Unhealthy habits that make you look older than you are - drinking too much alcohol

Alcohol Effects: Can You Drink Alcohol After Surgery?

If you are like most patients, you’ve probably wondered what effects alcohol has on your post-surgical recovery and whether or not it’s okay to take it. So, should you drink alcohol after surgery? The short answer is no. But that doesn’t mean you have to be teetotal forever. Drinking after cosmetic surgery can be dangerous for several reasons; let’s dive in. 

Being healthy and fit before having surgery or any medical procedure is vital. Not only does it make a difference in how well the procedure goes, but it can affect how your body recovers afterwards. There are a lot of lifestyle choices you can make to help improve the outcome of your surgery. 

Alcohol Effects on the Body Before Surgery 

that it can harm your post-surgical recovery? 

Drinking too much alcohol regularly can affect your liver, kidneys, heart, immune system, and pancreas. All these organs are essential during your plastic surgery recovery. The effects of alcohol on your immune system and the liver have a direct impact on your body’s ability to heal, something that is crucial after cosmetic surgery. Additionally, excess alcohol intake can hurt your body’s natural ‘stress” response, worsening any existing health problems.

Alcohol has been linked to several complications after surgery, including: 

  • Excessive bleeding 
  • Wound healing issues 
  • Heart and lung problems 
  • Infections 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re having breast augmentation or a tummy tuck; alcohol impacts all types of surgeries and procedures. Research shows that people who have more than a couple of drinks a day are more likely to experience complications after surgery than light drinkers or those who don’t drink at all. There is an increased risk of extending your hospital stay or being admitted to intensive care if you consume too much alcohol after your cosmetic surgery. 

Alcohol Effects: Can You Drink Alcohol After Surgery

Why Can’t You Drink Alcohol After Surgery? 

It’s important to avoid drinking alcohol after surgery. This is because alcohol can affect your risk of surgical complications, your results, and your healing. Here are some of the effects of alcohol after surgery. 

Delay Healing 

Healing is incredibly important in your recovery. In general, if you drink alcohol after your surgery, it will slow down the healing process and can thin your blood. Drinking alcohol has been linked to complications after surgery, like wound healing issues. 

Blood Thinner 

Thinning of the blood can be dangerous as it can cause infections and prolonged bleeding. At the same time, alcohol reduces the effectiveness of your immune system. 

Alcohol is a blood thinner. Consuming alcohol could lead to excessive bleeding both before and after the surgery. It could also increase bruising and swelling, which can make recovery longer and more uncomfortable. In general, your doctor will advise you to stop taking blood-thinning medication before surgery for this reason, and alcohol is no exception.  

Increase the Risk of Swelling 

When you drink, it widens your blood vessels which can increase swelling. During the recovery period, your post-surgical instructions are there to reduce swelling. An increase in swelling could result in some post-surgical complications, affecting your ability to recover and the final result. 

Harmful Medication and Alcohol Combination

Following a cosmetic procedure, you may be prescribed medication like painkillers or antibiotics. You shouldn’t mix medication and alcohol as it could lead to some unpleasant side effects such as nausea, headaches, and drowsiness. It can also put you at risk of other problems such as heart issues or breathing difficulties. 


Although having an alcoholic beverage can seem refreshing, it can dehydrate the body. Staying hydrated is an essential part of the healing process. Alcohol can cause dehydration and impact your healing. 

As dehydration can affect your skin, alcohol can impact your scarring. It may increase itchiness around the surgical site and prolong your recovery. Dryness may also affect your skin’s elasticity, which is important in procedures such as breast enhancement and liposuction


If you drink after surgery, it can make you feel more tired. You need the energy to kickstart the recovery process and promote healing. It’s vital that you feel rested and get a good night’s sleep consistently. Drinking alcohol after surgery can impact your quality of sleep, so you don’t feel as re-energised the following day. 

Although it can feel like alcohol may numb any discomfort, it actually has the opposite effect by making your recovery period longer. While it can feel like you nod off more quickly after alcohol, it ends up disrupting the quality of your sleep. We’ve pulled together a quick guide on how to sleep more comfortably after plastic surgery to help you kickstart your recovery. 

The Harley Clinic, Recovery from Breast Reduction Tips

Anaesthesia Effects 

General anaesthetic puts you into a deep sleep. If you’re undergoing plastic surgery under general anaesthetic, you can feel a bit out of sorts when you wake up. Not only do you need someone to drive you home after the procedure, but it’s important that you avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours after you leave the hospital or while taking any pain medication.  

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

If you are used to drinking alcohol regularly, it’s normal to wonder how much alcohol is too much to cause a problem. Most research on the risk of alcohol before and after surgery has focused on people who drink to excess. In such people, positive effects have been seen once they stopped drinking altogether a few weeks before surgery. 

Ideally, drinking low to moderate alcohol levels is unlikely to increase your risk of complications after cosmetic surgery. The more you drink, the greater the risk. Sometimes, even two to three drinks a day is enough to negatively impact your immune system during and after surgery. 

The UK government advises not regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol in a week. 14 units are equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beard or 6 medium glasses of average-strength wine.  

If you are drinking beyond these recommendations, consider cutting down now to reduce your risk of developing complications after surgery. Reducing or stopping drinking alcohol altogether is a big part of enhanced recovery. The approach is aimed at helping people recover as quickly as possible after surgery and includes other ways of ensuring that you’re healthy for surgery, like quitting smoking and improving your fitness levels. 

