This is the method for performing a facelift, a tummy tuck, a breast reduction, or a breast lift. These incisions sever the end of blood vessels – a relatively safe process when vessels are healthy. But how healthy are smokers’ blood vessels?

Nicotine reduces blood flow, restricts circulation, and limits oxygen transfer to tissue. Add the cut of vessels and the subsequent limited blood supply in a surgical site, and you can now understand how easy it is for skin, fat and muscle to die without proper blood circulation and oxygen. This is called tissue necrosis and requires the removal of skin and other tissues around the incision site. If tissue necrosis occurs after breast augmentation, breast implants should be also removed.

So, nicotine means small blood vessels. Small blood vessels mean less blood circulation. Less blood circulation means less oxygen. And, finally, less oxygen can lead to tissues dying.

Other Complications Caused By Nicotine

Nicotine before or after plastic surgery can result in other problems, too:

  • Infections
  • Fat cells death (fat necrosis) that causes hard lumps
  • Loss of nipples, tummy skin or cheek skin after a breast lift, breast reduction, tummy tuck surgery or facelift, respectively
  • Slow healing
  • Permanent vessel damage
  • Unsuccessful breast augmentation – loss of breast implants
  • Thick, visible scars
  • Blood clots that can lead to death
  • Unbearable pain
  • Low immunity
  • Stroke, blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT risk), heart attack, pneumonia, and other life-threatening complications.

How Long Do You Have To Stop Smoking For Plastic Surgery?

If you smoke, vape or use any other nicotine products and have scheduled a plastic surgery, you need to quit at least three to six weeks before the operation. Your plastic surgeon will let you know the exact time you must be nicotine-free before the cosmetic surgery.

Secondary smoke, for example, sitting next to someone who smokes, or sharing your room with an active smoker, is not a good idea either. Even one puff will make your blood vessels shrink.

If you have less than two weeks until the plastic surgery, confess to your doctor and reschedule the surgery for a later time. Do not put your health at risk!

After surgery, the suggested period of refraining from nicotine use is at least two weeks. This way, you increase the chances for a speedy and successful recovery.

How to Quit Smoking Before Your Plastic Surgery?

We know that it is hard for most smokers to quit nicotine use from one day to the other. Nicotine products are highly addictive. Here are some tips to facilitate nicotine quitting:

  • Focus on your hobbies & activities and keep yourself busy.
  • Download an app that helps quit nicotine, manage cravings and monitor your progress.
  • Spend time with non-smoking friends and family members.
  • Ask friends and family not to smoke in your presence.
  • Change your routine – join a yoga class or take time to walk.
  • Hide all ashtrays and throw away any nicotine products you have in your bags, car, or at home.

Make An Appointment With Plastic Surgeon Dr. Stavrou in Nicosia, Greece & Malta

Experience the confidence of being in expert hands that will make you look and feel more beautiful than ever. Book an appointment with our experienced and board-certified plastic surgeon in Cyprus, Athens and Malta, Dr. Stavrou. He will answer all your questions and concerns about smoking before or after cosmetic surgery, and ensure a safe and successful procedure.

Read if you need plastic surgery after weight loss.


Dr. Demetris Stavrou

Dr Stavrou is a board-certified and highly experienced plastic surgeon in Cyprus, Greece and Malta, with a keen interest in informing patients about the latest updates on reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery.


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