Recovery time from a facelift (rhytidectomy) will vary depending on the individual, but as a general rule, for most people of good health, noticeable swelling will be reduced within the first 10 days after surgery. Typically, most of our patients are able to return to work after 2 weeks post op. However, a facelift is major plastic surgery and like any surgery, there is a lengthy recovery process.
Before your surgery you will be given very specific instructions on how to care for the surgical site, any medications to apply externally, or take orally, specific concerns to watch out for, and when to follow up with your aesthetic nurse or your surgeon.
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In these first 24 hours avoid any excessive activity, enjoy bed rest, and take it easy.
Depending on the type of facelift you’ve had, you may stay overnight in a hospital, or you may be recovering in a hotel room. Our office will ensure that a registered nurse is present in these first 24 hours to look after you and take care of any needs that you might have.
As you wake up from anesthesia your face may feel tight, swollen, and mildly tender. You may feel groggy and tired due to the effects of the general anesthesia. Ensure that you’re feeling warm and comfortable, ideally, your back propped up by pillows so you do not lie down flat. We recommend you sleep with your head elevated on two pillows for the first two weeks to help reduce excessive swelling.
Some individuals may experience residual nausea caused by the anesthesia, if that is the case please let your nurse know because there is medication you can take for this.
A light bandage may be placed around your face to minimize swelling and bruising, along with small drainage tubes to drain excess fluid. Most patients only experience mild pain due to steps we take before your surgery. You will be prescribed non-narcotic, or over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol to reduce pain and swelling and to promote faster recovery time with less discomfort.
If you are ready to go home, or to a hotel to rest, you will need to have someone to drive you, or alternatively, our office will organize someone to accompany you.
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After your first 24 hours you are encouraged to get out of bed move around slowly to get your circulation moving which will work to speed recovery and healing. Small trips to the bathroom or around the house are encouraged, but don’t overdo it. You will still be feeling quite fatigued. Ideal activities for this first week may be to watch TV sitting up in bed, reading quietly, or performing very light housework.
You may actually experience slightly more swelling and bruising in the next few days after surgery but this should peak at about three or four days, and will subside within the second week. As healing progresses, you may experience temporary facial bumps, bulges, mild asymmetries, along with feelings of tingling and numbness. This is a natural part of the healing process but if you have any concerns please ask your aesthetic nurse or surgeon during your follow up visit.
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You may also feel itching sensations in your incisions, this is a sign of healing and will subside if you follow provided post-operative care instructions.
Many patients may feel that this first week is the worst but not because of pain, but because how they look and feel. You may be feeling a bit of post-op ‘blues’ because you are indoors all the time and not partaking in your usual activities such as exercise and social activities. Also, looking at your swollen or bruised face in a mirror might be upsetting because you might feel it’s the opposite of what you were seeking. In this case, patience is a virtue and we remind you that the final results of your facelift will take at least 6-12 months to be evident.
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After about 2 weeks most of the swelling will have dissipated, but you may still have mild bruising and swelling around the eyes, behind the ears, or on the sides of the face and neck.
Your physical activity levels should remain light (light walking or light housework) and avoid any strenuous physical activity such as working out. You may feel like returning to work after the second week and you should be able to unless your job involves any physical exertion. You will be given information how to apply light, post op friendly makeup if you’re feeling self-conscious about any residual bruising.
Towards the end of the third week you should notice significant improvement in the quality of your facial skin and incisions, but you may still experience mild itching and numbness. Any bruising should be completely healed by this time, and any swelling quite minimal and barely noticeable.
At one month post op nearly all of your swelling or bruising should have dissipated and no one should be able to tell that you’ve “had work done”. Your incisions will be mostly healed however they may still appear pink in color, this is a natural part of the healing process and may take a few months for the color to fade. During this time it is important to stay out of direct sunlight and wear a sunscreen to protect your skin.
At this point, you should be able to resume all your normal activities, but please refrain from heavy exercise until the sixth week post op.
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The final outcome of your facelift will become fully evident over the next 12 months. Typically it takes this amount of time for your facelift to fully heal and “settle” into its final result. Over the coming months you may be able to see the subtle shifts as your facelift heals and rejuvenates your appearance.
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Recovery after Facelift Surgery
A face-lift is surgery to firm and tighten the skin of the face and neck to make you look younger. It may remove many wrinkles, but it does not change the texture of your skin.
You may have stitches or staples in your cut (incision). Your doctor will take these out in the first week. A bandage will cover the incision. You may have gauze wrapped around your head and neck. You also may have an elastic bandage around your chin and the top of your head. The bandage probably will be removed on the day after surgery.
You may have a drain in place to remove excess blood and fluid from your face and neck. If so, follow your doctor's instructions on how to care for the drain and how to write down how much fluid comes out.
Your face likely will be bruised and swollen. The swelling may get worse before it gets better, but it will probably go away in 1 to 2 weeks. After a few days you may get some bruises on your neck and chest. This is caused by gravity, which pulls the excess blood and bruising downward.
You will feel some pain for 2 to 4 days after surgery. You may have some trouble opening your mouth for several days. The skin around the incision probably will be numb. You may have some itching or shooting pain as the feeling returns. It may take several months for the numbness to go away.
Most people recover in 4 to 6 weeks. But it probably will take 3 to 4 months to see the final result from the surgery.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
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How can you care for yourself at home?
. Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
. Keep your head raised for several days after surgery. Sleep with your head up by using 2 or 3 pillows.
. Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk.
. You will probably need to take 1 to 2 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do, how you feel, and whether you want to return to work before you have completely healed.
. Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for about 3 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
. Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
. Follow your doctor's directions about showering. You may be able to shower 1 or 2 days after surgery.
. Use a baby toothbrush to brush your teeth if you have trouble opening your mouth.
. For men: Be very careful shaving after a face-lift, because you will not be able to feel the blade on your skin. It may help to switch to an electric razor for a few months, until feeling returns to the skin on your face and neck.
. Eat soft foods for the first few days after surgery. Try soup, juice, pudding, yogurt, applesauce, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes.
. You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.
. Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
. If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
. If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
. If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
. If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
. Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
. Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
. Incision care
. If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
. When your doctor tells you that it is okay, you may wash the incision with soap and water and gently dry the area. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
. Do not put lotions or ointments on your incisions unless your doctor tells you to do so.
. Other instructions
. Put ice or a cold pack on your face for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 2 or 3 days after surgery (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
Call your doctor or nurse or seek immediate medical care if:
. You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
. You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
. You are bleeding from the incision.
. You have signs of infection, such as:
. Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
. Red streaks leading from the incision.
. Pus draining from the incision.
. A fever.
. You have signs of a blood clot in your leg, such as:
. Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
. Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.