The sooner you reduce your alcohol intake or stop drinking, the better. You should make these changes at least four weeks before your surgery. However, even a few weeks beforehand may still be beneficial if that’s impossible. Your doctor will most likely ask about your alcohol consumption during your initial consultation and advice accordingly. 

Ultimately, you will be asked to stop drinking for a specific amount of time before your procedure by your doctor. In this time frame, any alcohol is too much. 

Plastic Surgery: When Can You Drink Alcohol After Surgery?

During your consultation, your surgeon will discuss your history with you and discuss what you can expect during your recovery. Overall, you should avoid alcohol throughout your recovery time. Depending on your surgery, recovery timelines can differ massively. For the best result and smoothest recovery, you should fuel your body with nutrients and foods for a healthy recovery and stay hydrated as much as possible. 

General guidance is that you should avoid alcohol for at least 2 weeks after your surgery. In some cases, you will have either fully healed or been through the majority of the recovery process. For others, this may not be enough time. That’s why it’s so important that you listen to your plastic surgeon’s post-operative instructions as they take the individual into account. 

Typically, you could start drinking after a few weeks with a minor procedure, but with something larger, you may need to wait several weeks. Your doctor’s advice is there for a reason; it’s so you can achieve the best results possible. The healing and recovery stage is a key part of getting optimal results. 

During your recovery, it’s important to focus on your healing. While it’s good to avoid alcohol for at least 2 weeks after your surgery, you shouldn’t drink while taking any prescription pain medication. 

Cosmetic Surgery Recovery Q&A’s 

During your cosmetic surgery recovery, your doctor may prescribe certain medications or provide advice on pain management. This could include taking medications such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, or prescribed painkillers. Drinking alcohol and cosmetic surgery do not mix well for several reasons, including the potential for problems to arise from mixing medications and alcohol. 

Can You Drink Alcohol With Paracetamol?

According to the NHS, it’s usually safe to drink alcohol with paracetamol, but you should always proceed with caution and consult your doctor.  

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking an Antibiotic? 

The reality is that mixing medication and alcohol can be dangerous. Mixing alcohol and antibiotics can result in dizziness and stomach upset. Some antibiotics may result in a more severe reaction. Other side effects could include an increase in blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting. Drinking alcohol with antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness, delay healing, and could result in side effects. It’s always a good idea to avoid drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics. 

Can You Drink Alcohol Before Surgery?

Another common question when considering any type of plastic surgery is whether you can drink alcohol before surgery. It’s normal to want to calm your nerves before a big procedure, but it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol before surgery. Whether you undergo breast fat transfer, eyelid surgery, or facelift, you should avoid alcohol for at least 2 weeks following your procedure.

By avoiding alcohol in the weeks running up to your procedure, you’re putting your body in the best shape possible for optimal healing. Alcohol can also affect anaesthesia and sedatives, which may cause serious problems. Most doctors will advise that patients stop drinking alcohol at least 1 week before any surgery. This advice can change depending on your procedure, but this is a good guideline to follow. 

When you drink alcohol before surgery, it can make getting your anaesthesia at the optimum level a little difficult. Drinking alcohol can decrease your pain tolerance, which is something you want to avoid before any type of surgery. 

If you drink heavily before surgery, you’re more likely to need a longer stay in hospital and be admitted to intensive care. 

What Do You Do if You Experience Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you are a heavy drinker, quitting or slowing down abruptly won’t be easy when the option of surgery is on the table. Talk to your doctor if you don’t think you can do it safely. When your body has been dependent on alcohol for so long, stopping abruptly can lead to alcohol withdrawal syndrome. This can complicate the surgery and recovery afterwards. 

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually occur up to 5 to 6 days after your last drink and develop within 6 to 24 hours. They may present as tremors, excessive sweating, abdominal upset, increased blood pressure, delirium, hallucinations, anxiety, agitation and even seizures. It’s important that you are honest with your doctor beforehand, as they will determine if you are a suitable candidate for a procedure based on your current health and medical history. Alcohol increases surgical risks during and after the procedure.  

Returning to Drinking Alcohol After Surgery 

As you resume drinking alcohol after surgery, take it easy. Your body is still healing and it’s a good idea to slowly return to normal habits and routines. 

Whether you’re having liposuction, breast augmentation, or any type of cosmetic surgery, drinking alcohol is a no-go just for a little while. As well as not smoking or drinking alcohol after surgery, there are things you can do to support your recovery and encourage healing, including: 

  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Eat lean protein and more fruits and vegetables 
  • Limit sugar and salt 
  • Avoid processed foods 

Dr Riaz Agha talks about the importance of nutrition in cosmetic surgery in the video below.  

The bottom line is that drinking alcohol before surgery can thin the blood, making excessive bleeding difficult to stop as well as increasing other risks. Pre and post-operative instructions are in place to create the safest procedure environment and set you up for a strong recovery. If you have any concerns during your recovery, it’s essential to contact your doctor so that you get any help you need. 

If you want to find out more about achieving the best cosmetic surgery results possible or you’re interested in a specific procedure, book a consultation today at The Harley Clinic, London. 

Interested in the latest cosmetic surgery news? Read our ultimate guide on Plastic Surgery Statistics.

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