There is no shortage of critics for plastic surgery, slamming the industry for perpetuating unrealistic beauty ideals.
But a new study reveals the practice has an unexpected health benefit: it helps people quit smoking.
Patients are advised to drop cigarettes for at least a month before any cosmetic procedure, since nicotine restricts blood flow and prohibits skin flaps from healing.
And new research published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery shows that stint of abstinence leads 25 percent of patients to quit smoking altogether.
Beyond that, 40 percent of patients in the study went from smoking daily to smoking occasionally, and 70 percent said it was the first time they had realistically considered quitting.
The findings come amid an unprecedented boom in demand for plastic surgery: last year Americans spent a staggering $16 billion on cosmetic procedures, with that figure set to rise.
Patients are told to drop cigarettes for a month before cosmetic procedures, since nicotine restricts blood flow and limits healing. A Canadian study shows that is good for public health
Wounds require a healthy blood flow to heal.
However, nicotine has been shown to shrink the capillaries, resulting in reductions in blood flow (or, vasoconstriction).
It means a nip-and-tuck could go disastrously wrong, since the skin struggles to reattach.
Surgeons urge patients to quit smoking full-stop, for general health reasons.
However, studies have shown that a month without smoking makes enough of a difference to prevent major complications.
Indeed, in one study of general surgery patients, quitting smoking for three or four weeks before surgery reduced the complication rate from about 40 to 20 percent.
Based on this and other high-quality evidence, cigarette smokers are strongly advised to stop smoking at least four weeks before plastic surgery procedures.
The new study by the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, included 85 patients who were smokers when they were first evaluated for surgery.
Most of the participants, who were mostly women with an average age of 40, got a tummy tuck, breast lift, or face-lift.
Five years later, 42 of those patients responded to a follow-up survey.
Most patients said they had reduced their cigarette use by any amount.
However, half admitted they did not stop smoking beforehand. Half of those who didn’t stop admitted they had continued smoking until the day before their operation.
The study showed the complication rate after cosmetic surgery was higher in patients who continued to smoke: 24 percent versus 14 percent.
Two patients suffered very severe complications – they both smoked until the day before.
‘I think perhaps what we saw with our study is the power of targeted messaging when trying to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors in patients,’ lead author of the study, Dr Aaron C. Van Slyke, told Yahoo Beauty.
‘We showed that specifically discussing the adverse effects of smoking on the patient’s surgical outcome was more influential in helping patients quit smoking than a discussion around the general negative effects of smoking on their health.’
He added: ‘In addition to this, as plastic surgeons, patients often present to us with concerns about quality of life and appearance.
‘As such, these patients may therefore be more receptive to learning about smoking and other health issues that can impact their future.
‘This might allow plastic surgeons to be more effective at promoting healthy lifestyle modifications that extend well beyond the surgeon-patient interactions during cosmetic surgery.’