Smoking & Plastic Surgery


If you are thinking about plastic surgery, one of the first things your surgeon might tell you to do is quit smoking. Not only does it increase the risks during surgery but smoking can severely compromise the results of your plastic surgery procedure.

Why Cigarette Smoke Hinders Good Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery procedures involves changing the shape of different areas of the body, and to do this your surgeon needs to move skin and other tissues around, sometime over significant distances.

When they do this they may need to change the blood supply to those tissues or decrease the normal blood supply. For example, when having a tummy tuck, some of the blood vessels that normally carry blood to the skin of the abdomen are divided in order for that skin to be moved around to give a flatter, better shape to the abdomen.

Your surgeon will leave enough other blood vessels intact so that the skin will heal, however if there isn’t an adequate amount of blood flowing to the skin, the tissues will not get enough oxygen (a condition known as ischemia), and some of the tissue can die or not heal.  That’s not a good situation.

So where does Nicotine come into this…

In order to have adequate circulation, your surgeon must not only leave enough blood vessels intact, but must also make sure that the blood flows through these blood vessels is sufficient. There are certain things can affect this blood flow and the biggest and badest of these is cigarette smoke.

Nicotine causes the blood vessels to constrict which means they decrease in their size (diameter) and blood flow thorough them drops off.  The nicotine can also make the blood clot more easily which can further clog small blood vessels and capillaries. All in all, these effects are extremely serious because they decrease the blood supply to the tissues, can result in wounds not healing, and can result in some devastating complications.

Smoking’s Particular Impact on Plastic Surgery Recovery

People reading this might say that they have never had healing problems before, so why should it be a problem now? As we mentioned earlier surgeons are moving tissue around in plastic surgery operations, is much different than — say — in a hysterectomy.  Because in this operation, the tissues are not moved around in the same way, and the blood supply to the skin is not altered.

Lastly… Smoking Ages you

Aside from giving you an increased risk for complications, smoking and plastic surgery don’t mix because the two things cause different reactions in the body. The goal of a surgery like a facelift is to make you look younger. Smoking, on the other hand, speeds up the aging process. When blood flow to the skin is restricted, it is unable to receive the nutrients it needs. Additionally, the chemicals in tobacco products and smoke damage your skin by damaging elastin and collagen. The result is skin that becomes looser and saggier.


If you smoke and you’re planning to have plastic surgery, quit. Follow your plastic surgeon’s recommendation, which may be to quit three to six weeks before surgery through three to six weeks after (though forever is best).

Even if you don’t smoke cigarettes, you’re not off the hook if you smoke e-cigarettes or chew nicotine gum! Quit any form of nicotine, including secondary smoke (yes, send your smoking friends and family outside). Even one puff will cause your blood vessels to shrink. If you’ve scheduled surgery in the near future, and you have a weak moment, confess to your surgeon. It’s better to delay surgery than to risk having your tissue die.