There are many people who wonder about the effects of smoking after a hair transplant surgery. Even though it might not seem significant, the chemical compounds in tobacco products can influence the overall results. You will not only be advised against smoking before the surgery but even after it. However, it’s important that you understand why you need to abstain from it.
How Does Smoking Affect Surgery?
It is well recognised that smoking and the effects of tobacco are harmful to the body. In almost every area, tobacco smoke is proven to have negative health effects, including:
- Mood and emotional wellbeing
- Immune system
- Blood & clotting
Chemicals in tobacco are harmful to your blood cells. Nicotine causes the blood vessels in the body to harden and constrict as a result of plaque that builds up in your arteries or vessels from smoking. This restricts the oxygen that can travel to all your internal organs.
This process can also be applied for anaesthesia. Essentially, a smoker’s body is less likely to be able to move the anaesthetic around the body, and it can cause complications in surgery.
Medical authorities in the UK recommend quitting smoking at least a week before any surgical procedure. Even this short amount of time can reduce the risk of potential complications, even with the safest of procedures. Additionally, chemicals in cigarettes cause the blood to change consistency, and it becomes thicker.
This increases the risk of blood clot formation in general, but this is particularly risky for surgeries where proper clotting is required to stop the bleeding without impairing the incision site. Moreover, for major surgeries, abnormal blood clotting can cause serious health problems.
Can You Smoke Before A Hair Transplant?
Although hair transplants are safe, it is still imperative that the patient’s health is evaluated and all precautions are taken to minimise risk. You need to stop smoking at least 1 week before your planned treatment. Hair transplant recovery can be vastly improved, and the overall success of the surgery can change dramatically.
Without smoking, after an FUE hair transplant, a patient’s donor and transplant area can heal much quicker, and the re-growth could come through better and healthier.
One of the most important reasons to quit smoking before surgery is to prevent excessive bleeding. It is normal to bleed during and after the FUE hair transplant and other transplant techniques. This will be monitored by the surgeon and re-evaluated the morning after your hair transplant in a consultation. However, smoking can cause a patient to over-bleed or clot too quickly.
Smoking After A Hair Transplant: Is It A Good Idea?
The two weeks following your procedure are the most sensitive during the hair transplant recovery process. Many people ask, “can you smoke after a hair transplant?” You need to wait for at least 2 weeks after hair transplant surgery before you start smoking again.
Reduced Blood Flow to the Scalp
Because smoking after a hair transplant will constrict your blood vessels, you are very likely to end up delaying wound healing if you take up this habit right after the surgery. This means that your hair follicles which need nutrients to heal and grow normally would get much less of it than they normally would. They also won’t get as much oxygen. This alone can result in permanent damage to the grafts, which will affect the overall hair density.
However, a reduced blood supply has other consequences, one of which is increased risk of infection. Since your wounds are taking longer to heal, they are going to stay open for a long while, which puts them at a higher risk of infection. This complication can also develop because the immune system of a smoker doesn’t function at its full capacity. This will, again, affect your hair density.
Recent studies also indicate that smoking increases the chances of necrosis or skin death. In severe cases, this can cause hair transplant to fail as the follicles become permanently damaged.
Since smoking can cause increased bleeding from the wound sites on the scalp, this means that smoking can result in more scabs. Normally scabs are a sign of healing, but if they stay on the scalp for too long, it’ll only slow down the recovery.
The aftercare will also become more problematic because of the itchiness. In addition, the hair growth will start taking place at a later time. Your scabs can also get infected. So their being on your scalp for too long can cause many problems for you.
According to a study, “Smoke Gets In Your Wounds,” smoking can end up causing increased scarring. It does so by impairing the normal functioning of fibroblasts which are key for normal wound healing. Normally, proteins are secreted by fibroblasts which help some cells, including fibroblasts, stick to them. Smoke doesn’t damage these cells but it hampers their ability to move to the wounded area and allows for the healing to take place. This can result in bad scars after surgery, too.
In the case of FUE hair transplant, the surgeon is making small punch holes in the donor area and incisions in the balding area on the crown, top and front. Smoking after a hair transplant will affect the healing of wound tissue in both sites. Therefore, it can result in the formation of deeper scars all over the scalp.
Other Ways in Which Smoking Will Affect Hair Transplant Results
While it is crucial that you do not smoke for two weeks after the hair transplant, it’s better if you quit smoking entirely. That’s because smoking causes hair loss, hair transplant or no hair transplant. According to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, there may be a link between the prevalence of androgenetic alopecia and smoking. The signs of pattern hair loss were much more common in smokers than non-smokers.
Not just that but the chemicals in tobacco smoke can cause damage to the DNA of the cells. Smoking also results in the production of free radicals in the body, which can contribute to premature greying and decreased hair growth. Of course, the constriction of blood vessels lowers the supply of blood that your hair follicles get, thereby perpetually affecting their normal growth.
Other than that, smoking can also cause inflammation and hormonal imbalance both of which can make you lose your hair years following a hair transplant. It may affect the overall density, which may lead you to want to get another restoration surgery.
How To Stop Smoking After A Hair Transplant?
There are a few things that you can do to ensure that.
Avoid Certain Foods & Drinks
Certain foods can help the cigarettes taste better, while others make them taste worse. Caffeine, alcohol, and meat can all make you crave cigarettes more, which is why it might be a good idea to stay away from them for a while. In contrast, fruits and vegetables make the cigarettes taste bad.
One study even found that people who consumed more of these were 3 times more likely to quit smoking altogether. Fizzy drinks are also not a good idea. If you do crave any of these beverages, water is the best solution for you.
Joining a support group can help you quit smoking. NHS recommends that if you have a member of your family who also smokes, plan to quit smoking together as both of you will likely keep a check on the other and stop them from smoking.
There are different types of FDA-approved NRTs (nicotine replacement therapies) that you can try out, such as chewing gums, patches, sprays, lozenges, etc. You should discuss the use of any of these with your transplant surgeon beforehand. Therapies like mindfulness and meditation can also help. You can also consider using apps that are specifically designed to help smokers quit smoking.
The hair transplant recovery guidelines will be provided to patients and explained at consultations to maximise the chances for success and the desired look. However, surgeons do note a difference in smokers’ and non-smokers’ hair transplant recovery processes. Even if all pre and post-operative processes go smoothly, the smoking patients experience issues with numbing, bleeding and healing. You will be informed about this beforehand.
You should keep in mind that smoking after a hair transplant can result in the failure of the surgery. In this case, the surgeon or the clinic is not responsible, and you will not be a candidate for free revision surgery. Therefore, make sure to do as instructed by the surgeon to get the best possible results.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.