How Does Smoking Affect Scar Healing?

How Does Smoking Affect Scar Healing?

Did you know that smoking affects scar healing in six different ways?

6 Ways Smoking Affects Scars

Here’s a list of each of the ways smoking affects your scar healing.

1. More Complications During Healing

Smoking is linked with skin healing complications. That’s why plastic surgeons always recommend that their patients give up smoking about a month before plastic surgery. They want the best outcome for their patients.

One healing complication from smoking is infections. Scars are part of the healing process after cuts or wounds occur, and need to mature for the completion of the healing. This takes several months to occur. If infections arise is wounds or in scars, this may worsen scars.

One study found that complications in the healing of scars from breast surgery occurred in 4 out of every10 smokers, compared to 1.2 out of 10 non-smokers.

2. ‘Paralyzes’ White Blood Cells

Smoking inhibits the movement of macrophages into the scar. Macrophages are the cells of the immune system that engulf microbes that can cause infections. If they can’t move, they can’t do their work.

3. Less Oxygen in the Scar

The nicotine in cigarettes impairs oxygenation of the tissues, which can interfere with scar healing. This happens because nicotine causes the blood vessels to constrict. The constriction makes the blood vessels smaller in diameter, and they bring less oxygen.

4. Easier to Get Infections

Without less oxygen in the scar area and less macrophage movement toward the scar, the immune system cells can’t fight against microbes and it’s easier to get infections.

5. Smoking Uses Up Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for scars to heal. The body’s need for vitamin C increases when there is trauma or surgery; studies have shown that levels fall quickly during these times. Vitamin C assists in the formation of new collagen, boosts immune system functions contributing to resistance against infections, and acts as an antioxidant.

Smoking adds another risk that vitamin C levels will be low. Free radicals created during smoking use up this nutrient quickly.

6. More Carbon Monoxide in Your Bloodstream

Smoking increases the amount of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream, which is another way of decreasing oxygen flow in the arteries. This results in less oxygen to the scar and means it will take longer to heal. The carbon monoxide also tends to gray your skin tone.

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  1. The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please speak to your doctor to treat any medical condition. Information on this site is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
  2. what if you are a smoker and had a accident, had plastic surgery don’t and haven’t had a smoke? would it make a difference because it isn’t like you had a choice when to quit, you just quit cold turkey.

    • Hi Daniel, if you aren’t currently smoking post-surgery, then that’s great! And it is helpful to your body healing in general so that the wound/incision point gets the most oxygen than if you were still smoking and that was constricted.

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