How To Recover From Plastic Surgery In Comfort And Style

From private nurses to meal plans, make sure your plan is anything but basic.
Written by Elise Minton Tabin
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How To Recover From Plastic Surgery In Comfort And StyleYuliya Loginova/Shutterstock

Recovering from any cosmetic procedure is no easy feat, but there are ways to make the process a little more palatable. From the most luxurious recovery centers from coast to coast to measures to take to make yourself feel good and even must-have post-op kits, this is the ultimate guide to recover from any cosmetic surgery procedure in comfort and style.

The Importance of a Successful Recovery

First and foremost, choosing a board certified plastic surgeon who is an expert in their field is key to obtaining a great outcome. But just as important as who’s wielding the scalpel is how you approach the post-op care and recovery process. “A great surgery with a poor recovery never leads to a great outcome,” says Gregory Buford, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Lone Tree, CO. “What happens in the OR and outside of it create the overall surgical result.”

There is a reason why recovery is referred to as a process. Recovering from cosmetic surgery isn’t a walk in the park, which is why a predetermined plan should be top of mind. “The key elements to recovery after plastic surgery are not intuitive,” says Kelly Greytok, RN, a plastic surgery recovery nurse. “A strategy of going home, climbing into bed, and staying there is what you don’t want to do.” Instead, the post-surgery recovery and healing process requires the body to be supported with quality nutrition, adequate rest (check out our guide to sleeping better after surgery), low levels of stress, light pampering, and some necessary topical and healing products. “Little walks and deep breathing are also essential,” she adds.

To prevent issues as you heal, follow your surgeon’s post-op protocol to a T. Complying with instructions, such as wearing compression garments after tummy tuck or liposuction, taking antibiotics (as prescribed) to prevent infection, and managing discomfort with pain medications, is the best way to ensure a smooth recovery. If anything is out of the ordinary, communication with your surgeon is imperative because early intervention can prevent long-term complications, says John Burns, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Dallas, TX.

The first 72 hours after surgery are most critical, since the body is in its most fragile state and in the most intense stages of healing. During this period, it’s crucial to get ample amounts of rest in a comfortable environment. Stress and stressful situations are uninvited and can release unnecessary amounts of the hormone cortisol, which can cause additional inflammation. Plus, no one wants or needs to be stressed after an operation.

To aid in the initial recovery, some doctors recommend add-on treatments like IV therapies, hyperbaric oxygen chamber sessions, and/or lymphatic drainage massages (plan to budget for these separately, as most surgeons do not include them in the price of the surgery). Greytok is a big advocate of lymphatic drainage massages and always recommends doing them if your surgeon approves. “Not only do they feel wonderful, but the benefits are also measurable,” she says. Just remember that a lymphatic drainage therapist is specialized and different from a regular massage therapist, so seek out a specialist well versed in the technique and not a regular masseuse at a spa.

Should You Splurge for a Private Nurse?

While some may look at a private nurse as an added, unnecessary expense — let’s face it, plastic surgery is expensive enough as it is — there are plenty of patients who heal drastically better with a helping hand. “If you have small children, health conditions that might delay healing, or if you simply are looking for extra and experienced support after your procedure, then hiring a nurse is a wonderful idea,” Dr. Buford confirms.

Certain surgeries, like a facelift or extensive bodywork, demand the aid of a recovery nurse. These procedures are some of the more invasive ones, and it’s not realistic or safe to think that you are going to be up and running right away. “In these cases, you want to rest and should let an expert handle everything,” Greytok says. “My patients hire me because they are spending a significant amount of time and money and want an expert guiding their recovery throughout the most critical days after surgery.”

To remove the burden from the patient, Greytok (and other nurses) take care of everything and anything, including:

  • Managing and changing dressings and drains
  • Monitoring of diet
  • Massage (as instructed)
  • Medication management and disbursement
  • Transportation home from surgery and to post-op appointments
  • All other post-surgical needs

There's also a sense of calm going into surgery when you know that you're in good hands on the other side. “A lot of people enjoy the benefits of having an expert manage their discomfort, swelling, nutrition, dressings, and drains after surgery,” Greytok shares.

The Best Recovery Centers

If you choose to go the route of recovering in a facility rather than at home, you might as well indulge in the very best. Some plastic surgeons, like Dr. Burns, recommend healing and recovery centers to patients over 60 and those who undergo longer or more involved procedures (think: tummy tucks with liposuction, facelifts, mommy makeovers, and body contouring surgeries). “A facility also offers nursing care for help with ambulation and dressing changes, monitoring with vital signs, prevention of DVT with sequential compression devices, and atelectasis with incentive spirometry,” he adds. Plus, there's less stress on the patient and little worry since a provider is by your side to aid in every aspect possible.

