Facelift Recovery Time
Reviewed by Yael Halaas, MD
After months of researching and planning, you've finally had your facelift surgery. You're probably excited to see how your new face looks and feels, but keep in mind that healing and recovery takes time.
Knowing what to expect can help you get through the next few hours, days and weeks.
Upon waking up in the recovery room, you may feel cold and/or nauseated. This is normal. If you are cold, ask for a warm blanket. If you feel nauseated, let someone know. There are medications that can help. You also may feel emotional; this is normal and will pass.
Your face may feel tight and tender as you awaken from anesthesia after the surgery. Some facial plastic surgeons may apply a large, fluffy dressing immediately after your facelift to reduce swelling. If used, this dressing is typically replaced with an elastic wrap within a day. You may also have one to three drainage tubes to reduce swelling and remove any excess blood. These tubes may be left in place for several days.
If your facelift was performed as an outpatient procedure, you will need a friend or family member to drive you home because you will be groggy.
There may be some initial mild to moderate discomfort in the hours and days after your facelift. Your surgeon can prescribe painkillers to help relieve this discomfort. If it hurts, take your medication as directed. You will also likely be prescribed antibiotics to stave off the risk of an infection after your facelift.
As a general rule, you should be up and about within a few days and can wash your hair after two days. If you are staying overnight in a surgical suite or hospital, you may be able to wash your hair the morning after your facelift.
Both bruising and swelling are normal parts of the healing process and are no indication of what your new face will look like in a few weeks. Your face will gradually swell over the first three days, but as the days go on, this swelling will dissipate. There may also be a lot of bruising, so be prepared to look worse before you look better.
You can go back to work with makeup within two weeks, and you should be ready for primetime — your daughter's wedding, a high school reunion — within one to four months after your facelift.
It's important that you walk around three or four times a day after your facelift to boost circulation and help prevent the development of potentially fatal blood clots in your legs. This condition is known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and it occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside the body.
Do not bend over or lift heavy objects until your surgeon gives you the all-clear. Avoid steam rooms, saunas, or steam face masks and related products because they promote facial flushing. Avoid supplements containing niacin, niacinamide, or niacinamate for the same reason. Do not consume alcohol and products containing aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen until your surgeon tells you it's OK.
Some facelifts and facial procedures involve mouth incisions. If you have had mouth incisions, your diet may be restricted. Make sure your surgeon is very clear about what you can and cannot eat. You may be instructed to rinse your mouth out with an antiseptic mouthwash several times a day.
Facelift Recovery: Sleeping
You must sleep with your head elevated for about two weeks to help alleviate swelling. Sleep on two pillows, or use a wedge-shaped foam pillow. The latter are sold at many pharmacies and surgical supply stores. You can also sleep upright in a recliner. Try to keep your head still.
Facelift Recovery: Red Flags
Most facelifts are performed without complications, but facelifts are surgeries, and all surgeries — even elective, cosmetic procedures — do have risks. Some red flags after your face lift may include excessive pain, redness, and an elevated temperature. If these occur, contact your surgeon immediately. Prevent them by monitoring your temperature regularly and taking your antibiotics on time to stave off an infection.
Facelift Recovery: Postoperative Visits
Usually, your first postoperative appointment is the day after your surgery. During this visit, your surgeon may change your bandages, but your sutures won't be removed for another five to seven days. The staples in your scalp, if there are any, won't be removed until around day 10 because your scalp takes longer to heal.
Remember that your skin may feel dry and rough for a few months after your facelift. If you have any questions about what is or is not normal as you recover, call your surgeon. It's always better to be safe than sorry!