Facelift Recovery: Tips + What To Expect

By Minas Constantinides, MD, FACS February 19, 2018 7 Comments

facelift recovery

Many of our patients have questions about the recovery process after undergoing a facelift procedure. It’s important to understand that the recovery experience can greatly vary from person to person, as the body’s unique recovery response and pain tolerance is unique to each individual.

Additionally, different facelift techniques vary in their level of invasiveness and the facial areas addressed.  While the length of time for recovery may differ, most facelift techniques are similar in terms of recovery milestones and restrictions. This article will give you a basic understanding of what to expect after your facelift procedure, along with some tips for improving your recovery process.

Facelift Recovery Milestones & Restrictions

1-3 Days Following Surgery: Depending on the facelift technique performed, you will awaken after surgery with a large wrap around their head and sometimes a drain. You may experience moderate pain which can be managed through pain medication.  Most patients rate their pain as a 6 to 8 out of 10 when pain peaks 48 hours after surgery. Bruising and swelling of the face and neck also peaks at 48 hours, so iced compresses to these areas are particularly important after the initial dressings are removed. Patients may be able to walk on a limited basis, but may need the assistance of a caregiver during the first day as surgery-related grogginess and weakness may persist. Most patients will see their surgeon by day 3 to have any drains removed and to insure that no hematoma is present. You are encouraged to rest in an upright position during the day and sleep on pillows so your head is elevated higher than their heart.

1 Week Following Surgery: Depending on the facelift technique performed you may be instructed to wear a compression garment for up to 14 days, with breaks during the day. Pain and swelling, while still persisting, are steadily declining. Many facelift patients will no longer require pain medications by this point. Stitches are removed. You may notice a feeling of tightness along your face and neck.

2 Weeks Following Surgery: Swelling and bruising of the face, neck and upper chest persist but have declined greatly. You may notice tingling, tightness, numbness, or burning around the ears and in the neck, all of which is normal. You will begin to feel much better towards the end of their second week and can begin to perform light activities. Some patients with more limited surgery can even start to exercise, staying aware to limit their exertion if they feel more swelling starting to occur. Mineral makeup can be worn, though most bruises may still be difficult to hide.

Weeks 3 & 4 Following Surgery: You will notice a significant decrease in swelling and an improvement in the appearance of your incisions. However, some swelling along with a feeling of tightness may remain. At the 4-week point you will feel comfortable attending social events as makeup will now effectively mask remaining bruising. Your physician may clear you for higher intensity exercise and to fly

Weeks 5 & 6 Following Surgery: Your physician may clear you for all normal activities, including vigorous exercises. Most patients will no longer exhibit swelling and bruising, to the point where people will not know you’ve had surgery. However, it is important to note that some minor swelling and changes in skin sensations may continue for up to a year after your procedure.

Tips for a speedy facelift recovery

  • Follow all care instructions provided by your surgeon and attend all post-op appointments.
  • Wear any wraps/bandages or compression garments provided by your surgeon.
  • If taking narcotics, do not take on an empty stomach (to prevent nausea) and only take enough to control your pain. Too much narcotic will cause nausea, constipation and sleepiness.
  • A cold compress can be used to counteract swelling in the first week (but stay away from warm/hot compresses until cleared by your surgeon).
  • Do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen or aspirin) until cleared by your surgeon.
  • Sleep with your head elevated.
  • Use Arnica pills and anti-bruising cream if cleared by your surgeon.
  • Get lots of sleep and rest. You’ve just had major surgery; allow your body a chance to recover.
  • Plan not to work at all, even from home, for two weeks. If you feel better sooner, then you may start to do some work from home, but its best to plan for complete time off in case you need it.
  • Eat light and healthy foods that are easy to chew.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Refrain from scratching your face (even if it itches). Most itches can be treated with oral antihistamines like Benadryl or Allegra.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise until you are fully healed.
  • Use scar creams on incisions once cleared by your surgeon.
  • Protect the surgical area and incisions with sunscreen. Reapply every few yours if outdoors.
  • Discuss any concerns you may have with your surgeon. Do not trust online advice without your surgeon’s input.

Minas Constantinides, MD, FACS

Dr. Minas Constantinides is a board-certified Facial Plastic Surgeon at Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in Austin, Texas. He is on the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) and is a Senior Advisor of the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS).


7 Responses to “Facelift Recovery: Tips + What To Expect”

  1. Liam says:

    Thanks for sharing this info, it is very helpful. I’m just starting my research on the procedure, no where near ready to sit down for an actual consultation. But if and when I decide to move forward I’ll reach out.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Liam, thanks for reading our post and commenting! Please let us know when you are ready to move forward, we would love to get you in for a free consultation!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  2. Joy says:

    Thanks for this post. I have a sister who is considering a facelift. I’m gonna forward this article to her and am sure she’ll be happy to read it!

  3. John says:

    That sounds important to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Maybe they interfere with healing. Always take the doctor’s advice, especially recommendations for rest.

  4. Gerty says:

    Thank you for mentioning that you will begin to feel more comfortable after the second week. My mom has been talking about getting a facelift, but is worried about the recovery. I think that this would really help to ease her worries, since she’ll know what to expect.

  5. Joy says:

    Great post! It really helped when you said that we should plan to not to work at all, even from home, for two weeks. I’ll make sure to file a vacation leave for at least 2 to 3 weeks to make sure that I can fully recover before going back to work.

  6. Danielle says:

    Thanks for the tips on recovering from a facelift procedure; they helped clear things up. I had no idea that you should be avoiding strenuous activities while recovering. I thought you would want to do things to work out the muscles in the face

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