Facelift Recovery

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We know how life-changing the results of a facelift can be, but what does it take to get there? From the moment the surgeon closes the last incision to the day you’re finally healed, we’ve got all the details on the recovery process.

The Skinny

Facelifts. We’ve all heard of them and know someone who has had one, but what does this classic plastic surgery actually entail? Let’s look at some quick basics. A facelift, or rhytidectomy, is a procedure performed by a board certified plastic surgeon to address concerns with facial skin laxity.

There are both surgical facelifts and non-surgical facelifts. In the facelift surgery category are SMAS facelift, endoscopic facelift, subperiosteal facelift, deep plane facelift, mid-facelift, and mini facelift, and. Non-surgical facelift alternatives include a liquid facelift with dermal fillers, a vampire facelift with a combination of hyaluronic acid-based fillers and platelet rich plasma, and a thread lift. We’re going to focus on surgical facelifts here, as the recovery from non-surgical facelifts is typically a couple of days (at most).

The Specifics

What to Expect During Facelift Recovery

So, what’s it actually like to create your dream facial aesthetic? All facelift candidates can expect pain, swelling, and bruising following this plastic cosmetic surgery. While actual recovery time will vary depending on how invasive your facelift is and how your body naturally heals, two to four weeks is a safe amount of time to assume you’re going to feel significantly uncomfortable and not be looking your best.

Another factor to consider is how you recover from general anesthesia, if this is a component of your surgery. Many candidates experience nausea, drowsiness, and some disorientation in the hours following anesthesia. These side effects generally resolve quickly, as the sedating medications wear off. But still, it is a part of the immediate post-surgical recovery. Some surgeons perform a facelift procedure ‘awake’ — meaning no general anesthesia is used (only local anesthesia).

The Ultimate Facelift Recovery Timeline

Ok, let’s get into the nitty gritty of [facelift recovery](https://aedit.com/aedition/facelift-recovery-healing-process). We’ll begin with how to utilize your pre-op time to minimize the intensity of your post-op time and then we’ll cover what you can expect from the first few days, weeks, months, and, yes, years. Remember, there will be timing differences between procedures, and we’ll note this as we move along the timeline.

It should also be noted that your surgeon will provide comprehensive pre- and post-op instructions, and you should always defer to the advice of your medical providers. This is simply meant to serve as a guide.

Tips to Improve Your Facelift Recovery

Now that you know more about the timeline associated with facial plastic surgery like a facelift, we’ve got some tips to help you move along your healing journey as efficiently and effortlessly as possible. Like we noted, every individual body heals at its own pace, but there are some universal truths that augment healing.

1. Be Mindful & Be Patient

We’re not being deliberately 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 (albeit you are medically cleared for it)! The mind-body connection exists and the more you respect it the easier your recovery will be. Patience rules the day, so be kind to your body and slowly ease yourself back into your routine without forcing things like your return to work or working out.

2. Eat well, sleep well, & stay hydrated

This is just good life advice, but, especially during times of increased stress on the body (think: following a major plastic surgery), the more you nourish yourself and properly rest the better. Some of the best repair hormones only get cycled through your blood while you sleep, so be like a pro athlete during the months following your surgery and get those eight hours. Your face (and your entire being) will thank you for it.

Additionally, eating a balanced diet free from processed foods in combination with plenty of water and taking it easy on caffeine and alcohol will naturally reduce inflammation and help 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 lay off after a major surgery.

3. Elevate & Ice

Cold compresses and keeping your head up (literally and metaphorically) will lessen blood flow to the area and reduce the amount of fluid accumulation in and around your face. While blood does bring all the good nutrients and healing cells, it can also leave large deposits 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, three weeks after your facelift is not the time to begin your CrossFit training regimen. Vigorous exercise makes blood pressure increase. Increased blood pressure means increased swelling. Intense exercise also naturally increases the stress hormone cortisol. While it’s great in moderation when you're healthy, it’s not ideal in the months following a major surgery.

Other activities to avoid or limit: sleeping on your stomach, sun bathing, and wearing glasses for long periods of time.

Facelift Side Effects & Complications

So now that we’ve thoroughly covered the days and weeks following a facelift procedure, let’s review what you can definitely expect versus what may or may not occur. Every facelift patient should expect one to two weeks of bruising and at least four to six weeks of noticeable swelling. Facial tightness, achiness, discomfort with chewing, and headaches are all common side effects that will resolve within a week or two and can be mitigated with medications.

While rare, more serious complications are possible. Infections of the facial tissues are a possible complication of rhytidectomy and can be treated with antibiotics. Permanent numbness from nerve damage, intractable pain, asymmetry, and noticeable scarring are more significant complications that may require further surgical revision or be unable to be fixed.

The Takeaway

The healing process following a facial plastic cosmetic surgery like a facelift can seem intimidating. And while we are not minimizing the fact that a facelift is a major surgery with considerable risks and side effects, tens of thousands of facelifts are safely performed successfully in the United States each year with patients enjoying life-changing results. Never underestimate the value of a consultation with a facial plastic surgeon to more specifically determine what your unique facelift experience will entail.
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AEDIT uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Alexis AF Racial and Ethnic Differences in Self-Assessed Facial Aging in Women: Results From a Multinational Study pubmed.gov; 2019-12-02


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