If you're reading this, you've either just had a facelift or are preparing to have one. Congratulations! This is a major life choice, and one that probably wasn't easy to make. Now that you've had your procedure, it's time for the next stage of your facelift journey: healing. As anyone who has ever recovered from a facelift will tell you, the recovery phase can be nearly as emotionally challenging as the process of finding the best facelift surgeon in NYC and researching the best type of facelift.
Here in the city that never sleeps, most patients don't have time to sit around and wait for months for their facelifts to heal. They need it done right and they need it done now. But when it comes to facial plastic surgery, one should remember: healing takes time.
There is certainly a lot of science involved in the healing process. There are steps that can improve your recovery and others that can hinder it; hearing which is which from a plastic surgeon will help to minimize the anxiety associated with your healing. After all, knowing what you're up against is already winning half of the battle. That's why Dr. Konstantin has created this guide.
If you're in your post-op bandages sitting upright in bed reading this or have just finished staring at your bruises in the mirror and wondering if this is normal, you are not alone. While each face is unique, the stages of recovery are often quite similar from patient to patient. Having an idea of what to expect in your near future will make it so much easier to go through.
Dr. Konstantin explains the recovery timeline by showing a patient's journey through recovery and breaking the process into three distinct stages: the first 1-2 days, the first 1-2 weeks, and the first 1-2 month. While each patient heals differently, the following illustrates what could be expected in the days, weeks, and months after your facelift surgery.
The stages of facelift recovery
First 1-2 days
Your first 1-2 days should be focused on making yourself comfortable. All you have to do is take your pain medications, avoid strenuous activities, hydrate, and find a nice, upright position to rest. Your postoperative dressing will be placed by your doctor and replaced by the nurse a day after. Hopefully, you will have your medications and food stocked up and prepared so you will not need to worry about running to the pharmacy or the neighborhood grocery. This stage of healing could be the hardest in terms of physical discomfort, but it is typically not very anxiety provoking: the entire face is covered with bandages and there is very little to do other than taking pain medications and resting.
First 1-2 weeks
In the second stage of healing, you will start caring for your incisions and applying post-op bandages. You will also be gradually returning to your normal daily activities. For most people, this period lasts 1-2 weeks.
As it would be visible that you just had facial surgery, we recommend that you take time off from work and avoid major social events. While preference varies, most patients in Manhattan prefer to be discreet about their procedure; if you, however, are comfortable telling other people about your operation, there is no reason to avoid them. For those on the fence, we encourage you to get creative with fashion during this stage.
This stage is arguably the most difficult period of the entire facelift healing process. Most people begin to study their faces in the mirror and typically become very anxious about their appearance. After all, it's not every day you'll see your face bruised up, swollen, and having unexpected lumps and bumps. Invariably, people begin to question whether their faces will ever be back to normal.
This is why we advise everybody to avoid looking in the mirror during the first week after their facelift, effectively calling it the "no mirror" stage. While staring at yourself and asking why you had the facelift done in the first place, it is not uncommon to question if you have "ruined" your face for good. No worries! Everything will look better. We know this for a fact--we've seen it thousands of times. Attempting to prematurely assess the results of your facelift can lead to a lot of anxiety and distress and would not be helpful in speeding up your recovery. In the world of surgical cosmetic enhancements, "things often look worse before they look better."
On the practical level, at this point, the most important thing you can do is to follow the postoperative recommendations and instructions of your surgeon. Keep in mind: the doctor is an expert in optimizing recovery. Let the professional guide you through this important period.
Congratulations! You've made it through the hardest part of your recovery. You are now able to look in the mirror and see why you did this in the first place. The good news is, at this point, there will be just a few, fairly small, residual signs that you had a recent operation. The bad news: those few residual signs will take what seems like forever to go away. If the initial healing period seemed lightning-quick, this stage will seem to drag on and on.
Now, most external signs of recent surgery should be fading away to the point where they can be covered easily by a touch of makeup or some creative hair styling. Most patients feel comfortable returning to their jobs and social lives. At this stage, most of your friends and co-workers would not be able to easily notice that you had a cosmetic procedure. Keep in mind, however, that this does not mean the healing process is completely over. There are still quite a few things that are still in the process of healing. It is perfectly normal to experience some tightness around the neck and residual numbness around the ears. The incisions would still be somewhat noticeable, and quite a few areas around the face might feel hard to the touch or slightly bumpy. These are all common and should not be cause for concern during this stage of healing.
Returning to work, resuming social activities, and beginning mild exercise is not only appropriate at this point but also highly advisable. Over the years of doing facelifts, we have noticed that the sooner patients return to their normal activities, the faster everything is going to heal. Just make sure that returning to your normal daily schedule feels comfortable and don't try to overexert yourself in order to speed up the healing. By taking your time and giving your body sufficient time to heal, you will ensure that your recovery will go as quickly as possible.
Patient recovery after a mini facelift and blepharoplasty.
*individual healing will vary
How can I speed up my facelift recovery?
Here in New York City, everybody wants to return to their busy lives without skipping a beat. While we completely understand the desire of most patients to heal instantly -- we are New Yorkers ourselves, after all! -- healing is a biological process, and everyone's body has its own unique timetable that cannot be sped up.
What we can do, however, is support our bodies' healing processes, rather than try to rush things through. At Dr. Konstantin's Manhattan-based practice, we give our patients detailed post-op instructions that help with the healing process. In general, staying active during your recovery period, doing a gentle massage, using a warm compress, and consistently keeping up with proper incision care are all ways to ensure a smooth, quick recovery.
Positive thinking is another thing that will have a great impact on your healing process. Everyone will experience some bruising and swelling, but a positive outlook goes a long way to making things heal faster. A glass half full is always better than a glass half empty!
When going through a stage of doubt, remember to keep your eyes on the prize: focus on why you got your facelift. The transformation that a facelift can have on one's appearance and confidence is profound, but it requires time to reach its full effect. Dr. Konstantin encourages patients concerned about their recovery to remember the reason they opted for a facelift in the first place: "The final results of this procedure could be so striking, and the rejuvenating effect so significant, that the weeks you spend in recovery will all have been worth it."
What should I avoid during facelift recovery?
We've learned over the years that many people whose recovery took longer than expected brought it upon themselves by trying to heal too quickly. One must remember that too much of a good thing is not always better. Oftentimes people are doing the right thing but doing it way over the top: placing bandages overly tight, using excessive heat, and practicing forceful massage will all result in healing delays and could potentially even affect the final result. Please remember: whatever you do, you should do so in moderation.
Another major thing to avoid during your recovery is … the internet. Spending countless hours researching complications of the facelift and looking for the best remedies to treat them will not only greatly increase your anxiety but might also steer you to completely unnecessary treatments. This means refraining from scouring Amazon for miracle facelift healing devices, self-diagnosing from WebMD based on your side effects, and taking the word of non-medical experts on random online forums.
A final word on facelift healing
Everyone heals from facelift surgery. The healing process might be anxiety-provoking, uncomfortable, and sometimes even scary, and all of this is normal. As long as you are able to maintain a positive outlook through this whole experience, you should be looking back at it in a few years and saying, "It was all so easy and all so worth it!"
Dr. Konstantin is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon specializing in artful treatment of the aging face, eyelids, and neck. He performs more than 1,000 facial cosmetic procedures annually, making him one of the busiest facial plastic surgeons in Manhattan.