What You Need to Know About Facelift Recovery
The recovery from facelift surgery is determined by the dynamics of your individual healing process and by your need for privacy.
How painful is facelift recovery? Most Patients Experience Less Discomfort than Expected
Most of my patients are pleasantly surprised by the relatively low level of discomfort after facelift surgery. I often prescribe a combination of valium to relax the muscles and a mild narcotic pain pill to reduce discomfort to help with the first few days after surgery. For patients who wish to avoid all narcotic pain pills, we can prescribe alternatives. Many patients make the transition to Tylenol within one or two days of surgery and are able to dispense with stronger pain medicine entirely. A few require the pain pills several days longer.
More common than pain is a sense of tightness across the neck and beneath the ears. This gradually diminishes over a period of one to two weeks, but occasionally the sensation lasts longer. This tightness is directly related to the fact that we have achieved deep structural rejuvenation of the neck. The platysma muscle of the neck has been restored to a youthful position that supports the neck.
What to expect during recovery? There Are Three Phases to the Facelift Recovery Process
The first phase is swelling, which usually peaks at two to three days and gradually diminishes. Swelling is usually greater in people with a heavier facial structure.
The second phase is bruising, which peaks at five or six days. We instruct our patients on ways to diminish bruising. However, the degree of bruising varies from one person to another. Some patients may have very little bruising after a facelift procedure while others have quite a bit more. For patients with greater than average bruising, we have several methods to help the bruising resolve.
The third phase is what I refer to as “settling in.” During this phase, there will be areas of firmness in the cheek and neck that are related to the deeper sutures that I place to restore the facial structures to a youthful position. There will also be areas of numbness, which gradually diminish over time. The neck will feel tight, and this requires time to relax. These issues are perceived by you but are generally not noticable by others.
Facelift Preparation Affects Your Facelift Recovery
Healthy Nutrition and Regular Exercise Improve Recovery
Healthy nutrition and regular exercise in the weeks leading up to surgery will supercharge the healing process. I ask my patients to eat more foods rich in antioxidants and to reduce their intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. A stable foundation of routine exercise and healthy nutrition will allow the benefits of your facelift surgery to last for years.
Optimal Skin Health Pre and Post-Surgery Is Important
A high-quality skincare routine is optimal prior to facelift surgery. For patients who are not on a regimen of medical-grade products, we can customize a skincare routine for your based on your skin type prior to your surgery, as well as a post-surgical maintenance routine from products available at our Chicago and Winnetka offices.
Refrain from Excessive Sun Exposure
Excess sun exposure damages the skin’s structure and repair mechanism. It is very important to protect your skin from the sun in the weeks before a facelift. A recent tan supercharges the pigment cells of the skin and may lead to deposition of brown pigment in the area of surgical incisions.
Are you planning to lose weight?
If you are planning on losing 10 or more pounds of weight it is wise to do so before your facelift. This enables me to optimize the tone of the skin and deeper structures at the time of your surgery. There is nothing worse for the longevity of a facelift than for a patient to cycle up and down in weight after surgery. Each time this happens the skin is stretched out and some of the benefits of the surgery are lost.Physical
Concerns During Facelift Recovery
Will I have visible scars after my surgery?
Scars from facelift surgery are rarely an issue. Patients who come to me for consultation regarding facelift surgery often express concern about the visibility of the incisions that are made for the surgery. In my practice, I rarely hear any concerns about scars from patients on whom I have performed the surgery.
Pre-Surgery Details Are Key to Good Results
Careful attention to the details of planning surgical incisions and the technique of closure results in scars that are rarely an issue for the patient. Over the years I have gone to many meetings that focus on facelift surgery. I have seen hundreds of results of master surgeons such as Daniel Baker and Sherrell Aston in New York City, Tim Marten in San Francisco, James Stuzin in Miami, and William Little in Washington DC and I have never seen the surgical incisions to be an issue.
Exercise After Your Facelift Procedure Helps the Healing Process
Gentle Exercise Only At First
After the first few days of recovery from surgery gentle exercise facilitates the healing process while heavy exercise is harmful. Mild stimulation of the circulation will help the body to heal, but overdoing exercise will simply increase swelling and slow the healing process.
