I am considering having an eyelid lift done. However, I have heard that it requires quite a bit of healing time?

I am concerned that I may not be able to take off the time it takes to heal from an eye-lid surgery. How long would I have to take off of work? Are there any other alternatives to eye-lid surgery that require less down time? Thank You.

Doctor Answers 13

Using local anesthesia with sedation, and specialization in eyelid surgery, we can get you back to work in a week or less

Thank you for your question. You submitted a question without a photo, saying you’re interested in an eyelift, but are concerned about downtime and returning back to work, so you’re looking for an alternative to an eyelift but may get you back to work sooner. I can share with you my perspective on this type of question.

A little background: I’m a Board-certified cosmetic surgeon and Fellowship-trained oculofacial plastic and reconstructive surgeon. I have been in practice in Manhattan and Long Island for over 20 years. You’ve asked a question I focused on answering from the first day I went into practice. As a specialist in eyelid surgery, my training allowed me a perspective a little different from most general plastic surgeons experience in terms of the style in which surgery is done, which I’ll explain further.

I first trained in eye surgery - ophthalmology, or surgery of the eye. One of the things we did routinely was intraocular surgery, or surgery to remove the lens, the cataract, then replace the lens. This is a very delicate surgery done under a microscope, and it’s done with patients awake and having to remain relatively still. When I did my training in oculofacial plastic surgery, then additional training in facial plastic surgery, I found myself naturally inclined to ask the question: why can’t we do cosmetic surgery, whether it’s eyelids or facelifts, and other procedures under local anesthesia? And so what I did was look at the reasons, and with one simple goal in mind: to make the procedure safer, allow for quicker recovery, and have people go back to work sooner rather than later. From the time I went into practice, my patients have always been people who work, and regardless of their socioeconomic level, they needed to get back to work sooner rather than later.

In our practice, I advise my patients whether it’s upper eyelid surgery or lower eyelid surgery, we do the surgeries under local anesthesia with LITE™ sedation. LITE™ sedation allows you to relax, which is the alternative to general anesthesia. Many of my colleagues in general plastic surgery or other plastic surgery specialties prefer to do things under general anesthesia, which means there’s a tube in your throat, paralyzed, and under a respirator. That may be what they’re comfortable doing, and the surgeon should be comfortable. I found that recovery from general anesthesia,and just the fear of undergoing it were obstacles for many people who pursue cosmetic eyelid surgery. When I showed people we can do this under straight local anesthesia, or  under local anesthesia with sedation, they became more willing to consider these procedures.

Surgical technique, choice of procedures, approach, and immediate aftercare are all very important. Generally speaking, the majority of our patients go back to work in one week, and sometimes even less. This depends on the type of surgery being done, and the degree or amount of surgery being done. As a basic rule, if it’s upper eyelid surgery to address  excess skin and a little fat, then the amount of swelling can be relatively minimal. If it’s lower eyelid surgery where we typically do the transconjunctival method from the inside of the eyelid for fat pockets, then we do PRP and fractional CO2 laser, we still get people back to work in about a week. It’s not uncommon for our patients to come back in a week and have almost no bruising.  We’ve definitely mastered to a significant level the art of helping people achieve their desired cosmetic result, and get them back to work sooner rather than later.

I know a lot of people end up not choosing cosmetic surgery procedures and choose other alternatives that try to camouflage what they’re unhappy about in their eyes. Unfortunately, often the camouflaging procedures like injectable fillers or neurotoxins which try to compensate for these different anatomic issues, may cause more bruising than surgery. They can end up looking more swollen than they would with surgery. We have many patients who come to us to have fillers removed with an enzyme called hyaluronidase to get rid of additional puffiness caused by “non-surgical” procedures. I do a lot of these non-surgical procedures so I’m not against them, but if you need cosmetic eyelid surgery I would just inform you it is possible to do it with local anesthesia and LITE™ sedation. With good quality surgical technique, you should be able to go back to normal life and work in about a week.

About one week is not the end of your healing process as it is ongoing. In a broad strategy, I try to tell my patients there is functional appearance where you can get back to work and normal normal aspects of your life, then there’s the cosmetic side where you are going to ultimately look your best. We’ve done things like help a woman whose son was getting married. In 10 days, we did her eyelid surgery and her facelift surgery, and 10 days later, she attended her son’s wedding and she looked very good. That’s a lot of pressure, and I prefer not to do that, but it gives you a sense of what is possible.

