Everyone, including smokers, knows that smoking is bad for your health, but what you may not realize is that smoking is bad for your hair as well. If you are a smoker and plan to get a hair transplant in the near future, it might be in your best interest to think twice about smoking before and after your surgery.
There are risks you should know about that could inevitably affect the outcome of your hair transplant. Because a hair transplant is such a substantial investment it is important to know what you can do to ensure that your hair transplant is successful. While your surgeon takes care of transplanting hairs, it is your job to do everything you can to ensure you get the most out of your transplant.
There are several reasons why you should quit smoking due to the adverse effects on the outcome of your surgery. One of these reasons is nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that causes the blood vessel walls to contract. This results in decreased blood flow and diminished distribution of oxygen throughout the body. Without the proper amount of life-giving oxygen and other important nutrients, the surgery can take longer to heal and grafts are less likely to survive. This means by continuing to smoke you may be wasting money and precious donor hairs needed for your transplant.
In order for the hair transplant to be successful, there must be ample blood supply available in the recipient area for each delicate hair graft. If there is not enough blood to support the grafts being transplanted, they will ultimately compete against each other for the underlying blood supply. Without proper nutrients, there could be less hair growth per graft due to compromised blood flow. In some cases the entire graft might fail to survive. This could result in undesirable gaps or spaces throughout the transplanted area. For smokers who continue to smoke long after the surgery, their hair follicles will continue to be compromised creating density issues that could have been avoided. Blood flow is vital to a successful transplant.
Another side effect of smoking is that there might be excessive bleeding and oozing in the recipient area that could prolong surgery time. With smoking patients, blood vessels are continuously constricted before surgery day due to presence of nicotine in the system. On the day of surgery, with the presence of nicotine blood vessels open up causing excessive bleeding to occur. Not only is a longer surgery uncomfortable for the patient, but it also threatens the survival of harvested grafts as they sit on the table waiting to be transplanted.
Finally, smoking can also negatively affect post-operative healing. Normally, healing on both the face
and head is not an issue, but for smokers there is a higher risk of both scarring and infection. Scabs
and crusts in the recipient area remain longer, which can cause unsightly scarring to occur. Some
surgeons believe that even diabetics have more successful hair transplants than smokers.
If you are a smoker who cannot stop the bad habit and wish to get a hair transplant, the good news is that you don't have to quit smoking altogether. Most hair transplant surgeons recommend that smokers take a break from smoking 1-2 weeks prior to the surgery and 1-2 weeks after their surgery. This will insure the best possible chance for your hair transplant to be successful.
In our office, Dr. Bolton often encourages smoking patients to quit for the better health of their hair and the better health of their life. Fortunately, many patients are ready for big changes in their life and choose to quit smoking altogether after the procedure. After all, investing in your hair is a big deal, but investing in your health ensures more years enjoying that hair!