Facelift Recovery Time

Face lift surgery, also known as a rhytidectomy, is a type of plastic surgery performed to improve the appearance of the face. During the procedure, excess skin or fat may be removed. Remaining tissues are lifted and contoured to provide a younger and rejuvenated appearance.

What to expect after surgery

Facelifts are typically performed with general anesthesia. As the anesthesia wears off following your surgery, you can expect to feel tired and groggy. Many facelift recovery patients also report feeling confused or nauseous. Patients usually return home on the same day as their facelift procedure. You will need to arrange a ride home from the surgical center.

During this initial facelift recovery period, you can expect to experience some bruising, swelling, and tenderness. The bruises may extend to the eye area, giving you the appearance of a “black eye.” Any discomfort you feel can be controlled with pain medications. Other common facelift recovery side effects include temporary numbness and tightness as the tissues heal in their new positions.

You may have sutures or tape holding the incisions closed as they heal. During this time, avoid disturbing the incisions or the facial tissue. Patients are advised to wear button-down shirts during the facelift recovery period. Sleep in an elevated position with several pillows behind your back to reduce swelling and other side effects. Be gentle to your face; avoid vigorous scrubbing, brushing or blow-drying your hair, or other activities that may irritate the tender skin or the incisions. During this time, it is also important to avoid alcohol consumption or hot saunas.

Because facelift surgery requires incisions in the skin, there is a possibility of scarring. Most incisions are located in areas unlikely to result in visibly noticeable scars, such as behind the hairline or just in front of the ear, although patients should understand that scars are possible following a facelift. Any scars that you do notice should fade into the surrounding skin over the next six months to a year.

Tips to reduce swelling after surgery

Although swelling is your body’s natural response following surgery, many facelift recovery patients find that the initial swelling obscures the results of their facelift. The distorted appearance caused by swelling and other side effects can be a bit scary for many patients. Some residual swelling can also persist for up to three months. Following surgery, there are a few steps you can take to reduce swelling:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Eat a proper diet and watch your sodium intake.
  • Get plenty of rest and avoid returning to daily activities too soon.
  • Keep the head elevated.
  • Avoid medications that may interfere with swelling and fluid balance. Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking.

Compression garments

Depending on the areas targeted by your facelift procedure, the treated area may be wrapped with surgical gauze, bandages, and/or a compression garment following the surgery. Care for the treated area as advised by your doctor. If a compression garment has been recommended, wear it as often as possible, including full-time for at least the first few days. Following surgery, a compression garment controls swelling and holds the tissues close to the body, helping them to adjust to their new contours. Loose skin, held closely to the body with compression bands, is less likely to sag or wrinkle as it heals.

Healing time

Facelift healing time is typically between one and three weeks. Patients spend the first few days recovering from surgery before gradually returning to their normal activity level. Most facelift recovery patients return to work in a week to ten days, depending on the extent of the procedure. Avoid strenuous activities for at least a month.

Although the initial recovery period takes just a few weeks, you can expect the final results of your facelift to be visible in about three to six months. The results of a facelift are permanent, although the face will continue aging naturally following the procedure. Most patients experience visible results for between five and ten years following their surgery.

Content written by Andrew Proulx, MD | Reviewed by Charlie Chen, MD |Last updated 6/24/2023