How Will I Look and Feel the First Week After My Facelift?

How Will I Look and Feel the First Week After My Facelift?

How Will I Look and Feel the First Week After My Facelift?

Knowing what to expect during recovery from a facelift will help you make plans regarding work, family obligations and social commitments. Fortunately, patients who allow sufficient “time off” for recovery and follow their pre- and post-operative instructions to a tee find the process much easier than expected. Read on for key things to consider as you make plans for your facelift and subsequent recovery.

Scheduling your surgery

You can easily determine the best time of year for your facelift surgery and recovery by considering your work schedule (for example, do you have any big deadlines coming up?), family obligations (are you expected to look your best at a wedding?) and personal interests and hobbies (if you live to ski, winter may not be an ideal time to undergo surgery). Remember: setting yourself up for a smooth recovery starts with your pre-op planning.

Days 1 – 7 Post Op: “The Rest but Not Bed Rest Phase” – What to expect

Expect the first seven days after surgery to be the “worst” – not because of how you’ll feel but because of how you may look. Some patients feel fine (in which case you will want to be out of bed doing regular but light household activities) or you may feel tired and experience some side effects from the medications that you are taking – nausea or lethargy for example. At any rate, you do need to take it easy during this phase and rest but not bed rest. While the temptation to lie around in bed all day may be strong, it is best if you move around the house on a regular basis as soon as you feel well enough.

Bruising and swelling, which peak at Day 3 or 4, may result in such temporary effects as bulges, bumps, bunchy skin, tingling, numbing or asymmetry. You can expect the bruising and swelling to start to improve after Day 4. Before that happens, remind yourself often that your physical appearance in no way indicates how you’ll look when your recovery is in full swing. You may wish to view “before and after” photos of successful facelifts and read articles to assure yourself that what you are experiencing is normal and temporary. Some patients choose not to look in a mirror during the first week of recovery; this isn’t a bad option if you’re particularly sensitive.

Swelling and bruising

Swelling – the main culprit for discomfort following a facelift – may be worse on one side of your face than the other. If so, it may cause an asymmetrical appearance that should be of no concern. Each side of the face is a separate surgical site and, as such, will bruise and swell differently. You may even experience bruising and swelling in places you never expected (e.g., down your neck or behind your ears). Don’t worry; this is normal and will resolve itself over the week.

Your bruising and swelling may:

  • be minimal (lucky you!);
  • get progressively worse (until Day 3 or 4) before getting better;
  • cause strange-but-normal sensations (tingling, burning, numbness or tightness);
  • result in swollen eyes (even if no surgery was performed on the eyes); or
  • be worse on only one side of the face, then the other.

If single-sided swelling happens suddenly, is dramatic and is accompanied by severe pain, you may be experiencing a rare complication called a hematoma. Please call your surgeon immediately if you think this is the case (ask your surgeon what to look for prior to your procedure); hematomas are only dangerous when left untreated.

Incisions, incisions

When you wake up from surgery you’ll have dressing placed on your face. After two hours or so you’ll be ready to go home. If you happen to look at yourself in a mirror, you’ll see sutures (stitches used by surgeons to hold tissue together) in the hairline incisions and staples in the hair-bearing skin. These can be itchy and uncomfortable, but following your pre- and post-operative instructions (which include a daily incision-care routine) will help. You can expect to feel much better after your seven-day post-op visit, during which the staples are removed. The sutures are often dissolvable and will go away on their own soon.

Remember, it’s completely normal for your incisions to:

  • be itchy and red;
  • look crooked;
  • have some hair stuck in them;
  • be bunchy; and/or
  • ooze fluid for the first couple of days.

However, if your incisions seep pus or feel very painful in one spot (and your pain medication doesn’t provide any relief), you may have an infection. Though this is very uncommon and rarely dangerous, it’s important to find out whether you need special treatment by referring to your pre- and post-operative instructions or calling your surgeon to alert staff to your symptoms.

Pain and discomfort

Most patients describe the pain associated with facelift recovery as “discomfort combined with odd sensations.” The discomfort will likely be easily controlled with prescribed pain medication taken on schedule and according to instructions.

Your overall tolerance to pain and discomfort is usually a good indicator of how you will fare during recovery. If you tend to struggle with other medical conditions, like injuries or viruses, you will probably react the same way to your facelift. Knowing your personality and tendencies can really help prepare you for recovery.

During recovery from a facelift you may feel pain/discomfort:

  • all over (i.e., a general sense of discomfort);
  • in localized areas (e.g., the ears); or
  • as stiffness or soreness in your neck, especially when you turn your head to the side (your pre- and post-operative instructions ask you not to make dramatic facial expressions or turn your head to help prevent the sutures from bursting).

Pain and discomfort should be easily controlled with your pain meds; if not, or if you develop a fever or a severely distorted bulge on one side of your face or neck, call your surgeon.

How you feel

Your emotions in the early stages of recovery will likely be worse than any physical discomfort you feel. Patients report feeling a variety of emotions ranging from “totally fine” to “I second-guessed my decision to have a facelift.” It’s normal to feel concerned and slightly down (after all, you aren’t looking your best and are stuck inside). However, if you feel really depressed, call your surgeon’s office for a pep talk and ask friends and family for support.

During recovery you may feel:

  • bored, scared or negative (find out how to beat the post-surgery slump here); or
  • totally excited (you should be! The results are going to be fantastic!).

Days 7 – 14 Post Op: Feeling Good But Not Looking Great – What to expect

Seven to 14 days post op will bring about many exciting changes in the way you look and feel. Just remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, pick up the phone and call your surgeon. In the meantime, here are some common questions patients have at this stage of their recovery from a facelift:

  • Will I need care from a friend or family member during my facelift recovery?
  • What can I do to sleep comfortably after my facelift?
  • What should I do to prepare for my facelift surgery?
  • What can I expect during the first week of recovery after a facelift?
  • What can I expect during the second week of recovery after a facelift?
  • What can I expect 15 to 30 days after my facelift?
  • What can I expect during the first year after my facelift?

The professional staff at 8 West Cosmetic Surgery are happy to help no matter what stage of recovery you’re in. Give us a call today!