These are the most luxurious ones from coast to coast:

Serenity Post-Surgical Recovery Center

  • Location: Santa Monica, CA
  • The Skinny: Arrange for a private driver to pick you up from your surgeon’s operating facility and transport you to the hotel-like Serenity Post-Surgical Recovery Center. In addition to a private room, guests like to take advantage of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as well as more pampering services like manicures and pedicures.

Pearl Recovery Retreat

  • Location: Beverly Hills, CA
  • The Skinny: Everything — from the concierge service and the luxury cars that whisk you to and from your surgeon’s office to the Sferra-appointed sheets on king-size beds, recovery juice cleanses, IV vitamin drips, and even the views of Los Angeles — is top-notch at Pearl Recovery Retreat. Located in a wing within the Maybourne Hotel, the post-op care center caters to your every whim for an easy recovery. You can even bring your furry friends for additional comfort as you recuperate in the epitome of luxury and world-class service.

Majestic Recovery

  • Location: Westwood & Beverly Hills, CA
  • The Skinny: Located within the Hotel Angeleno, Majestic Recovery is the facility of choice for some of Hollywood’s most-recognized surgeons. Tranquility and a worry-free experience are of the utmost importance, and patients experience specially curated dishes, full-service private nursing care, hyperbaric treatments, and transportation services.

Cloisters Postoperative Recovery Facility

  • Location: Dallas, TX
  • The Skinny: Texas’ most in-demand surgeons recommend Cloisters Postoperative Recovery Facility, an onsite overnight care facility that is the epitome of recovering in style. Discerning and ultra-private (there are only four rooms and each is outfitted with a hospital bed and a regular bed to accommodate guests), the facility is next to the Dallas Day Surgery Center, which is home to some of the most renowned surgeons in the industry. In addition, nursing care is available 24 hours per day to make the recovery process more manageable. There are also post-surgery care packages available through EpiCentre, the sister skincare and laser center.

The Pierre Hotel

  • Location: New York City
  • The Skinny: While not technically a recovery center, the tony Pierre Hotel offers a recovery program that will suit your every whim. From a private escort upon check-in to a specially designed post-op recovery menu, there’s not a single beat that this one misses, including the most magnificent views of Central Park. Opt for the ADA Deluxe Room replete with marble bathrooms, a shower bath seat to make bathing easier and more accessible, ultra-plush towels, and even Etro toiletries.

The Mandarin Oriental Miami

  • Location: Brickell Key, Miami
  • The Skinny: Heading down south for a BBL? Then you'll want to set up shop at the ultra-glamorous Mandarin Oriental, which offers sweeping views of Biscayne Bay, in-room healing treatments, and a house doctor that's on-call all hours of the day. Many of Miami's most reputable surgeons send their patients here to recover on the down-low.

Emeraude Wellness Center

  • Location: Washington, D.C. & New York City
  • The Skinny: Each Emeraude Wellness Center location lives within a luxury hotel — the New York locations are inside The Carlyle, Ritz Carlton Central Park, and Edition, while the Washington, D.C. outposts are at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown and the Rosewood. Personalized service greets every patient throughout their stay, including professional nursing care, luxurious amenities, twice-daily maid service, and in-room manicures and pedicures (upon request).

The Ultimate Post-Surgery Recovery Kit

Whether you choose to set up shop in a posh suite, enlist the services of a private nurse, or recover at home with the help of family and friends, it's essential to stock up on all the post-surgery recovery essentials well in advance. From delivery diets to special pillows and everything in between, these are the must-haves you'll want to ‘add to cart’ so that you're ready to recover in style.

1. Diet & Nutrition

Proper nutrition is vital in post-surgical recovery. “In my practice, we focus on surgical nutrition as a means for achieving optimal nutrition,” Dr. Buford says, adding that many of his patients go through nutritional screening before surgery to determine their ‘nutritional fitness.’ “In addition, every single one of my patients is given MEND Cosmetic, a highly purified protein supplement that leading physicians designed for their patients,” he explains. “I believe that this step makes a big difference in the way in which my patients heal, so I am a vocal advocate for this within my practice.”

Greytok, who provides shopping lists to fuel her patients' recovery, says supporting the body's natural ability to repair and heal with the right foods will help achieve a great result because it keeps the body's resources optimal throughout the healing phases. A healthy recovery diet should consist of lean proteins, antioxidants, and fatty acids to aid in wound healing and reduce inflammation.

