Eyelid Surgery Recovery: Tips + What To Expect
Originally published February 5, 2018. Updated October 22, 2021 with additional information.
Eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) is an outpatient surgical procedure with most patients experiencing a relatively short and simple downtime.
However, it is important to realize that the process of recovering from blepharoplasty can vary from patient to patient. There are several factors that can affect recovery including the patient’s pain tolerance, their general health, their body’s natural recovery response, and the surgical technique performed (i.e. a patient who undergoes both upper and lower blepharoplasty may have a longer recovery period compared to patient who only undergoes lower blepharoplasty).
This post will seek to provide a basic understanding of the average blepharoplasty recovery timeline, as well as some tips to make your recovery faster and easier.
What To Expect Immediately After Your Procedure
Immediately after your eyelid surgery, you’ll wake up with blurry vision. This is nothing to be alarmed about. It’s the result of the thick ophthalmic ointment which keeps your eyelids free from infection and dryness. You’ll need to reapply this ointment four times each day for at least one week after your surgery.
Your doctor will keep you in the procedure room until it’s assured you are stable. After surgery, temporary side effects may include the following:
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Double vision
- Watery eyes
- Numbness around the eyes
- Puffy or swollen eyelids
- Bruising, similar to a black eye
In addition, if your surgery was performed with general anesthesia, you may feel some nausea or dizziness. Plan for a friend or trusted helper to drive you home and stay with you during the first day of recovery.
The 3 Basic Stages of Eyelid Surgery Recovery
Your eyelid surgery recovery can be broken down into 3 stages; bruising, swelling and the healing of your incisions as follows:
Bruising: After eyelid surgery you may feel like you have two black eyes. This is a normal side-effect. Upper eyelid bruising will decrease within 1-2 weeks, while bruises on the lower eyelids may take 2-4 weeks to heal.
Swelling: Fluid retention and puffiness around the eyes is also normal after surgery, and often takes longer to subside than bruising or discoloration. In some cases, swelling lasts for upwards of 8 weeks. After the first week of recovery, there’s no medical reason to stay home from work or out of the public eye, but if swelling makes you self-conscious, you may want to plan for longer downtime.
Incisions: Scars are unavoidable after surgery, and eyelid surgery is no exception. It may take your scars a full year or more before reaching their maximum improvement and lowest visibility. Following all provided incision care instructions, maintaining proper hydration and staying out of the sun will help reduce the appearance of scars. Fortunately, scarring is minimal with eyelid surgery recovery. Scars on the lower eyelid are hidden by lashes, while scars on the upper eyelid hide neatly in the natural folds of the skin.
Recovery Milestones & Restrictions
2-3 days following surgery: Some patients may experience nausea or grogginess from the anesthesia utilized during the procedure. Nausea can be minimized with medication if the patient has a history of this type of reaction. The eyes may feel tight, hot, or tender during this period. Patients may also experience mild pain and discomfort which can be managed using prescribed medication. Many patients may experience blurred vision and minor sight impairments. Depending on the procedure performed, gauze or protective bandages may need to be worn over the eyes. Patients may also begin to experience itching sensations at the incision sites. This is a normal part of the healing process which may last for a couple of weeks. Patients should avoid rubbing or itching the eyelids until they are fully healed.
1 week following surgery: Patients may have experienced continued bruising and swelling, however pain and discomfort should be minimal. While sight becomes clearer, patients are still advised to try and avoid activities that dry out the eyes like extended reading or television watching. Stitches are typically removed by your surgeon or are fully dissolved by the end of this period.
10 days after surgery: At this point most patients are able to return to work and normal daily activities like extended reading or TV watching. However strenuous activities should continue to be avoided. Both vision blurring and pain is minimal, however some light bruising and swelling may remain.
2-3 weeks following surgery: Swelling and bruising around the eyes begins to fade away. Most patients can begin wearing eye makeup and contact lenses. Patients can participate in more strenuous exercises and activities (except for contact sports). Some individuals may continue to experience fatigue and notice that their eyes tire easily.
4-6 weeks following surgery: Patients begin to see the final results of their procedure as most or all swelling and bruising dissipates. Most patients are fully recovered and all restrictions are lifted.
