Thinking about a facelift, but concerned about taking time off work. When can I go in public without looking like a freak (or like I just had facelift surgery!)?
Doctor Answers 254
How Long To Recover After Face-lift ?
There are many factors that influence face-lift recovery time. Among them are the patients age, health status, nutritional habits, tobacco and alcohol use, the skill of the surgeon and the quality of post-operative care. Doctors that claim unusually fast recover times may be limiting the extent of surgery. This may provide a 'quick fix' but might jeopardize the overall quality of the operation and the longevity of improvement. Recovery time can be a matter of only a week in a younger patient undergoing a "mini-face-lift", but can take significantly longer when a traditional face-lift is combined with other procedures such as brow lift, blepharoplasty, fat injections, and laser resurfacing. In general, most patients can return to work and ordinary activities in about 2 weeks with no outward signs of surgery. It can take an additional 1-2 weeks before all facial swelling is resolved and a couple of months before feelings of "tightness" and mild numbness resolve. I suggest patients allow at least 6-8 weeks recovery time before a momentous event such as a wedding. I encourage patients to begin mild exercise (walking) about 7 days after surgery, but I restrict strenuous activity for 3-4 weeks.
Recovery from facelift takes many forms
Recovery from a facelift takes many forms. Physical recovery. Social Recovery. Recovery of sensation. Because it is your face, the interruption in social activities is often the hardest part of the recovery.
Most patients have only mild pain after a facelift and it is usually gone in one or two days. I give only Tylenol #3 since stronger medications are not needed.
I allow patients to drive after 4 days if they are off pain meds. Before this, some mild neck stiffness may make driving safely more difficult since you may not turn your head as far to look for cars.
Swelling and Bruising:
Recovery from a facelift involves bruising (usually down low along the neck) and swelling which increases some each day for the first 4 days after surgery. On the 5th day after surgery this begins to improve rapidly and usually by the 7th or 8th day after surgery makeup can be applied. Patients often tell me with a scarf and some sun glasses they can run quick errands. At this stage they would not necessarily want to run into a close friend if they are trying to be discrete.
Dinner With Friends:
For a patient to sit down to dinner with friends and not be asked any questions, I believe it takes about two weeks. Occasionally a very dark bruise may not be completely gone but can be effectively covered with makeup. About 80 % of the swelling is gone so the remainder is hard to detect. Sometimes a slight change is hairstyle can be used to help explain away any differences a close friend might notice.
I ask patients to wait on exercise and heavy lifting until 3 weeks after surgery. Otherwise I don't limit their activities
Mild facial numbness seems to always go away completely but takes about 9 months. Fortunately this does not bother most patients especially once they realize its temporary.
Facelift Recovery - Choose your Plastic Surgeon Wisely View Many, Many Photos
For very high profile patients and / or people who don't want people to know they have had surgery, I often recommend a change in hairstyle immediately before surgery. Starting to wear eyeglasses or changing your current eyeglass frame can also make a change a bit less obvious.
Great plastic surgery won't have people asking "who is your plastic surgeon?" Instead, they will ask if you've lost weight, been on vacation, started yoga, or something else that may be responsible for you looking so wonderful.
Follow your plastic surgeons orders very closely before and after surgery
Most importantly, choose your plastic surgeon wisely. Take your time, seek out multiple consultations if you desire and be sure you are very comfortable with our surgeon's ability to perform extraordinary surgery, their philosophy, training, education, attention to detail and commitment to safety. Also ask about what happens AFTER surgery. Post op appointments should be scheduled prior to surgery, and you should be seen often. You should have an immediateNurse practitioner or nurse who can answer questions and see you in person even when your surgeon is in surgery with another patients.
The following are a few things that can distinguish some surgeons from others
1) Graduating from a top tier medical school at the top of their class.
2) Membership in Alpha Omega Alpha. THis is the medical honors society. Alpha Omega Alpha is to medicine what Phi Beta Kappa is to undergraduate colleges.
3) Formal surgical training from prestigious medical universities. The minimum number of years of surgical training for plastic surgeons to be bord certified in five years. Some physicians have as many as ten years of formal surgical training. There simply is no substitute for stelar academic and practical surgical training. A Fellowship training in addition to residency provides additional surgical training and experience.
4) Very experienced surgeons with meticulous surgical technique and natural looking outcomes will have photgraphic evidence of their work. Patients should be able to view many photos of the surgery of interest, photgraphed from three different perspectives all with similar lighting, distance from the camera and cropping
The elite experience extends beyond the surgeon to the facility, and the surgical team. You should be able to see the surgical theater and know who else will be in the OR with you during surgery. The Joint Commission (JCAHO) is an organization that provides certification to hospital OR's. The Joint Commission and AAAASF are two of the organizations that can provide certification to surgical suites. Some plastic surgeons elect to have their surgery centers dually certified.
The anesthesia experience is critical to a safe and comfortable surgical experience. A board certified anesthesiologist can administer general or MAC anesthesia. My preference is to have a board-certified anesthesiologist at the bedside of my patients for the duration of surgery.
Plastic surgeons who cater to high profile individuals who place a high value on privacy will have a private first floor entrance and exit so patients never need to be in a public lobby or elevator for pre-operative or post operative visits.
