How Should You Sleep and Take Care of Your Skin After a Facelift?

What would you recommend for the best position to sleep in AFTER (post op) surgery? Also, what skin care regime would you recommend pre and post op?

Thanks to all you wonderful MD's who take the time to answer our questions.

Doctor Answers 28

Postoperative Facelift Care

Good postoperative care is generally a continuation of the good habits you started before surgery. We begin skin care well in advance of facelift surgery and continue it postoperatively. What this care is depends on how much damage is present. We usually use the Obagi® Nu-Derm System for severe damage or the Epionce® System for lesser changes. Both reduce the brown spots, remove the thickened outer dead cell layer and firm the skin.

You should also continue the other good lifestyle habits from before surgery, like use of good vitamins, good diet, not smoking and, after a few days, moderate exercise. As far as sleeping and other specific things you can do, you should keep your head elevated as much as possible. While sleeping, you should sleep on your back and use only a neck roll or a contour pillow, keeping your chin up and the front of your neck stretched. You can generally shower immediately after the surgery, but should be careful not to rub downward.

You should wash the incisions gently to remove any old blood or crusts. Until these incisions are well healed, we also recommend application of an antibiotic ointment several times a day. We give our patients a written instruction sheet that answers almost all these questions. I would ask your doctor for the same.

Highlands Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

It’s best to sleep with your head elevated following facelift surgery.

It’s best to sleep with your head elevated following facelift surgery. Make sure you have either a thick, firm pillow or multiple pillows that will keep your head elevated approximately 30 degrees while sleeping. This will help to prevent undue swelling. As for skin care, it’s important to try to stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle, which will help keep skin in good shape, and at my office we offer a variety of effective skin care options that we can tailor to your specific needs. Your surgeon should go over post-operative care instructions with you to ensure a good result and recovery period.

Jonathan Kulbersh, MD
Charlotte Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 66 reviews

Skin Care before and After a Facelift.


There is some evidence that using Retin-A and vitamin C will help prepare and maintain your skin before and after a facelift. Also sleeping on several pillows up to 3 weeks after a facelift will help with the swelling.



Oleh Slupchynskyj, MD, FACS
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 272 reviews

Facelift After

Thank you for your question.  This is my aftercare protocol I will give to my patients to advise you, however please ask your plastic surgeon to guide you. Aftercare in the first 24 Hours post procedure In the first 24 hours post procedure it is important to follow these simple steps
  • Sleep with your head up as much as possible. This can be done be propping yourself up in bed with 2-3 pillows. This will allow any residual fluid to drain away and will ease the feeling of facial Fullness.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat well the evening of your procedure.
  • Avoid showering until the morning after your procedure. We then encourage you to shower and wash your hair as normal. Once you have done this, you can then gently blow dry your hair and the area around your ears with the hairdryer on its cool setting.
  • Avoid putting any cosmetic products including cleaners, moisturisers and make up on or around the incisions.
  • You may require some mild painkillers in the first few days post Concept Facelift, We would recommend a combination of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol- providing you are not allergic to either of these medications.
  • You will have been provided with some protective pads which are to place on your pillow case at night and will absorb any residual oozing.
  • Some oozing is common in the first 24-48 post procedure and we provide you with some sterile gauze so that you can dab any drips. Mild oozing is nothing to be alarmed about and is a normal part of the healing process.
After care in the following days and weeks post procedure You will already have received your follow up Consultation appointment for approximately 5-7 days post procedure. However it is important to continue to follow the subsequent “Do’s and Don’ts”.
  • Do use a cool pack on the incisions as this will help reduce any residual fullness.
  • Do continue with painkillers if required, as around 5% of patients will have some ear pain which will settle within a week or two. 
  • Do shower and hair wash daily.
  • Do resume normal activities however avoid vigorous exercise or heavy lifting for 2 weeks post procedure.
  • Don’t apply any make up, moisturiser or oils to the incision line until advised by us. 
  • Don’t allow pets of any variety to share a bed with you and avoid allowing pets near your face for the first four weeks after your procedure. Allowing pets near your face has the potential to result in an infection. However being vigilant will help reduce this risk.
  • Do be vigilant with hand hygiene.
  • Do notify us immediately if you have any concerns or notice any increased redness, heat around the incision or if you have any discharge from around the ear.
Once we have seen you at your follow up Consultation, we will then advise on when you can start massaging the area around your ears and the best technique to use. We recommend the use of scar improvement oils such as Bio-oil.

Keep Your Head Elevated & Your Skin Nourished

In my practice, I emphasize the importance of patients keeping their heads elevated for at least 2 weeks after facelift surgery, even overnight. This reduces unnecessary swelling, keeps patients comfortable, and improves scar development. It's very important to keep your head elevated above your heart. Most of my patients achieve this with the aid of plenty of pillows or a reclining chair with a U-shaped travel pillow. When it comes to skin care, I give specific instructions based on the individual needs of the patient. It's important to leave your incisions undisturbed until you get the go-ahead from your surgeon — this includes the use of any creams, lotions, or ointments. Most plastic surgery practices either sell or recommend high-end skincare products and are happy to make tailored recommendations for you. Thanks for your question!

James N. Romanelli, MD, FACS
Long Island Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Facelift and Post-op Skin care - Toronto Plastic Surgeon's experience

Best position right after a facelift is head elevated 30 degrees, to allow some of the post-op swelling to go down and minimizing bruising.  Head position should be straight and neck extended slightly.  The facelift garment should help in keeping this position.  Skin care should be the continuation of pre-op skin regime:  in my clinic VISAGE in Toronto, all my patients go on OBAGI skin care or his ZO line, and some vitamin A, prescribed.  This is continued over time.  At some point, some mild form of Erbium resurfacing, or profraction, might be recommended.  Best of luck!  Dr. Marc DuPere

Marc DuPéré, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Post op care for facelift

Immediately after facelift it is important to sleep with your head elevated to help prevent venous congestion in the operated tissues and to help prevent swelling. As the healing continues, you can start a skin care regimen. I agree that Retin-A is one of the best and easiest approaches to skin care. Good luck with your surgery.

David Shafer, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

Brief pre and post face lift care recommendations and sleeping positions

The use of Retin-A may seem old fashioned but it remains at the forefront of the most effective skin care regimens in minimizing and actually reversing the effects of aging. This in combination with avoidance of tobacco products and sun exposure with sunscreen/sunblock, and a well balanced diet and exercise regimen are the mainstays of skin care maintenance. Nutritional supplements as well as topical and oral antioxidants are probably next on the list.\

In the early postoperative period, the best position to sleep is on your back with the head of the bed elevated without a pillow. The pillow can kink your neck vessels and actually cause more swelling particulary when a dressing is in place. Your head should be elevated to the point that your neck or facial veins are not distended (approximately 30-45 degrees).

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

How Should you Sleep and Take Care of Your Skin After a Facelift

It's best to sleep on your back with your head elevated at least 30% to reduce excessive swelling to the face. Post-surgery, you will want to continue to eat well and stay hydrated to ensure optimal healing as well as be compliant with any additional post-operative care instructions from your surgeon.  I recommend an anti-aging protocol of ZO Skin Health products to my patients in order to help them protect their investment and enhance the results of their surgery.

Vu Ho, MD
Plano Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

Post-op care after Facelift

When you rest or sleep, keep your head elevated 2-3 pillows and avoid turning of your side. If you overexert yourself, bleeding or prolonged swelling may result. Clean incisions around your ears and under your chin with peroxide, then apply polysporin ointment twice a day. 

Jose E. Barrera, MD, FACS
San Antonio Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 46 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.