Facelift Recovery

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 287

Facelift Recovery - Choose your Plastic Surgeon Wisely View Many, Many Photos

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Your recovery from a facelift will depend a great deal on the plastic surgeon you select. Start by looking at many, many before and after photos  for evidence of the results a plastic surgeon has achieved. Often, the plastic surgeons with the most expertise and the most beautiful long-lasting results will also have the skills to make the initial recovery shorter with less swelling and bruising.

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 a Nurse 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.

Michael Law MD

Alpha Omega Alpha, Medical Honors Society
Member, American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
Member, American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Member, International Society of Plastic Surgeons
Certified, American Board Plastic Surgery
Phi Beta Kappa

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

Public Ready after a facelift

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

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.

Dr C

Ritu Chopra, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Recovery from facelift takes many forms

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

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.

How Long To Recover After Face-lift ?

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

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.

Brock Ridenour, MD
Saint Louis Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 126 reviews

Facelift Recovery Time Depends on Facelift Technique, Surgeon, and Your Health

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

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

Roy Kim, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon

Facelift recovery

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
Going out public after a facelift.    The great majority of my patients do not bruise due to the surgical technique that I use.  Usually my patients can be seen quite well usually within a week of the surgery.  And at two weeks, they are amazingly well.  Final results are seen about three to six months after.

Alberto Arguello, MD
Costa Rica Plastic Surgeon

Return to work

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
It is usual to be able to return to a job with light duties such as a desk job after two weeks.  You will still feel sore and stiff but should be able to manage without difficulty.  If you have a brow lift or lower eyelid surgery at the same time, add a week to this.  Winter is easier than summer as clothing and makeup suit the camouflage of bruising and healing wounds.  Wound infection rates are lower in winter also.
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.

Dan Kennedy, MBBS, FRACS (plast)
Brisbane Plastic Surgeon

Facelift Recovery

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

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.

Edward E. Dickerson, IV, MD
Fayetteville Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 127 reviews

Facelift recovery is not as bad as you think

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}
  • 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.

Anand D. Patel, MD
Brookfield Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Facelift recovery takes 2 weeks after surgery

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

My first answer to this question is another question: what is your tolerance for being seen with some degree of bruising?

If you have anxiety about being seen in the early postoperative phase, my answer is 2 weeks. However, I have patients who work from home, and some who are less concerned about being seen in public. Generally, the latter group can be out and about in 4-5 days (best case scenario). This being said, some patients have a less smooth recovery due to anesthesia or other factors, and take longer.

During this period, you can carefully arrange your hair to conceal incisions and can usually apply makeup between 7-10 days after surgery. If you live in a colder climate, a turtle neck can conceal most of the bruising. In addition, Arnica Montana pills and/or cream can help decerase visible signs of brusing.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 104 reviews

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.