Meet with experienced, qualified cosmetic surgeons who perform a lot of eyelid surgeries, and learn about their approach. See if you can find someone you’re comfortable with who can offer you this type of scenario. I hope that was helpful, I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for your question.

New York Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Blepharoplasty and time off post-op

Following eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) the patient must allow for some swelling, discomfort, possible bruising and an adequate healing time prior to resuming ‘normal’ activities. Rest, elevation, wound care, limited physical activities all help the process. Swelling may peak at about 3 days then begins to subside. Many of our patients can return to work or school or social activities  in 7-9 days if healing is normal. This does not mean returning to the gym, pilates, construction work or break dancing!   Wearing glasses does help also to help disguise some of the signs of recent surgery. Every person is different and procedures can vary too. 

Donn R. Chatham, MD
Louisville Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Healing time after eyelid surgery?

Most people are able to return to work in about a week after upper eyelid surgery and about ten days after lower eyelid surgery.  You may still have some swelling but should be able to return to work unless your job is physically demanding and then you will need more time off.  There are few alternatives to upper eyelid surgery:occasionally a browlift is a better choice.  Sometimes dermal fillers (such as Juvederm) can camouflage lower lid aging changes.  Discuss with your plastic surgeon and good luck

John Zavell, MD, FACS
Toledo Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Healing after an eyelid lift

Every patient is different and there are a lot of factors that influence how much swelling/bruising you will have. Your chosen surgeon will go over ways to decrease it but I usually have patients stay out of work 10 days. I operate on Friday and keep them out until the following Monday. However people that can work from home on the phone/computer can start the next day.

Byron A. Long, MD
Marietta Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Eyelid surgery recovery

The complexity of eyelid surgery can vary widely. An upper eyelid blepharoplasty can be 80% healed in 5 - 12 days. Lower eyelid blepharoplasty with removal of fat may be healed in 12 - 21 days. However, if there is skin removal from the lower eyelids, fat grating to the eyelids, or a ptosis repair of the upper eyelids done recovery can be much long. Sleeping with your head elevated, the use of a topical steroid, and icing will all decrease the time to your recovery. Best of luck with your surgery.
Alexander Anzarut, MD

Alexander Anzarut, MD
Victoria Plastic Surgeon

Recovery from Eyelid Surgery

Blepharoplasty is done as an outpatient and can be done under local anesthesia with IV sedation. I usually recommend one week out of work. It is not that uncomfortable of a recovery but there can be some bruising that resolves in about a week or so. Depending on the type of work you do will limit your return. You should not do anything strenuous for 3 to 4 weeks (exercise). Unfortunately, if a blepharoplasty is what is best for you there are not many other alternatives. 

Scott R. Brundage, MD
Grand Rapids Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Depending on the issue, there may or may not be an alternative to eyelid surgery.

Recovery from blepharoplasty takes place over a several month period.  However, most people find that they are able to return to work after 7 to 10 days.  This does vary somewhat on how much bruising you experience. Individuals who do strenuous jobs may need a second week before returning to work.  Have a frank conversation with your potential surgeon.  There are alternatives to surgery but this really depends on your precise issues.  Many people who do not have time for surgery in fact to noninvasive procedures like BOTOX and fillers as an alternative to eyelid surgery.

Kenneth D. Steinsapir, MD
Beverly Hills Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Eyelid surgery downtime

 Eyelid surgery takes approximately an hour to perform under general anesthesia as an outpatient surgical procedure. Anticipate two weeks of visible bruising and swelling. The amount of time patients take off work is quite variable, but if you don't want to have anyone know that you have had this done, you should take two weeks off from the work environment. No strenuous activities for two weeks. Some patients go back to work at one week with some mild residual bruising and swelling partially covered with makeup. The incisions take 2 to 3 months to finally heal and that's the point where we take our after pictures. 

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 143 reviews


There are a number of factors involved in a patients recovery.It depends most importantly on what specifically will be done in your case.Also there is significant variability from one patient to the next.

Jay M. Pensler, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Healing after blepharoplasty (eyelid lift)

Healing varies from patient to patient but generally is pretty fast for upper eyelid surgery and slower for lower eyelid surgery. If only an upper blepharoplasty is done, most patients resume their daily activities after a few days when the swelling started to subside. Some bruising, though, is likely still present. One can start wearing eye shadow and makeup again after 7 days. Lower eyelid surgery takes longer to heal, approximately 10-14 days. Please note that skin complexion, skin thickness, propensity to bruising, etc. all play a role how quick one's recovery is.

Thomas J. Walker, MD
Atlanta Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 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.