How Long Does It Really Take To Recover From Cosmetic Surgery?

We live in a world of instant gratification. But, when it comes to recovering from a plastic surgery procedure, patience is key. The AEDITION breaks down the healing process of some of the most popular cosmetic procedures.
Aesthetics
Written by AEDIT Beauty Board
02.24.2020
How Long Does It Really Take To Recover From Cosmetic Surgery? LightField Studios/Shutterstock

We live in a culture driven by instant gratification. But, when it comes to recovering from a cosmetic or plastic surgery procedure, patience is a virtue. From the immediate downtime to the larger recovery process that can span weeks or months, the path to realizing the final results of your treatment can be a lengthy one. Recovery time encompasses everything from when you get drains, sutures, or splints removed to how long it takes for incision site marks to fade.

Speaking of scars, plastic surgeons are experts at closing wounds and most cosmetic and plastic surgery incisions are made to be as discreet as possible. Even so, incision sites take time to heal, and patients can expect those marks to fade over the course of a year. In that 12-month period, the scar will contract, remodel, and fade. If a patient is unhappy with the appearance of the incision mark at that point, a scar revision procedure might be an option. To ensure optimal healing, patients should apply sunscreen to their scars daily (rain or shine!). Topical vitamin E and scar gels may provide additional relief, but nothing replaces sunscreen.

While every patient and surgical procedure is different, there are some general timelines you can expect your cosmetic surgery recovery to follow. Here, The AEDITION breaks down the healing process of some of the most popular cosmetic procedures.

For Face

Whether you are interested in a cosmetic procedure or plastic surgery, surgical facial procedures like rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, and facelifts take anywhere from six to 12 months for full results to be realized.

Blepharoplasty (a.k.a. Eyelid Surgery)

Blepharoplasty is a surgical procedure that improves the appearance of the eyelids by removing excess skin or fat deposits. Both upper and lower eyelid surgeries are available, and they may be classified as either a plastic and reconstructive procedure or aesthetic surgery depending on the reason for the procedure.

  • Bruising & Swelling: Subsides 7 to 10 days post-op
  • Return to Work: 1 week post-op (eyes may be tired or more prone to strain)
  • Resume Normal Activity: 4 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 3 to 6 months post-op

Browplasty (a.k.a. Brow Lift)

Known as a browplasty, brow lift, or forehead lift, the surgery involves raising the eyebrows to a more youthful position to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, and hooded eyelids.

  • Remove Sutures: 7 to 10 days post-op
  • Return to Work: 7 to 10 days post-op
  • Bruising & Swelling: Subsides 10 to 14 days post-op
  • Resume Normal Activity: 2 to 4 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 3 to 6 months post-op

Rhinoplasty (a.k.a. Nose Job)

Nose jobs can be 'functional' (i.e. medically necessary) or 'cosmetic' (read: elective), but both types of rhinoplasty procedures require patients to be patient during the healing process.

  • Bruising & Swelling: Subsides 10 to 14 days post-op; residual swelling for up to one year
  • Remove Splint: 5 to 7 days post-op
  • Return to Work: 1 week post-op
  • Resume Normal Activity: 3 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 1 year post-op

Rhytidectomy (a.k.a. Facelift)

The gold standard of facial rejuvenation, a facelift surgery has the ability to treat facial sagging and volume loss by lifting and firming the face.

  • Bruising & Swelling: Peaks 48 hours post-op; subsides over 10 to 14 days
  • Resume Wearing Makeup: 1 week post-op
  • Remove Sutures: 7 to 10 days post-op
  • Return to Work: 7 to 10 days post-op
  • Resume Normal Activity: 2 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 3 to 6 months post-op

Lower Rhytidectomy (a.k.a. Neck Lift)

During a neck lift procedure, incisions are made along the hairline and ear to remove excess skin and fat. A lower rhytidectomy yields a more defined neck and jawline, in addition to removing jowls.

  • Remove Drains: 2 days post-op
  • Remove Sutures: 5 to 10 days post-op
  • Bruising & Swelling: Subsides within 10 to 14 days; residual swelling for 3 months
  • Resume Normal Activity: 2 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 6 months post-op

For Hair

Despite the advent of non-surgical hair restoration treatments, surgical hair transplants remain the go-to for patients looking to correct baldness and hair thinning. While initial results will be seen in the first four to five months, 12 to 18 months may be needed for full recovery.

