Stages of Facelift Recovery
There is no “normal” facelift recovery. So many variables come into play, different degrees of ageing, surgical and medical history, genetics, psychological outlook and the extent and type of surgery performed.
This page is for my patients having deep plane composite facelift surgery performed by me as all surgeons use different techniques of varying complexity and associated recoveries.
Everyone heals at their own pace and there is no rush. There are however common themes, worries and concerns that almost everybody experiences to some extent or another. On this page I hope to walk you through a typical patient’s journey of both physical and emotional recovery.
Please use it as a guide and not a comparison tool - your journey is your own - and we will be right by your side all the way.
Preparing for facelift surgery is much like preparing for a holiday. Those patients that prepare physically, logistically and emotionally enjoy their journey far more than others who bury their heads in the sand until its time to go.
I tell my patients to give me two weeks of their time until they are comfortable to be visible socially or professionally. In reality, most feel comfortable sooner, but two weeks is a good rule of thumb.
Clearing the social and professional calendar for this period reduces stress and the frustration of needing to hurry healing along. Filling the fridge with soft foods, the freezer with large bags of peas, sorting childcare, getting that pile of washing done, and planning books to read or shows to watch means that from day one you can focus on you and your recovery.
There is no doubt that those patients with a positive mental attitude recover quicker, the opposite is also true – those patients that look up all the rare complications on google tend to tempt fate! Taking time to accept the recovery period, knowing there will be days where you look like an alien and that there will be bruising and swelling and tightness and numbness means you’ll welcome the reality as an expected part of your journey
The Run Up To Your Facelift
You’ve booked the procedure and cleared your diary, logistics are taken care of, everything is ready but are you? We all lead busy lives and tend to be doers more than thinkers. In the few days before surgery, the thinking starts!
Am I doing the right thing? Will it be ok? is my neck that bad? Everybody, and I mean everybody goes through this process. It’s a time of reflection and nerves creep in. Humans are geared to be wishful thinkers but suddenly something that has been longed for for so long is just round the corner and doubts creep in – much like a bride on the night before her wedding.
This is a time to trust your research and decision making, remember the reasons you reached out for help in the first place and remember you are with team who are focussed experts in the procedure you have chosen to have. Feel free to air any concerns or worries in person at the pre-op clinic at anytime.
Immediately After Your Facelift
You’ve done it! Years of waiting, deciding and planning are over. Immediately after surgery you will be conscious as we will have carefully reduced any sedation in the last hour of surgery.
There isn’t usually any pain as the face is still numb from local anaesthetic, the same anaesthetic might have made the eyebrow or lip nerves sleepy and will wear off over the next few hours.
You will be changed out of your gown into your pyjamas and escorted back to your suite with a soft cotton wool head bandage and into our super king beds with 6 firm pillows keeping you propped up.
You might feel sleepy still or you might not – it varies. Some patients are hungry but find the mouth doesn’t open very wide which is why we stock your suite with soft sweet foods. About 10% of patients can feel nauseous, and if so we will give you medication for this. Overnight the anaesthetic wears off and you will feel tightness from the face and neck lift and the bandage, Paracetamol is usually enough to take the edge off this. Some patients sleep well, most get a few hours only, we don’t give any further sleeping tablets as we want your body to wash out the sedation given during surgery.
Tired But Elated
The morning after your bandages are taken down and your hair is gently washed for you.
My patients are placed routinely under an LED phototherapy lamp straight after their hair wash as this encourages blood flow to the facial skin and brings in healing and growth factors to kick start recovery.
After I check you and take 3D and static photography, we pack your bags for you, run through your post operative instructions and help you out to your car. At this stage you are sore but not in pain and elation is common having had a glimpse of the result that has been achieved.
Days Two & Three
I Wish I Hadn't Done It
The elation has evaporated, these are the tough days. I tell all my patients that day 2 and 3 they won’t like me and won’t like themselves!
The reason for this is swelling – it can range from minimal to impressive – there is no normal. Swelling makes the face look alien, feel heavy and throb. Again pain is not expected but a deep soreness and tightness is. It will be difficult to open the mouth wide or turn the neck in most directions.
This is stage do very little, avoid mirrors and ice constantly. Some patients can feel depressed, like baby blues, the facelift blues is a definite thing. The adrenaline, excitement and anticipation gives way to worry, angst and guilt. The latter because this is elective surgery not for physical illness and patients don’t wish to be a burden on their family. Be very kind to yourself, you’ve had big surgery and are allowed to be a patient.
