A Timeline for Recovery From a Facelift

An older woman wearing a sweater and smiling (model).

A unique aspect of facial plastic surgery is that the recovery process really includes both physical healing and the time needed before patients are comfortable in social settings—especially important social events such as a wedding or class reunion. The timeline for recovery from a facelift described in this blog post touches on both aspects.

A Less Invasive Facelift

Our plastic surgeons customize their facelift procedures based on the patient’s needs. Certain techniques, such as a SMAS lift or deep plane facelift, are more invasive and require longer recoveries than other facelift surgeries. In most cases, Dr. Jewell and Dr. Najafian prefer to use a less invasive approach called a MACS lift (minimal access cranial suspension facelift).

A MACS lift doesn’t involve dissecting the deeper layers of tissue like the SMAS lift requires, yet it still results in excellent long-term outcomes. Our surgeons often make shorter incisions when performing a MACS lift. Modern facelift techniques, in general, are better now than ever before, as we wrote about in an earlier blog post.

Facelift Recovery Timeline

By limiting the invasiveness of the surgery, our surgeons minimize the length and discomfort of your recovery, although each patient’s experience will be different. Here’s a general facelift recovery timeline that also notes when you can expect to go out in public for various reasons.

  • Day of your facelift: The surgeon wraps your face in bandages before you return home. Arrange to have someone drive you home and remain with you for at least the first night.
  • Day after surgery: Expect swelling and bruising to peak within the first 36 to 48 hours after the surgery. Keeping your head elevated and intermittently applying cold compresses (a washcloth dipped in crushed ice works great) can minimize swelling. Take post-operative medications as prescribed, generally with food to reduce the chance of nausea. Your surgeon will remove the bandages. You may gently wash your hair 24 hours after surgery but don’t use a hair dryer.
  • First week: Avoid bending over, strenuous exercise, or lifting anything heavy. Taking short, slow walks is important to boost circulation and promote the healing process. Even though the swelling and bruising begin to resolve during the first week, most patients aren’t comfortable going out in public.
  • 1 to 2 weeks: Some of our patients return to work after 1 week of recovery, but we recommend planning to take 2 weeks off. If your job requires physical activity, you may need to take more time off work. After 2 weeks, many patients feel “restaurant ready”—meaning they feel comfortable going out to non-formal social events.
  • 3 to 6 weeks: During this time, you can resume exercising if your surgeon approves. Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Your incisions, which may have appeared pink during the initial phase of recovery, will start to fade, and you’ll feel comfortable going out without makeup.
  • 4 to 6 months: Most, if not all, residual swelling resolves by 6 months after the procedure. If your plans included attending a wedding, a class reunion, or a big vacation, the final results of your facelift will be apparent at this point.

You can see that the physical and social downtimes are quite a bit different after a facelift. If you’re considering facelift surgery, remember that it can take weeks or even months after selecting a plastic surgeon before your surgery date. More information about facelift aftercare and recovery is available from The Aesthetic Society.

Start With a Consultation

Our surgeons can provide more information about the facelift procedure itself and the recovery process during your consultation. You can request a consultation with either Dr. Jewell or Dr. Najafian by using the online form or by calling our Eugene, OR, plastic surgery office at (541) 683-3234.

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