“How long is recovery?” That’s a question asked by most people considering plastic surgery, and facelift patients are no exception. It’s a question without a specific answer because some people take longer to heal than others. But there are general facelift recovery milestones, and knowing what to expect helps minimize anxiety about your healing process.
I’ve developed a comprehensive breakdown of the typical facelift recovery timeline to help you plan the days, weeks, and months after your procedure. After your recovery, you can refer to my previous blog post for facelift recovery tips and how to help the results of your facelift last longer.
Facelift Recovery Timeline
Whether you undergo a traditional facelift, a limited incision facelift, or a neck lift, this timeline provides some typical recovery milestones. It’s important to remember that you can always contact us during your recovery with any questions or concerns.
Day 1 to 7
Day of Surgery
You’ll return home after our medical staff monitors you in the recovery room. I apply bandages to incision sites to reduce swelling and bruising and place surgical drains that prevent fluid from accumulating below the skin. You’ll need to empty the drains twice daily and record how much fluid has drained. You shouldn’t shower while the drains remain in place. Bandages and drains must remain dry. I also instruct patients to carefully walk around their homes starting the day of surgery to increase blood circulation.
2-3 Days After Surgery
You should expect swelling and bruising to peak during the first week after surgery. You can apply cold compresses during the first 48 hours to reduce swelling. Sleeping in a recliner or with your head elevated on a couple of pillows for the first week or two can also minimize swelling. Some of my patients remark that they’re pleasantly surprised at how little discomfort they experience during facelift recovery. You’ll return for a follow-up appointment 2 to 3 days after the procedure. I’ll remove the drains and check your progress.
Days 7 to 14
Most patients can return to work that isn’t physically strenuous 10 to 14 days after the procedure. You can apply makeup to camouflage bruising if it’s mostly resolved by then. You should check with our practice to ensure using makeup and other skincare products on the treated areas is safe.
Weeks 2 to 4
During weeks 2 to 4, you’ll start noticing a gradual improvement in your appearance as swelling and bruising subside. If you still experience mild discomfort, continue taking over-the-counter medications. You may notice some facial tightness and limited ability to change expressions for a few weeks. That’s normal, and natural facial movement should gradually resume.
You can begin taking longer walks and resume light activities at this point, but continue to avoid activities that elevate your heart rate until 4 to 6 weeks have passed. In addition to resuming work, you’ll probably feel comfortable attending informal social gatherings, such as going to a restaurant or casual parties.
Months 1 to 4
By the end of the second month, you should notice a significant reduction in residual swelling and bruising. Your facial contours will become more defined, and you’ll start to see the initial results of your facelift. Incisions will continue to heal and fade during this period. Keep in mind that it may take several months for incision lines to reach their final appearance. Your surgeon may recommend scar-minimizing treatments or products to help with this process.
Around the third month, many patients report feeling like themselves again. You’ll have a better sense of the final outcome of your facelift, and the majority of the post-operative side effects should have been resolved.
Months 4 to 6
At this point, most patients can fully appreciate the final results of their facelift. Any residual swelling or numbness should have resolved, and your face will appear more youthful, with improved contours. If you’re getting a facelift before a significant social or professional event, such as a wedding or presentation, schedule your surgery at least 2 months before the event date.
Maintain your facelift results by practicing good skincare habits and protecting your skin from sun exposure. Consider establishing a skincare routine with professional-grade products. We’ll schedule periodic follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and address any concerns you may have. These appointments are also an opportunity to discuss any further cosmetic enhancements or treatments you may be considering.
Even though a facelift is a transformative procedure that can give you a more youthful and refreshed appearance, it cannot stop the aging process altogether. Over time, you may notice subtle changes in your appearance. Many patients opt for nonsurgical treatments, such as dermal fillers or BOTOX® injections, to complement and extend the results of their facelift.
Understanding the facelift recovery timeline and its milestones can help you confidently navigate the healing process. Everyone’s healing journey is unique, so be patient and follow our guidance for the best possible results. Ultimately, the benefits of a well-executed facelift can be well worth the time and effort invested in recovery. If you’re considering a facelift, request a consultation using the online form or by calling our Burbank, CA, plastic surgery practice near Glendale at (818) 500-0823.