Facelift Recovery: Tips + What To Expect

Written by Minas Constantinides, MD, FACS, Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon on February 19, 2018 21 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).

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

  1. Avatar 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!

      WD Staff

  2. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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

  7. Avatar Taylor says:

    Thanks for these recovery tips for a facelift. It’s good to know that you can start doing light activities near the end of the second week. It sounds important to make sure you take it easy until then, especially to get the best results of a facelift.

  8. Avatar Sarah says:

    So I’ll be able to exercise as soon as 2 weeks following a facelift?. I love to exercise, so I would probably keep any facial surgeries to a minimum so it wouldn’t affect my routine too much.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Sarah, thanks for reading our post and submitting your excellent question! Most patients will be cleared to fully exorcise within 3-4 weeks following the procedure. However, that differs from individual to individual based on a number of factors (like their body’s healing process and the specific facelift technique performed). We’d advise you to get a more specific estimate from your surgeon before undersign the procedure.

      Hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  9. Avatar Bram says:

    I would be really happy to make it to that 6-week mark. Regular activity is a big part of my life! Thanks for explaining some of the recovery timeline to us, I think my brother will really appreciate knowing this kind of thing in advance.

  10. Avatar Kit says:

    I’m glad that you mentioned how sleeping with your head elevated will help you recover from a facelift surgery. I can back that claim up the hard way. After my lift I started off sleeping flat until my surgeon tore into me about elevating my head. As soon as I started doing that the swelling and bruising started to vanish!!!

  11. Avatar ELIZABETH says:

    Hi, I am pleased to say that I had a full face lift almost a month ago and am very pleased that I did. I thought I’d do some searching on recovery tips and information and came across your website. Do I still use cold packs for the bruising and swelling or switch to hot? Also do I continue to sleep elevated although the doctor said it was okay to sleep straight on my back, but as I noticed my recovery was slower than other patients that had it done with me, I went back to elevation. Also how long is it safe to take Anti-inflammatory tablets after surgery? I’d really appreciate a response. Also it happened in my earlier days when I opened my mouth to eat and as it was very tight to do so and chew my food, I heard a snap in my jaw and mentioned it to the nurse and she said it was an internal stitch that tore but it was okay as they dissolve internally, now some time later I yawned and heard that same click, was it another stitch snapping? If so, how long can this go on for? Thanking for reading my questions and hope for a reply.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great comment. We’re glad to hear that thus far your are pleased with your procedure!

      As always, we recommend following up with your surgeon regarding many of the questions you’ve asked, as there could be differences in what they recommend based on your individual characteristics and the surgical technique used. Especially regarding that popping sound and anti-inflammatory question, we would recommend contacting your surgeon regarding those issues as soon as possible.

      In terms of hot/cold packs, we usually recommend our patients stick with cold compresses but apply them intermittently as needed. Even though the doctor cleared you to sleep on your back, it may be a good idea to sleep elevated. It does work to help with the recovery.

      I hope that we were able to help a little. However, we recommend contacting your surgeon to see if there are any specific guidance given the specifics of your surgery.

      WD Staff

  12. Avatar Dr. Bolitho says:

    Great post on facelift recovery, I am sharing this on our practice twitter. I want to thank the author for giving these useful tips on facelift recovery.

  13. Avatar Dr. Beran says:

    Please…..please…..please follow the guidelines set by your doctor. Thanks for sharing these tips

  14. Avatar Levi says:

    It’s great to know that it would take around five to six weeks to do normal activities and eliminate all the swelling and bruising after facelift surgery. I’m planning to schedule a facelift surgery with a reputable cosmetic surgeon because I want to get rid of my wrinkles and saggy skin. However, I’m still apprehensive about the surgery, so I’ll try to check if there’s a non-invasive type of facelift for me. Thanks for this!

  15. Avatar Dr. Yarish says:

    It is important that you have realistic expectations. A facelift cannot stop the aging process, but it can help to reverse some of the signs of aging, and there are things you can do after the surgery to help maintain and complement the results of the facelift. The goal is to have a refreshed, less tired appearance.

  16. Avatar Mary says:

    Great information, thank you. As a sometimes babysitter for my grandchildren, (am 70 years old) how long after a deep plane facelift until I can pick up my grandchild? Weighs between 25-30 lbs and very wiggly. Am also concerned about climbing up and down the stairs to bedroom as well for their naptimes Don’t have to pick up the four year old, but babysitting as a senior is very tiring. Ty for much for your reply.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the great question. I passed it by Dr. Constantinides and here is his response:

      Generally patients may resume full exercise by 3 weeks. Stairs are fine any time. Lifting a 30-pound child? Probably 2-3 weeks. You will also feel like your energy level is not back to normal for 2-3 weeks. Remember the only problem with lifting is that it may create a bit more swelling, so it may delay your recovery but will not affect your final result.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  17. Avatar Dr. Beran says:

    Great post, I can corroborate these tips will definitely help towards a speedy recovery. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply