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Let’s quickly overview the basics of blepharoplasty before we deep dive the recovery. Blepharoplasty is an umbrella term for any plastic surgery procedure to change the appearance and positioning of the upper and/or lower eyelid. Excess skin and excess fat can be removed and eyelid skin generally repositioned. There are several different approaches to a blepharoplasty procedure depending on the unique needs of each individual candidate. Some of the procedures are more involved than others, but all generally involve a few weeks of recovery.
Upper eyelid procedures include Asian blepharoplasty with an open incisional or partial incisional approach and upper eyelid blepharoplasty. Lower eyelid procedures include lower eyelid blepharoplasty subciliary or transconjunctival approach, lateral canthal suspension canthopexy, and lateral tarsal strip canthoplasty. A non-surgical blepharoplasty, lower eyelid malposition steroid injection and massage, will only have a day or so of recovery, but is usually used in preparation for or conjunction with a surgical blepharoplasty procedure.
What to Expect During Blepharoplasty Recovery
So, what’s it actually like to have your eyelids operated on? Upper or lower, all candidates can expect pain, swelling, and some bruising following these cosmetic surgeries. While actual recovery time varies with procedure invasiveness and your body’s natural healing, one to two weeks is a safe amount of time to assume you’re going to be uncomfortable and not necessarily looking your best.
Another factor that may be relevant depending on your procedure is your reaction to general anesthesia. It is common to feel nauseous, drowsy, and slightly disoriented in the hours following general anesthesia. These side effects usually resolve quickly as your body clears the sedating medications.
The Ultimate Blepharoplasty Recovery Timeline
Ok, time for some nitty gritty. We’ll begin with some ways to utilize your pre-op time to possibly minimize the length of your post-op experience and then we’ll cover the first few days, weeks, and months. Remember, there will be timing variations between procedures, and we’ll note some of these as we move along the timeline.
And one more side note, your plastic surgeon should provide comprehensive pre- and post-op instructions, and you should always defer to the advice of your medical team. This is simply meant to serve as a general guide.
- Stop smoking, drinking alcohol, taking certain supplements, and reduce caffeine intake a few days prior to surgery. This reduces inflammatory markers and promotes overall health optimizing you for a successful and speedy recovery.
- Get your supplies organized! The essentials like ice packs, pain and inflammation medications (like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen), any medications your doctor advises (like antibiotic ointments or eye drops), and a comfortable pillow for your neck are must haves. Check out our complete guide to recovering from cosmetic procedures in comfort and style to learn more.
- For procedures with general anesthesia: Depending on how you react to anesthesia, you may feel drowsy, disoriented, and nauseous. Your throat and mouth will be dry, your eye area will feel numb and tingly, and you might have a bit of a tension headache. These immediate side effects should wear off within a few hours. Part of general anesthesia is usually stronger pain medications that will have you waking up with numbness but not sharp pain. As these medicines wear off, you should expect to feel a more steady and noticeable (not severe) pain.
- For procedures with local anesthesia: Local anesthetics will keep you free from the icky side effects of general anesthesia and will have you feeling less discomfort for the first few hours, but as the local anesthetic wears off you can expect achiness and soreness to set in.
- So, you hopefully got some sleep with your head elevated and your neck pillow in place. Ideally, you kept an ice pack and your pain or inflammation meds within arms reach. Medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen are important not only for pain control, but also reducing inflammation which promotes faster recovery.
- You’re probably feeling soreness and discomfort around your eyes. You may find that your eyesight feels off and trying to focus your vision makes your head ache.
- You’ll most likely be sporting some bruises around your eyes and nose.
- Most patients do not experience issues with eating, but if you’re having any discomfort when moving your jaw, soft and cold foods can be easier to eat and provide the benefit of making your mouth/face a little numb. Make sure to drink plenty of water!
- You may have some discharge from your eyes and incisions. Remember your body is working hard to heal and sending a lot of blood with nutrients and infection-fighting cells to the area. This creates significant inflammation that you can control with meds and ice packs. Also, keep that antibiotic ointment close by to apply three to four times daily. Clear discharge is ok. Pus like green or yellow discharge is not.
- Remember to always keep your head elevated!
Day 2 to Day 7
- During this first week, you probably won’t want to go to work or be doing anything strenuous. While normally binge watching some TV or organizing your inbox would seem like a good idea, following blepharoplasty you might find focusing on electronics or reading to be a bit uncomfortable. This will vary by individual.
