Smoking and Facelifts: What are the Risks?

Facelifts are a popular way to reverse the signs of aging, by creating a smoother, wrinkle-free appearance. For many men and women, these procedures are relatively straightforward, with a high success and low risk rate. However, if the patient is a smoker, that can potentially change the playing field.

About the Facelift

A facelift is performed to improve the jaw line and neck line. These procedures typically involve incisions on either side of the face, which are carefully hidden in the hairline and behind the ear, and allow for the skin to be elevated off the underlying tissue. This exposes structures which lie beneath that the surgeon can then tighten and reposition, before placing the skin flap back over the face and suturing the incisions together.

These incisions are the primary bane for smoking patients. Nicotine is known for constricting blood vessels, reducing the amount of blood flowing through them. Because healthy blood flow is essential for the body’s natural healing process, less circulation means the body doesn’t have the same ability to heal from injury or surgery.

In the case of a facelift, this reduced blood flow can lead to re-opening of the incisions and even skin death in the area. If the incisions do not hold, the skin flaps do not remain in the correct position and the results of the facelift can be much less than what the patient hoped. In addition, nicotine increases the risk of infection after surgery, which can further impede the results of the procedure.

Facelift Guidelines

First, realize that smoking does not present the above concerns in other facial plastic procedures such as brow lifts, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, fillers, etc…

Second, if you are a smoker set on a facelift procedure, you will be asked to stop smoking for a prescribed amount of time before your procedure. That timeframe may vary from surgeon to surgeon, with some surgeons requiring two weeks smoke-free before the procedure, while others require six months or more without nicotine of any kind before they will agree to perform surgery. Plastic surgeons may refer you to your primary care doctor for access to smoking cessation aids such as medication and hypnosis to help patients kick the habit.

As a general rule, Dr. Robinson does perform facelift procedures on patients that smoke depending on their health and smoking history, and if they agree to adhere to the guidelines he prescribes. If you are unsure if your smoking will keep you from the plastic surgery you want, contact Robinson Facial Plastic Surgery at 770-667-3090 to get more information.