Getting a facelift is an exciting procedure! You’re going to have a more youthful, bright, contoured look to your face. And you’re in excellent hands because you picked a surgeon who’s extremely well trained and experienced. But you’re likely curious about what the recovery from a facelift is going to be like. Should you expect pain? How long will your face be swollen? When can you expect to go in public after a facelift? Are there any options that will give you a quicker recovery? We’ll answer those questions and more in our ultimate guide to your facelift recovery.
The day of your procedure
When you wake up after your facelift, you likely will not remember anything from the procedure. You will feel groggy but know that we have given you pain medicine during and after the procedure to help keep you comfortable. You may feel constricted because depending on what treatments you have done, you can have bandages which help to keep swelling and bruising to a minimum. In some cases patients also have little drainage tubes. The purpose of these tubes is to drain any fluid that builds up near the facelift site. We’ll remove these tubes within a few days. The sight of your face right now will not be pleasant, but remember within a few weeks you’re going to see major improvements.
Some people go home the day of their procedure, and some go home a day later. We’ll make sure you have set up a friend or family member to drive you home. This friend or relative will also sit with you while you receive instructions for your facelift recovery period.
The pain medication you take after a facelift will depend on how extensive your procedure is. Some patients take moderate pain medication for a few days, and others need a stronger prescription. We’ll speak with you about what medication makes most sense during your facelift recovery.
First few days after a facelift
During this phase of the facelift recovery, you will have some discomfort but should not feel significant pain. The pain medication you take should keep you comfortable, but swelling and bruising is normal. This is part of the healing process, and is expected during facelift recovery. Do not expect to see the positive, youthful results of your facelift in the initial phase of the recovery. Some patients worry if the swelling seems more pronounced on one side of the face, but this is normal. You may also feel tightness in your neck. Remember we have altered your skin, as well as muscles and fat in some cases, so your face needs plenty of time to heal.
During this time, it’s a good idea to be as calm and low-key as possible. Help around the house is great to have, although you can do some moving around. In fact, movement can help with facelift recovery, and we encourage you to walk around slowly when possible during this early recovery phase. Any activities like jogging, weight lifting, or any other type of moderate to significant exertion, should wait until you’re about a month out from having a facelift.
If you have drainage tubes or stitches, you’ll likely have at least one appointment with our office for removal of these, during the first week after your facelift.
One week after a facelift
After a week of recovery from your facelift, you’ll likely find you’re able to stop your pain medication. You should be starting to feel better, and able to be a little more active around the house. We will ask that you do light exercise like walking, but refrain from any more strenuous activities. At this point you may still have bruising and swelling that makes you uncomfortable about appearing in public, but that will start to subside soon.
Patience is important during this phase. You’re still not going to be seeing the final results of your cosmetic procedure. You can use cool compresses, but do not apply any heat to your face or incisions. The post-operative care instructions you’ve been given, will still apply one week after a facelift, so remember to follow those routines carefully.
A week out from your facelift you will still be sleeping with your head quite elevated, to help reduce swelling and promote healing. You will not have been able to drive while you’re on pain medication, but at this point you likely can start driving.
Two weeks after a facelift
When you’ve reached the 2-week mark, you’re through the biggest part of your facelift recovery. At this point, you should be able to return to work as long as you have a job that is not physically strenuous. If you have a labor-intensive job, we may ask you to stay out of work for more time. Although you may still have some bruising and/or swelling, these should be more minimal. You likely can cover any bruising with makeup, if desired, and many patients go out in public without issue at this point in the facelift recovery process. Because your face is healing, and swelling is going down, you may feel sensations like tingling in your skin. This is a normal part of a facelift recovery, but remember if you’re ever worried about a symptom, please call us. At this point, you may go back to taking regular medication we had asked you to avoid – like aspirin or other blood thinners. (Remember this is a general recommendation, but each surgeon gives exact instructions about medication to each facelift patient.)
One month after a facelift
You’re almost through your recovery, and certainly through the hard part! After one month, you’ll be able to resume more of the activities we asked you to avoid – like moderate lifting and more strenuous exercise. You’ll want to pay attention to your body still, and make sure to progress at a careful pace. At this point you should be easily able to appear in public without using makeup to cover bruising, and most of the swelling should be gone. There may be certain areas where you still have isolated swelling, but this should be minimal. If you’re still feeling some tingling or tightness in your skin, this is generally nothing to be concerned about.
