Neck lifts. You might not know a lot about them, but you’ve probably heard of them or seen some before and after photos. Let’s run through some quick basics. A neck lift, or lower rhytidectomy, is a procedure performed by a board certified plastic surgeon to reduce the skin laxity of the neck tissues, tighten the muscular tone, lessen fat deposits, and create a defined jawline.
There are several variations of neck lifts. A platysmaplasty alters the platysma muscle of the neck. A cervicoplasty only addresses excess skin and excess fat. A direct neck lift combines both of these procedures for a total rejuvenation. Depending on the candidate and the cosmetic surgeon, these surgical procedures may be able to be performed ‘awake’ — meaning no general anesthesia is used (only local anesthesia). Also of note, many candidates elect to combine neck lifts with other facial plastic surgery procedures such as a brow lift, eyelid surgery, or facelift.
What to Expect During Neck Lift Recovery
So, what’s it actually like to create your dream neck aesthetic? All candidates can expect pain, swelling, and bruising following this cosmetic procedure. While actual recovery time will vary depending on how invasive your procedure is and how your body naturally heals, one to two 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 that is a component of your procedure. Many people feel nausea, drowsiness, and slightly disoriented in the hours following anesthesia. These side effects typically resolve quickly, as the sedating medications wear off. Even so, it is a part of the immediate post-surgical recovery.
The Ultimate Neck Lift Recovery Timeline
Ok, let’s get into the nitty gritty of the neck lift recovery period. We’ll start with how to utilize your pre-op time to possibly minimize the intensity of your post-op experience and then we’ll look at what you can expect from the first few days, weeks, months, and, yes, even years.
It should also be noted that a surgeon should provide pre- and post-op detailed instructions, and you should always defer to the advice of your medical team. This is simply meant to serve as a guide.
Day 2 to Day 7
Week 3 to Week 12
6 months to 1 Year
12 to 18 months
Tips to Improve Your Neck Lift Recovery
Now that you know more about the recovery timeline associated with a neck lift surgery, we’ve got some tips to help you progress along your healing journey as efficiently and effortlessly as possible. Like we mentioned, every individual body heals at its own pace, but there are definitely 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 neck (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 surgical sites. 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 neck lift 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: carrying heavy backpacks, sun bathing, and watching a tennis match (you know, to avoid turning your head back and forth repeatedly).
Neck Lift Side Effects & ComplicationsSo now that we’ve thoroughly covered the days and weeks following a neck lift procedure, let’s review what you can definitely expect versus what may or may not occur. Every neck lift patient should expect at least one to two weeks of bruising and at least four to six weeks of noticeable swelling. Neck, shoulder, and upper back tightness, achiness, 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 neck tissues are a possible complication of a neck lift and can be treated with antibiotics. Permanent numbness from nerve damage, intractable pain, asymmetry, and scarring are more significant complications that may require further surgical revision or be unable to be fixed.