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Public Ready after a facelift
When it comes to healing everyone recovers at there own pace. Generally after a full face lift I tell my patients that they will be ready to be seen in public in approx. 14 days. That being said many people are comfortable being seen in 5 days. Things that may help in your recovery are : 1. good pre-op condition 2. healthy diet 3. arnica, bromelain and steroids for swelling and bruising and inflammation. Hope this helps.
Facelift recovery is not as bad as you think
- Two weeks for most of bruising to resolve and all sutures removed.
- One month of no heavy lifting and straining.
- Most of the swelling is gone in the first month, but residual swelling can take a few more months to settle. The less active one is after surgery, the faster the swelling seems to resolve.
- Patient's usually do not have pain, but more of a "tight" sensation that relaxes somewhat over the coming months.
Return to work
I recommend that people who lift heavy loads or have a vigorous job take four weeks off.
Gentle exercise can start at three weeks and heavy exercise at six weeks.
Avoiding blood thinners pre-operatively reduces your post op bruising and risk of a blood collection in the cheek.
If you have an important event (such as your daughter's wedding), give yourself a 2 month recovery to feel confident.
How to Minimize "Looking Like A Freak" After Facelift Surgery
Of all concerns about facelift surgery, the concern of looking abnormal following the procedure and about how long it will take to look normal again are often the biggest. Appearance problems are primarily due to bruising, swelling, puckering and stretching of the skin. Those surgeons who do everything they can to speed recovery and educate their patients on their own part in the recovery process are doing a great service for their clients in this regard.
WHAT THE SURGEON DOES TO SPEED RECOVERY:
1. Respecting surgical anatomy to minimize trauma: There are subtle anatomical planes that only the most experienced surgeons consistently recognize and respect and consistently work within. By staying within these planes, less trauma and therefore less bleeding/swelling occurs.
2. Compression dressings vs tissue glue: Both work well at reducing the potential space between skin and underlying tissues, which ensures that little blood can accumulate that would otherwise increase bruising and swelling. Placing a good dressing that applies even pressure is both a skill and an art.
3. Minimize bleeding: A surgeon who takes his/her time to be meticulous at finding and stopping every small point of bleeding will produce less bruising.
4. Adequate drainage: No matter how meticulous the surgeon is at stopping any point of bleeding, there will still be some amount of bleeding that occurs under the skin following the surgery. The surgeon that places drains to remove this blood that would otherwise accumulate and create more swelling and bruising, can make a big difference in the recovery time.
5. Tighten deeper structures so the there is little tension on the skin: Tension on the skin can be minimized from the start by elevating, tightening and supporting the deeper structures first. There is then minimal tension and distortion on the skin.
6. Clearly Educate the patient about what they can do to speed recover.
WHAT THE PATIENT DOES TO SPEED RECOVERY: (primarily steps taken to minimize bruising and swelling)
1. Steps to minimize bruising:
a. Do not take any medications (unless OKed by your surgeon) that might increase bleeding tendencies: Every surgeon who does a lot of facelifts will have a list of medications and supplements that are known to increase bleeding tendencies
b. Take a natural supplement named "Arnica" -- which is safe and is known for it's anti-bruising properties
2. Steps to control blood pressure: Ensuring normal blood pressure will reduce swelling and bruising. The patient can do the following to normalize blood pressure during the critical week or two following facelift surgery:
a. Keep your head elevated: This, for obvious reasons will reduce pressure and swelling.
b. Take your blood pressure medication. Make sure you're blood pressure is controlled by an adequate dose of your medication.
c. Limit strenuous physical activity. Although walking around in encouraged within a day or two following surgery, anything that you need to strain at or that causes you to huff and puff and sweat should be postponed for at least two weeks following surgery
d. Do things that relax you: Your surgeon can even prescribe anti-anxiety/sedative medication during this period if you are overly anxious.
It depends on the person, but usually after 2-3 weeks you can be seen in public without being too self conscience about your appearance. You will still have some bruising and swelling but it should be minimal. You should be fully healed in 1-3 months after the surgery.
Facelift Recovery Time Depends on Facelift Technique, Surgeon, and Your Health
Typically, a facelift will take about 2 weeks before you're ready to be seen in public with minimal makeup. However, there are ways to reduce the recovery time.
Before surgery, you should be in as good overall health as possible. Bleeding is one of the big concerns with facelift, so not taking blood thinners, controlling any high blood pressure you may have, and avoiding aspirin will help with your overall health.
During surgery, your plastic surgeon should use the appropriated surgical techniques that give you the results that you want, with as little surgical dissection as possible. The more surgery you have, and the longer your procedure, generally the more swelling you'll have, resulting in a longer recovery time.
After surgery, it's important to allow your body to heal, and to follow instructions for post-surgical care. These include, but limited to, elevating your face, icing the areas of swelling, avoiding blood thinners, taking care of your incisions, possibly taking homeopathic medications and creams to help reduce swelling, and possibly eating more nutritious food with more protein, to get the best results.
I know, a long-winded response, but accelerating facelift recovery is possible with great pre-surgery planning.
Best Wishes on Your Recovery!
Roy Kim, MD
These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.