Smoking is not just bad for one’s overall health, but also for hair transplant procedure results, according to Dr. U. However, habitual smokers may make the mistake of indulging in a few cigarettes after their procedure. And this often makes them feel extremely guilty, since they were warned by their doctors to avoid smoking. They often worry that their grafts may not survive. But does smoking actually hurt the transferred follicles? And if so, to what extent does this occur?
Smoking and Health Risks
Hair transplant patients should not only consider the impact of smoking for their results, but also their overall health as well as the well being of people who are around them.
Over time, smoking can cause damage to the respiratory system, making it harder to breathe. It can even lead to lung cancer. However there are many other types of health risks associated with this habit. A major one to consider is heart disease.
In the United States, smoking accounts for almost 20% of all deaths from heart disease in both men and women.
Smoking can have a negative impact on non-smokers who are nearby. This is of particular concern when it comes to children. According to WebMD, exposure to tobacco smoke accounts for about 70,000 deaths each year from heart disease.
How Smoking Affects Hair Transplant Patients
Nicotine from cigarettes will cause the blood vessels to harden and constrict. Also carbon monoxide reduces the ability of the blood to carry oxygen.
Poor circulation can undermine a patient’s wound healing and prolong the entire process. If the skin takes longer to heal, there is a much higher risk of infection since particles and microbes have an opportunity to enter.
If the skin experiences difficulties in healing and closing the wounds, scabs and crusts may remain on the surface for longer periods of time. And this will increase the likelihood of forming thicker scar tissue.
According to Dr. U, smoking also increases the risk of skin death (i.e. necrosis). This effect can be minor or larger in scale, depending on the number of cigarettes the patient had smoked in the past. Dr. U has found that smokers who underwent surgeries requiring significant areas of skin excision (e.g. flap surgery and scalp reduction) face a much larger risk of skin necrosis following a hair transplant procedure.
Furthermore, excessive oozing and bleeding may occur during the time of the surgery. And this can extend the entire procedure and prolong the amount of time that the follicles are left outside the body. The limit is around six hours.
The survival of the hair transplant grafts can also be impaired due to the lowered availability of oxygen and nutrients. But according to Dr. U, this would largely depend on the individual and whether or not they are chronic, long term smokers.
Patients who have smoked heavily for many years will have experienced drastic changes to their circulatory system that will more likely affect their wound healing capabilities and the survival of their grafts. But in those who are light or moderate smokers, making a mistake and smoking a few cigarettes after a procedure may not have much of an impact.
There are many examples of smokers who have been able to experience successful hair restoration results. But at the same time, there is still the risk of lowered density for others who regularly smoke.
Guidelines For Smoking Before and After Hair Restoration
Usually, hair transplant surgeons recommend that patients abstain from smoking about one week before the surgery and two weeks after the hair transplant procedure.
However, it may be more ideal to allocate a couple months before and after the operation to help optimize the results.
Accelerated Hair Loss In Native Regions
Research on identical twins with the genes for pattern baldness will show different manifestations of their condition, depending on lifestyle habits.
Siblings who smoke will display a greater extent of hair loss compared to the other twin. According to Dr. U, environmental factors can affect how fast hair will fall out in those with the genetics for androgenic alopecia.
If a patient has abstained from smoking for the recommended time period following their procedure and continues with cigarettes afterwards, they will still experience a rather high risk of losing more of their donor hair in the native areas.
Due to the presence of sensitive protein receptors on these structures, these follicles can still be affected by DHT. Compromised blood circulation due to smoking will further deprive these structures of the oxygen and nutrients they need. Therefore, miniaturization can occur much faster.
Therefore, patients may want to think about quitting cigarettes altogether, rather than simply avoiding cigarettes during the recommended time frames before and after their hair transplant procedure.
Why Is Smoking So Addictive?
Quitting the habit of smoking is probably more easily said than done. The main reason for this is that nicotine changes the brain chemistry. It alters the balance of neurotransmitters that are responsible for feelings of pleasure and euphoria. These include:
Nicotine helps to elicit enjoyable feelings. Many people become dependent on cigarettes to help them feel more relaxed. And this makes it very difficult to quit.
Tips for Quitting Smoking
Undergoing a hair transplant or other form of surgery may be an opportune time to consider quitting for good. Not only will this improve the quality of your experience and results, but also enhance your health and help prevent larger issues from manifesting in the future.
Although cigarettes transform the neurochemistry of the brain, it can also be argued that new behaviors themselves can also change our circuitry.
In fact, there are quite a few apps that are available to help people kick the habit of smoking. Many of them have been given 4-4.5 stars by users.
Here are some examples presented by Healthline
1. Livestrong – My Quit Coach
This is a physician approved app that is designed to offer a highly personalized approach to individual lifestyles. Users can choose to quit cold turkey or take a more gradual approach. Features are included to help analyze a person’s consumption of nicotine and even track their cravings.
2. Quit It Lite
This app focuses on quantifying tracking the benefits of refraining from smoking. Examples include:
- All the cigarettes that were not smoked
- All the money that was saved
- All the tar that was prevented from entering the bloodstream
Some people may be highly motivated to maintain their clean winning streak through this type of approach
3. Cessation Nation
If you feel that social support is important for your success, Cessation Nation may be the right app for you. This app includes an entire community of people who are struggling with the challenge of quitting smoking altogether. And being in this type of environment can be a powerful change agent.
Another unique feature is the use of game mechanics to help replace the feelings of euphoria that are often derived from cigarette use. These games are meant to be played during the moments of craving
4. Craving to Quit
This app offers a 21 day program to quit cigarettes. It was tested and developed at Yale. The app includes reminder notifications to check in daily to record habits. There are also exercises and audio/visual instructions
Seeking professional and or medical counseling may be other options to consider if you feel that you can benefit from these types of therapies.