We encourage our patients to walk at a moderate pace for the first few weeks after facelift surgery. Mild exercise stimulates the healing process and outdoor exercise minimizes the feeling of being “cooped up” after surgery and is good for the spirit.
Our work is customized to each patient, so we will provide you with individualized guidance as to resuming specific types of exercise that are tailored to your needs.
Depending on the specifics of your surgery we will instruct you as to when you can resume more vigorous forms of exercise. This process occurs in a gradual manner and begins somewhere between three and five weeks after your surgery.
Good Nutrition Is Essential to Your Recovery
As mentioned previously, a nutritious diet is essential to overall health. Stick to foods that are rich in antioxidants such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and rich in protein from fish and other healthy sources. Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar, and fatty cuts of beef. Eating healthy lowers your risk of heart attack, stroke, and memory loss.
We strongly emphasize embracing nutritional habits in the weeks leading up to surgery and this is even more essential during the recovery period. For patients who have not yet adopted a pattern of optimum nutrition, facelift surgery provides a great way to reset your nutritional patterns on a permanent basis.
The knowledge that good nutrition will help to extend the benefits of your surgery can be a powerful motivator to adopt habits of good nutrition and maintain them over the long term.
For the first few days after your facelift surgery, we advise that you avoid foods that are hard to chew, such as pizza, tougher cuts of meat, and certain types of nuts.
Planning to travel? It Is Important to Tell Us Before Your Surgery
I, and my team, will see you several times during the first week and a half after your surgery. This enables us to carefully monitor your healing, remove sutures at the optimum time, and optimize your recovery.
For patients who come to us from out of town, it is best to stay in the Chicago area for a minimum of ten days after facelift surgery, and it is always nice if you can give us a few extra days. Some of our Chicago patients have second homes in the surrounding states. We can usually arrange for your appointments at the most convenient office location. Patients with homes in Michigan or Indiana usually prefer the Chicago office, while patients with homes in Wisconsin find the Winnetka office to be the best.
The main issue with air travel after the first few days is not the travel itself, but the need to avoid lifting heavy baggage. Make sure there is someone traveling with you who can lift your carry-on bags. If you are traveling by yourself you should check your back and only use a light carry-on.
When can I resume my normal routine? We Will Guide You as to When You Can Return to Work and Social Activities
When you will return to work and social interaction is determined by several factors. The first factor is the nature of the surgery itself. Some procedures are more complex and extensive. As a general rule bigger and longer procedures require more time for recovery
The second factor is the speed at which you heal. If you have had other surgeries in the past this may be of some help in predicting your speed of healing. Patients who are in excellent physical condition and who have optimum nutrition tend to heal quicker than those who do not.
The third factor is how private you want to be about your surgery. I have noticed a trend toward greater openness about facial rejuvenation surgery. This makes it easier to return to work or social interaction at an earlier date. However, some patients prefer not to share they have had or plan to have facial surgery which will require a longer resumptive period.
The fourth factor is the nature of your work. If you have a job that is largely carried out at the computer and over the telephone, you can return to work sooner than someone who has extensive client contact or who has work that is strenuous.
Are you in the right mental space for facial surgery? Your State of Mind Will Influence Your Entire Surgical Experience
It is not wise to undergo elective surgery during periods of stress. If you are experiencing turmoil in your work or in your personal life, it is better to postpone your surgery to a time when your life is calmer.
Look at your personal and work calendar and find the time when you are least busy. This is usually the best time to have your surgery.
If you undergo surgery during a period of excess stress, this will cause the release of stress hormones, which can affect the healing process in a bad way. Especially during the early recovery, you should concentrate on healing rather than on concerns in your personal or work life.
Almost invariably patients who approach surgery with a relaxed state of mind will have a smooth recovery and excellent results.
Schedule a Facelift Consultation with Dr. John Q. Cook
Our team at the Whole Beauty® Institute is committed to making the preparation and recovery for your facelift surgery a gentle experience.