Is a dirty habit blowing your chances of a successful cosmetic makeover?


Our lifestyle habits can make a big difference when it comes to looking good.

Too much alcohol, a poor diet and lack of exercise all put paid to our attempts to stay looking youthful.

Sugar may be the new bad boy on the block but smoking has been the number one enemy to our health for decades.

Despite a ban on smoking in public places since 2007 and the rise of e-cigarettes, nearly one in five adults in England still smoke.

That said, there has been a 30% fall in the number of smokers overall throughout the last 20 years.

With smoking-related diseases causing 17% of all deaths in people aged 35 and over, why aren’t more of us quitting?

Today is No Smoking Day (Wednesday 8 March) and is an ideal opportunity to give up the nicotine.

This year the campaign is reminding us of the savings we can make if we quit our habit – and for those of us thinking of cosmetic treatments, we will soon be able to save up to splash out on some anti-ageing indulgences…

Plastic surgery

But, did you also know that some plastic surgeons may turn you away and refuse to treat you should you be a smoker?

Many simply will not carry out invasive surgery and procedures.

Smokers are often refused treatment based on the fact that nicotine can hamper healing, messes with your blood flow and lead to serious complications and infections?

Studies show smokers may encounter infections – a whopping 80% more often than those who do not smoke.

Many surgeons expect us to quit smoking and/or using any nicotine products between four to six weeks before and following surgery.

Put simply, the longer a wound takes to heal, the more the risk for infection, as bacteria have more time to infiltrate and nicotine in the system will put paid to achieving optimal results.

Fulvio Urso-Baiarda is a consultant plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon and Expert.

He says: ‘Everyone knows about the effects of smoking on the lungs, and I think most people are also aware that it can affect your heart, increase your chances of having a stroke, increase the risk of almost every kind of cancer and so on. So, it isn’t news that smoking is bad for you in many horrible ways.

‘However, none of those things are what get plastic surgeons hot under the collar – it’s the effect of smoking on blood supply that gets us agitated. Over the long-term, smoking causes a build-up of sludge on the inside of blood vessels and makes blood thicker and more likely to clot. Even in the short-term – minutes after lighting up – it causes your blood vessels to constrict, which worsens blood flow for around 45 minutes per cigarette. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, there isn’t much of your life spent without squeezed blood vessels.

‘So what? Well, blood is your way of transporting food, oxygen and waste products around the body, so it's important for keeping tissues alive and helping them heal after injury. The thought of delayed wound healing really bothers plastic surgeons because they spend a lot of their time creating wounds that don’t strictly need to be created. You may not think of that little scar in front of your ear or underneath your breasts as a “wound”, because it is held together neatly with stitches, but those stitches will dissolve or be removed and, when they do, you need to be sure your body has already taken over the job of keeping you in one piece. Otherwise, the scar may stretch or the wound split open. It could become infected or expose an implant, which generally means the implant needs to be removed.’

He adds: ‘That’s not the only way that smoking can make us look bad. Most parts of your body have more blood supply than they need coming in from different places, so the reduction in blood supply caused by having a cigarette doesn't usually kill bits of you off (not for a few years, anyway). However, although it’s not always obvious, many of our operations involving moving parts of your body around, which means we detach all but one of that body part’s blood supply. We do this when we make space for a breast implant, or when we lift up the skin to do a facelift, when we lift up tummy skin for a tummy tuck...

‘In fact, there is little we do that doesn’t disrupt your blood supply for a while. On top of that, at the same time we create a wound, which you need to heal, so the demand for blood goes up just as we disrupt its transport system. And then, to cap it all, if you have a few cigarettes to help calm your nerves, the remaining blood vessels trying to do this colossal job by themselves are made to constrict for the next 45 minutes. It can be enough to kill off some of those tissues we’ve moved about. Dead wound edges are never good, but if it happens on the face – called “skin slough” – it’s a special kind of disaster.

‘So for me, the rule for any cosmetic procedure is no smoking at all. I ask patients to give up for two weeks before and two weeks after surgery – different surgeons may recommend different lengths of time. After that, it’s usually safe to start again if you have had no wound healing problems up to that point – but, having got past the worst first month without cigarettes, why bother?’

Skin solutions

Smoking causes wrinkles by narrowing blood vessels in the outer layers of skin that reduce the amount of oxygen the skin is able to get.

Smoking also damages connective fibres such as collagen and elastin.

With more than 20 years of experience specialising in non-invasive cosmetic solutions for face and body rejuvenation, Dr Rita Rakus knows only too well of the harmful effects on the skin made by smoking.

She says: ‘Quitting smoking reduces the effects of premature ageing caused by the harmful toxins in tobacco smoke. These toxins accelerate the ageing process; they sap the body of Vitamin C, a key component in the production of collagen, which maintains skin elasticity and youthfulness.

‘Smoking also produces an enzyme, matrix metalloprotenaise-1 and reduces oxygen, degrading elastin collagen even further and leading to early-onset crow’s feet and smoker’s lines.’

She adds: ‘ The good news is that, if you do give up smoking, the skin will start to repair itself and, while wrinkles may not completely disappear, their on-going development will slow down. Carbon monoxide is no longer intruding on the way of blood flow to your skin and so more oxygen and nutrients are able to reach the dermis, leading to a healthier complexion.’

Smile makeovers

And, did you also know that you will see immediate benefits to your smile should you quit?

Melonie Prebble is a dental therapist and our oral health expert.

She says: ‘You will instantly reduce the risk of dental diseases, such as oral cancer and gum disease and decay.

‘Your saliva flow will increase aiding to lubricate teeth and reduce staining.

‘The bacterial flora will change and the gases released by such bacteria will reduce enabling fresher breath.

‘Your mouth and fresh breath confidence will increase causing you to smile more.’

She recommends: ‘Consider having a professional cleaning to remove bacteria, deposits and tobacco staining and really brighten your smile for the spring!’
book a consultation with Dr Rita Rakus
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