Video: My Eyelid Surgery Recovery
Tips for a Speedy Blepharoplasty Recovery
Take Time Off
Give yourself at least one week of time off from work, school or other public duties. This time is not only important for your healing, but may be important for reducing embarrassment or stress.
Enlist a friend or family member to drive you home the day of your procedure and help you with daily tasks during the first 1-3 days of your recovery. Stock your home with food and other necessities to avoid the need to run errands.
Follow Incision Care Instructions
Your doctor will send you home with incision care instructions. Following this closely will speed your recovery and minimize scarring.
Typically, you’ll be asked to clean the area twice daily with a cotton swab soaked in saline solution of hydrogen peroxide. Afterwards, you’ll reapply your ophthalmic ointment.
Help Reduce Swelling & Bruising
Regularly applying a cold compress helps reduce swelling and bruising, and is especially important during the first week of recovery. An ice-pack wrapped in a towel can be applied for up to 20 minutes at a time every hour.
Mindfully Manage Pain
Your doctor may send you home with medications to help manage your pain. Avoid taking ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin or naproxen sodium (Aleve), which can all increase bleeding. Instead, ask your doctor about using acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain.
Avoid Strenuous Activity
Prioritize rest during your first 2 weeks of recovery. Get plenty of sleep and avoid all strenuous activity. Exercising, lifting heavy items or too much movement can increase blood flow and cause bleeding. Even yoga, which seems gentle, should be avoided, especially inversions.
Practice Good Eye Care
During the first two weeks following surgery take steps to rest and protect your eyes including the following:
- Avoid rubbing your eyes
- Avoiding straining your eyes by limiting screen-time and reading
- Use prescribed eye drops to prevent eyes from drying
- Sleep with your head elevated above your chest to reduce swelling
- Avoid wearing makeup around the eyes while your incisions are healing
- Wear glasses instead of contact lenses for at least the first 2 weeks
- When outside, wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes from the sun
Face Washing During Recovery
Keeping your incisions clean prevents infection and minimizes scarring. The following timeline can help you plan for at-home self-care.
- 1-2 days after surgery: Keep your eyes dry. Baths are recommended over showers and if you must wash your hair, do so in the sink.
- Day 3-7: Begin gently washing your eyes with water and mild, fragrance-free soap. Pat lightly with a towel to dry. Avoid picking at scabs, allow them to fall off as they’re ready to.
- Day 7: You’ll return to your doctor to have your stitches removed. After this, you may resume your regular washing routine.
- Day 14: Most patients are cleared to wear makeup again as long as all incisions are fully healed.
Surgeons will typically provide comprehensive incision care instructions that should be followed until the incisions are fully healed. Common instructions include:
- Avoiding rubbing of the eyes
- Refraining from submerging the incision area under water
- Cleaning the incision site twice daily by dapping the area with a cotton swab soaked in either a saline solution or hydrogen peroxide.
- Applying a prescription ointment over the incision or stitches to aid in healing
- Using a cold compress to reduce swelling and bruising in the area
- Avoiding makeup until the incision is fully healed
- Wearing glasses instead of contact lenses for two weeks following surgery
- Shielding the incision area from UV exposure to minimize scarring
Most surgeons may require several follow-up appointments times during the first week after surgery to monitor the incisions. During these appointments, the surgeon will check all incision sites and remove any stitches if required.
As with any surgical procedure scarring is possible. Fortunately, eyelid surgery yields some of the least notable scars of any plastic surgery procedure. One reason is incision size, most eyelid surgery techniques require very small incisions (a couple of millimeters in length). Another reason is that the eyelids feature several natural creases that will allow a skilled surgeon to place their incisions in a manner where they will be minimally visible. Lower eyelid scarring can be hidden by the lashes while upper eyelid scars can be disguised by preexisting creases of the skin.
Additional Eyelid Surgery Recovery Resources
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- RealSelf.com Eyelid Surgery Recovery Forum
- Eyelid Surgery Recovery Recommended Shopping List
- The Aesthetic Society
- Great Blog Post On Recovery by Jade Capri