One of her post-op essentials? “I bring my patients' homemade organic soup — the perfect food to have on hand after plastic surgery — so they have something nutritious and comforting right when I get them home after surgery,” she says. Just remember to keep the pieces small and soft if you are having surgery above the neck.

You are not going to be in any state to cook in the days following your surgery, so meal prep is essential. Some patients choose to hire a private chef, while others opt for delivery diets — like Sakara, Eat Sunny, and Sun Basket's Fresh & Ready — where there's zero prepping or cooking on your part.

These menus are usually low in salt and processed foods yet high in protein. “It's an effective way for patients to pamper themselves during the healing period, and there's a lot of value in meal prepping,” says Dr. Buford. Learn more in our complete guide to pre- and post-op meal plans.

2. Supplements & Self-Care

Nearly every type of plastic surgery requires the use of particular products and supplements to help mitigate inevitable bruising and swelling. Whereas some plastic surgeons recommend following a pre-treatment protocol of arnica in the days leading up to surgery to help reduce the severity of bruising, others instruct using the supplement strictly following a procedure.

The Dr. Barrett Breast Augmentation Recovery Optimization Kit for breast surgery patients contains the essentials to make recovery that much easier, like arnica, CBD, magnesium supplements, and more. So does the Recovery Box Shop Breast Post Procedure Kit, which comes with a variety of recovery supplements plus a post-op bra, scar cream, and arnica. Vitamedica, a doctor-loved line, offers a Ultimate Surgery Recovery Bundle replete with arnica and bromelain supplements and creams to assist in new cell and tissue growth and energy support.

Newer to the post-op compression game? “Something also gaining popularity is purchasing sequential compression devices (leg and foot massagers) for circulation,” Greytok says. “This not only feels good but is a smart move to prevent blood clots.”

On the self-care side of things, Greytok recommends getting an essential oil diffuser (like the Vitruvi Stone Diffuser) with lavender or peppermint oil. It induces a state of calm, and it also is incredibly helpful to avoid after-surgery nausea.

3. Compression & Cushions

Body contouring procedures like liposuction, tummy tucks, and Brazilian butt lifts all necessitate the use of a compression garment. Even breast procedures involve special post-op surgical bras. After surgery, you'll wake up in one but will need to continually swap them out for newer versions as the body begins to take its new shape and additional compression is required. Of course, comfort is key, especially since compression garments fit tight and can be uncomfortable.

Some of the best ones to pre-purchase for your recovery kit are Design Veronique, Marena, and Fajas. The Brobe, meanwhile, is a bra and robe combination perfect for breast surgeries and tummy tucks since the robe and bra have internal pockets to hold drains, tubes, and ice packs. Check out our overview of the best compression garments by procedure.

Unbeknownst to many, a wedge pillow is one of the best pre-surgery purchases to make if you are looking to make your recovery more comfortable. Greytok has all of her patients buy one that has a complementary smaller wedge for under the knees. “This ensures stable, elevated sleeping and makes it easier to get comfortable in bed,” she says. But it’s not just about cushions (though you can check out our complete guide to post-op pillows). She also has clients who have purchased adjustable beds and recliners for their recovery, too.

4. Scar Care

Once your surgeon gives you the green light to begin using scar strips, don't hesitate for even a second. Silicone-based scar strips are a godsend — especially for body procedures — since the active ingredient allows the ensuing scar to lay down collagen just right so that it heals flatter. Gels and sheets are equally effective (it comes down to personal preference), but it's best to stock up on products specific to your procedure. We like the RejuvaSkin Scar Heal Kit for Breast Procedures and Silagen Silicone Sheets, which can be cut to size. Gels, like Biocorneum and SkinCeuticals Advanced Scar Control, work for all procedures and for all areas of the face and body.

5. Skincare

Lasers, like CO2 and erbium YAG (they’re sometimes done with facial surgeries), require serious downtime as the skin regenerates and heals. In addition to total sun avoidance, it’s ideal to use post-laser-appropriate products that encourage healthy healing while keeping the skin adequately hydrated. Kits, like iS Clinical Post-Procedure Kit System, contain all the essentials (think: barrier-boosting creams and gentle cleansers). Sunscreen is also essential, and it’s best to use medical-grade blockers that are safe for compromised skin, like Alastin SilkSHIELD All Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 or EltaMD UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF 41.

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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ELISE MINTON TABINis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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