- Ok, so now you can start thinking about fully getting back to your life and normal activities. If you need to travel home from your procedure, it’s safe to get on a plane at this point. You can get creative with your makeup routine (no eye makeup of course) and think about heading out or back to the office.
- Attention eyeglass or contact lenses wearers: It can take up to 14 to 21 days for your doctor to give you the green light for wearing your glasses for short periods of time (probably not more than 30 minutes at once).
Week 3 to Week 6
- For most candidates, by this time it’s safe to get your blood pressure up again. Your doctor will give you specific instructions, but, by week two to four, you can generally resume some strenuous activities. Keep in mind, exercise at this time will probably cause some increases in localized swelling around your eye, but this should go down within a few hours post exercise.
- It’s worth repeating that during this entire time swelling will continue to naturally reduce. It’s also important to note, some providers do not recommend prolonged sun exposure for up to six weeks post op.
2 months to 6 months
- Pretty much all swelling should resolve by this time and there should not be any lingering side effects as final results become noticeable.
- There’s not much to do during this period other than be mindful of keeping your eyes protected from trauma and excessive sun exposure.
Tips to Improve Your Blepharoplasty Recovery
Now that you know more about the recovery timeline associated with facial plastic eyelid surgery, we’ve got some tips to help you out along your healing journey to make it as efficient and effortless as possible. As we mentioned, every individual heals at their own pace, but there are definitely some universal truths that promote healing.
1. Be Mindful & Be Patient
We’re not trying to be vague here. Your body will let you know what it needs. If you feel like taking it slow one day, do it! If you suddenly have the desire to get some fresh air, go for it (with hat and sunglasses, if appropriate, of course!). The mind-body connection is your best friend and the more you respect it the easier your recovery will be. Patience is the golden rule, so be kind to your body and gently ease yourself back into your routine. Don’t force yourself back into HIIT class or sitting in the office under fluorescent lights.
2. Eat well, sleep well, & stay hydrated
Really this is just good life advice, but, especially during times of increased stress (think: following a plastic surgery), the more you nourish yourself and rest the better. Some of the most beneficial repair hormones only get cycled through the blood during sleep, so like a pro athlete get those eight hours a night. Your eyes (and your entire body) will thank you for it.
Additionally, eating a balanced diet free of processed foods, drinking plenty of water, and reducing caffeine and alcohol will reduce inflammation and lessen swelling more quickly (check out our guide to what to eat before and after cosmetic procedures). Oh, and don’t smoke. Our advice is to never smoke, but it’s particularly vital to abstain after a major surgery.
3. Elevate & Ice
Cold compresses (used appropriately as directed) and keeping your head up (literally and metaphorically) will strategically reduce blood flow to the eye area and lessen the amount of fluid accumulation. While blood does bring all the good nutrients and healing cells, it can also leave large amounts of infection-fighting cells and other materials you don’t really need hanging around. This is why icing for periods of time (i.e. not continuously) creates the best balance of blood flow.
4. Moderate Your Activities
This probably doesn’t need to be said, but, just in case, a few days after your blepharoplasty is not the time to begin a CrossFit training regimen. Vigorous exercise increases blood pressure. Increased blood pressure creates increased swelling. Intense exercise also increases the stress hormone cortisol. While it’s great in moderation when you're healthy, it’s not ideal in the days and weeks following a surgery.
Other activities to avoid or limit: reading a 10,000 word document in size 10 font, sun bathing, and wearing glasses for long periods of time.
Blepharoplasty Side Effects & Complications
So now that we’ve thoroughly reviewed the days and weeks following a blepharoplasty procedure, let’s review what you can definitely expect versus what may or may not occur. Every blepharoplasty patient should expect at least a few days to two weeks of bruising (i.e. a good old fashion black eye) and at least two to four weeks of noticeable swelling. Difficulty focusing, blurred vision, eye pain, dry eyes, and headaches are all common side effects during eyelid surgery recovery that will resolve within a few days to weeks and can be mitigated with medications.
While rare, more serious complications are possible following blepharoplasty. Infections of the eyelid tissues are a possible complication of blepharoplasty and can be treated with antibiotics. Permanent numbness from nerve damage, intractable pain, asymmetry, vision loss, and scarring are more significant complications that may require further surgical revision or be unable to be fixed.