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Facelift, Face

What to Expect After Facelift Surgery

Dr. Larry Fan has performed hundreds of facelifts and patients are always concerned about what to expect in the days and weeks following a facelift. If you're like most people, you are concerned about how long the recovery process will take, what your body will experience after surgery, and when you'll be able to resume normal activities or hit the town looking and feeling great.

All of these concerns are legitimate, and you should have a conversation with your doctor about what your realistic expectations should be. But there are some post-operation things you'll need to be aware of, as well as some general guidelines for having the quickest recovery.

In this article we will discuss the high-level, general things you can expect after a facelift. That way you will be more prepared for your surgery. However, keep in mind that every surgery is unique, and you need to consult your doctor on what you will experience based on your operation.

What to Expect After a Facelift

You should plan to relax for your recovery period and arrange for someone to help you for the first few days.

The First Day: 24-48 Hours After a Facelift

You will only be released into the care of a responsible adult following your surgery. If you don't have a friend or family member who can stay with you, your doctor's office should recommend a professional, postoperative caregiver.

You won't be permitted to drive, operate heavy machinery, sign important documents, or drink alcohol for the first 24 hours after anesthesia. All of the areas operated, which may include the face, neck, eyes, forehead, and fat donor areas, will experience swelling and bruising. The extent of swelling/bruising depends on the individual.

The skin and tissue will be fragile, so special care instructions given by your doctor must be followed to avoid trauma. Numbness is also a typical side effect, and pain is generally mild and mostly reported as a sensation of tightness, although each person is different.

For those concerned about pain, medication will be prescribed and should be taken as directed. Incisions from the surgery may seep fluid and small amounts of blood.

Plan to get plenty of rest during the early stages of healing. After surgery, and when sleeping, your head should be elevated at a 30-45 degree angle.

You should get up and walk every 3-4 hours to improve circulation. Using assistance and caution is strongly advised. You may experience blurred vision and/or temporary visual changes, which can be caused by ointment put in your eyes, or it may simply be a temporary side effect of surgery.

Your first meal after anesthesia should be something light and easy on your body. Soup, crackers, jello, and applesauce are all excellent options.

Be sure to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated!

The First and Second Weeks after Surgery:

You should still be resting during your full first week and have someone available to help you.

Don't try to resume normal activities yet!

Your face and neck will still show signs or bruising and swelling. Keeping your head elevated above your heart will help to reduce the swelling, so plan to prop yourself up with pillows or in a recliner to rest and sleep for the first week.

Numbness may still be experienced, but pain medication is usually unnecessary after the first few days.

You should plan to limit the use of your eyes to avoid straining. Try to limit your reading or screen time to one hour at a time and give your eyes plenty of rest in between.

Your stitches will be removed during this time period, usually 4-14 days following surgery, depending on the individual and the procedure.

Driving can also be resumed, with caution, in about 7-10 days.

Weeks After Facelift Surgery

Recovery time varies from patient to patient depending on your age, overall health, skin quality, genetics, and the surgery performed. The more extensive the procedure, the longer the recovery period.

Patients undergoing short scar or mini-lift techniques recover more quickly.

Social Activities and Work

Most of our patients can resume social activities and return to work approximately two weeks after surgery. By that time, most bruising and much of the swelling should have subsided.

Exercise and Sexual Activity

Plan on postponing exercise regimens for about 4 weeks. After that, you should be able to resume normal exercise without worry. Sexual activity can be resumed approximately six weeks after the surgery. While these are only ballpark time periods, you should consult your doctor for approval before resuming these activities.

Smoking and Second-Hand Smoke

Expect to avoid all forms of nicotine for at least three weeks following surgery (and three weeks before). This is extremely important to allow your body to heal correctly. Some patients struggle with this, but it's very important to the recovery process. Consult your doctor if you're a smoker or otherwise consume nicotine.


Don't expose your incisions to direct sunlight for at least 12 months.

Recovering Like a Pro

Numbness often takes six months or more to resolve completely. Some patients are concerned over this, but it takes time for nerves to regenerate and heal. This is normal.

It's important to talk to your doctor about what to expect and plan to follow all post-surgery instructions to heal properly. Expectations may vary from doctor to doctor and choosing an expert surgeon will impact your recovery time.

Dr. Fan understands patients' concerns about life after facelift surgery. He believes that with realistic expectations, a doctor you can trust, and easy-to-understand instructions in the weeks following your facelift, you'll be ready to face the world in no time!

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About the Author

Dr. Larry Fan is a Harvard educated, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in San Francisco, CA. He is a Master Artist who is known for creating beautiful, stunning, and natural results. Dr. Fan has been named One of America's Top Plastic Surgeons for the past 10 years running and has received several national awards for his work in Plastic Surgery. He has successfully performed more than 10,000 cosmetic procedures of the face, breasts, and body over a 20 year period. Dr Fan has been an invited speaker at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons, and has been featured in national media outlets such as CNN, NBC, and ABC.

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