Hair Transplants

The two main types of surgical hair transplants are the follicular unit extraction (FUE) technique and the follicular unit transplant (FUT) method. The former involves transplanting individual hair follicles, while the latter extracts a strip of hair. Both types of procedures have a similar recovery period.

  • Swelling & Tenderness: Subsides 5 to 7 days post-op
  • Resume Wearing Hat: 10 to 14 days post-op
  • Transplanted Hair Sheds: 2 to 3 weeks post-op
  • Initial Results: 4 to 5 months post-op
  • Final Results: 12 to 18 months post-op

For Body

From breast surgery (think: augmentation, reduction, and lift) to tummy tucks, there are an array of surgical body contouring procedures that, after the initial downtime and recovery process, provide long lasting results.

Abdominoplasty (a.k.a. Tummy Tuck)

Whether it's performed alone or as part of a larger mommy makeover, body lift, or post-weight loss procedure, a tummy tuck removes excess skin and excess fat, in addition to restoring muscle definition, for a more contoured abdomen.

  • Remove Drains: 1 week post-op
  • Return to Work: 2 to 4 weeks post-op
  • Resume Normal Activity: 2 to 4 weeks post-op
  • Wear Compression Garments: 6 to 8 weeks post-op
  • Bruising & Swelling: Subsides 2 to 3 months post-op; residual swelling for up to 18 months
  • Final Results: 4 to 6 months post-op

Augmentation Mammaplasty (a.k.a. Breast Augmentation)

Breast augmentation can involve breast implants, autologous fat transfers, or a hybrid of the two. In the case of implant and hybrid procedures, a secondary surgery will be needed to replace the implants after eight to 10 years. Patients who choose an autologous fat transfer can expect to lose 30 to 40 percent of the volume to reabsorption. Nonetheless, patients can expect similar recovery times for each type.

  • Return to Work: 3 to 5 days post-op
  • Bruising & Swelling: Peaks at 24 to 48 hours post-op; subsides over 2 to 3 months
  • Resume Exercise: 3 to 6 weeks post-op
  • Resume Wearing Underwire Bra: 4 to 6 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 3 to 6 months post-op

Brazilian Butt Lift

Like an breast augmentation with fat transfer, a butt lift involves transferring fat from one part of the body to the buttocks for improved shape and contour. Generally speaking, 60 to 80 percent of fat transfer typically survives.

  • Return to Work: 10 to 14 days post-op
  • Resume Sitting & Laying on Buttocks: 2 weeks post-op
  • Resume Normal Activity: 8 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 6 months post-op

Liposuction

Liposuction is typically performed as part of a larger surgery (think: a tummy tuck) or to complement another procedure. Regardless of the purpose, it results in permanent fat loss.

  • Return to Work: 1 to 3 days post-op
  • Resume Normal Activity: 1 week post-op
  • Bruising & Swelling: Peaks 1 week post-op; subsides over 4 to 6 weeks
  • Wear Compression Garments: 4 to 6 weeks post-op
  • Initial Results: 3 to 6 months post-op
  • Final Results: 1 year post-op

Mastopexy (a.k.a. Breast Lift)

A breast lift surgery improves the projection and shape of the breast by removing excess skin and tightening the surrounding tissue.

  • Return to Work: 1 week post-op
  • Bruising & Swelling: Peaks at 72 hours and subsides over 6 to 8 weeks
  • Resume Exercise: 3 to 6 weeks post-op
  • Resume Wearing Underwire Bra: 6 to 8 weeks post-op
  • Final Results: 4 to 6 months post-op

Reduction Mammaplasty (a.k.a. Breast Reduction)

To alleviate any pain or discomfort caused by large breasts, a breast reduction permanently removes excess skin and fat.

  • Back & Shoulder Pain: Immediate Relief
  • Return to Work: 1 week post-op
  • Resume Exercise: 3 to 4 weeks post-op
  • Shop for New Bras: 2 to 3 months post-op
  • Final Results: 6 to 12 months post-op

The Takeaway

Because no two patients or procedures are the same, recovering from cosmetic surgery is a very personal experience. Consulting with a board certified plastic surgeon will provide further clarity on what you can expect during the healing process, so you can ensure the best results.

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