2+ months after a facelift
After a couple of months, you should be almost completely done with any side effects from your facelift. You should be enjoying your refreshed, youthful look, and should not have signs of incisions or bruising. You can do all the activities and exercise you were doing before your surgery.
What to do before your procedure to make facelift recovery easier
Preparation can make your facelift recovery period run more smoothly. Of course, the more help you have around the house the better. But even with help, some prep work leading up to your treatment day will pay off in the end. Here are 3 things you can do to prepare for the big day:
- Stock your freezer with ready-made meals that you just need to reheat. A great way to do this is to make double batches of meals in the few weeks before your surgery, so you can have plenty of nutritious, quick food to eat. The best food choices for recovery are those high in protein and low in sodium. Make sure to have plenty of healthy produce around, and a high-fiber diet will help with constipation which can be a common side-effect of some pain medications. Soft foods are easier to chew for the first week.
- Get clothing ready. You’ll want several days of clothing that is comfortable and easy to put on. Sweatshirts or shirts that open at the front are best, so you can avoid pulling clothing over your head until your incisions are healed more.
- Prep your resting-space. Where are you going to spend most of your time the first few days? You’ll want to make this choice ahead of time. A recliner is a great choice because we’ll ask you to keep your head well-elevated to reduce swelling during your recovery. You can also rest in bed, but make sure you have a good number of sturdy pillows that will allow your head to be well above your body. Make sure you have items you’ll need close by. We recommend:
- Phone charger
- Lots of water
- All medications & ointments
- Remote control for the TV
Ways to help incisions heal and scars appear less noticeable after a facelift
After your facelift we’ll give you detailed and personalized instructions on exactly how to treat your incisions, and what steps to take for the quickest and most successful recovery possible. Here are some general tips to promote healing after a facelift:
- Keep your head elevated, even when sleeping
- Take multivitamins
- Stay hydrated and eat enough protein
- Use all ointments we suggest
- Keep the incisions clean and dry
- Protect the incisions/scars from direct sunlight
Remember, we are experts at hiding facelift scars. For the majority of patients, the scars are placed so well that they are not a major concern. Even so, it’s a good idea to any steps you can take to help the scars heal quickly and efficiently.
Factors that can affect your facelift recovery time
Every facelift is different, and every recovery is different. So although we can give you a good idea of what most people experience during each phase of facelift recovery, there are many factors that can affect your own personal recovery. These factors include:
- The extent of your facelift
- The techniques used during your facelift
- Your overall health
- Age (younger skin has more elasticity and tends to heal faster on average)
- How well you stick to the post-op recovery suggestions
Signs you should contact your doctor during facelift recovery
We’ve discussed many after-effects of a facelift that are normal. These include discomfort, swelling, bruising, tightness, some blood coming from your drains, and tingling. Although many of the things you’ll experience are expected during facelift recovery, it’s important to stay vigilant and call your doctor right away if something seems wrong. Here are some reasons to call your doctor after a facelift:
- Substantial swelling, especially on one side of your face
- Severe pain or pain that increases after 2 days post-procedure
- Increased bleeding
- Pus-like discharge from the incisions
- Temperature of 100 degrees or higher
- Stitches or a drain tube that comes out
Most patients have a very normal facelift recovery, but we do want you to call us right away if you’re worried about something. We’re always happy to speak with you and help you understand a potential side effect of your facelift.
Non surgical facelift recovery
The phases of facelift recovery that we’ve discussed are for surgical facelifts. If you have a non-surgical facelift, however, the recovery is much quicker and easier – as you’d probably expect. While surgical facelifts have the ability to give the most significant results, non-surgical facelift also offer fantastic results for many people. And with much more minimal downtime, they are a popular options these days. Non surgical facelifts involve procedures like fillers, facial resurfacing or ultrasound treatments like Ultherapy. A combination of these types of treatments allows for non-invasive tightening, smoothing and contouring. In general, non surgical facelift recovery time is a few days. This is why some people like to have the procedures done on a Friday, so they can plan to go back to work on Monday.
A facelift can take years off your appearance and give you an incredible boost of confidence. Although surgical facelifts have a recovery time you’ll need to plan for, this phase is manageable and well worth the results. Contact our office with any questions we can answer for you about facelifts or the facelift recovery process.