Days Four To Six
Bruised & Bored
The worst is now over and I have become tolerable again! The swelling is going down, neck and mouth tightness is easing but still limited and bruises are coming out.
There might be the odd lump bump, ridge or contour irregularity under the skin where the deeper work was performed but these will all even out. The ears and skin in front of the ears will be strangely numb, the earlobes will be enlarged and it will feel like a tight band or scarf under the neck. Social isolation and boredom starts to creep in, a short walk outside with your hair down and a hoodie is possible. The worry about being back at work in time starts – will I ever look like me again? – the answer is yes – a better version of you but this is where patience is key. You are less than a week out!
Swollen & Yellow
You are back to Azara for removal of your stitches which can now feel like they are pulling. You are swollen still, some are very swollen, others look like they are ready to be back out socially with their hair down – but again there is no normal.
At this stage the swelling is descending with gravity and there can be a bit of a new double chin – which will go. The stitches come out painlessly but the facial skin is still completely numb. Bruises are at their peak if present and we might laser them if indicated. It will feel like you have been recovering for ever but a week is a long time in facelift recovery. And we still have another week before you are back out there.
I Hope No-One Notices
Week 2 is a big week. Changes occur daily as swelling descends and bruising fades. There can be discolouration of the numb skin in front of the ears and behind as new blood vessels bring nourishment to the skin.
You might start to get tingling sensations or pins and needles as the feeling starts to return but usually this is later on. Swelling under the chin is worse in the mornings and after salty foods. As the swelling subsides you might notice lumps and bumps but again these will soften and fade. Emotionally you are now worried that people will notice or that you are more swollen than all the cases on my gallery. In reality you aren’t, they all felt exactly the same way. You might worry that you need a cover story, but remember you know what you have done and others don’t – people tend to look and not see – my patients most commonly tell me that colleagues and friends ask if they have lost weight (welcome to your new jaw and neck line!) or that they look really well (what they mean is more beautiful!)
This Is Going To Be OK
Most patients return to work this week or meet the family and friends who they haven’t told. This is nerve wracking. You’ll try various hairstyles, new make up and outfits but will still be convinced that someone will notice immediately.
The reality is underwhelming – most people don’t even notice, which can be disappointing in itself! The great irony in facelifting is that my patient’s want nothing more than a natural imperceptible result but when they have one and no-one comments it’s deflating. Remember you are doing this for you and not others. The face is still tight and you think about your face constantly, the lump you can feel has taken your mind away from the slightly red scar you were worried about yesterday. Remember recovery trend is up but its not a straight line.
I'm Enjoying It!
You are well on your way now. In most patients 80% of swelling has gone and what remains is like perfectly placed facial filler. It actually makes you look even better.
You aren’t quite there at the final result but you will have a very good idea now. Some feeling is coming back but areas are still numb. Incisions can range from very red to invisible – that’s up to your own healing rate – both are normal as long as the scar is flat. Tightness is getting better by the day and easily tolerated. Confidence is returning and shorter hairstyles, lower cut tops and necklaces are donned not dreaded. I review you routinely to make sure all is going to plan and that everything is healing as expected
Loving My New Face!
Days will go by and you won’t have thought about your face, which seems strange as a few weeks ago you thought of nothing else. Feeling is almost back in just under half of my patients and scars are really difficult to see.
You might even be confident to wear your hair up. The face is only occasionally tight in forced positions but getting better day by day. The swelling is now almost completely gone and with that returns a little normal skin laxity – some will miss that swelling and want a little filler to bring it back but most don’t. You’ll have had those compliments now and re-learnt to apply make up to your much more youthful facial contours. If I’ve operated on your eyelids or brow, mascara and eyeliner have become your new best friends.
Facelift? What Facelift?
The three month review is my absolute favourite. I always quickly peek at the pre-op photo before seeing a gorgeous, confident, beautiful face return for final routine review.
It still gives me goosebumps when I see a patient looking as good as they can in the reception. Swelling has now gone and the benefits of tailored prescription skincare are clearly there to see. Most feeling is back and the rest will continue to come alive over the following weeks and months. Scars in 99% are now invisible and you can wear your hair up. You will have forgotten you had a facelift, in fact you will have forgotten what you used to look like. The new you is the real you and with that comes re-found visibility and confidence.
The definitive guide to anyone considering facelift and neck lift surgery. Essential research for potential patients.Read this first