Recovery after Facelift – step-by-step timeline

Facelift Recovery Process and Timeline

If you have chosen to undergo facelift surgery, you should be aware of the recovery timeline. Facelift surgery, or rhytidectomy, is a cosmetic procedure aimed at giving your face a fresher, more youthful appearance. It involves tightening the skin and tissues of the face, and removing excess skin, to smoothen out wrinkles and lines.

The decision to undergo a facelift might be motivated by various factors. It could be the desire to combat signs of ageing, to enhance self-confidence, or simply to feel good about oneself. Regardless of your reason, it’s essential to be well-informed about the process and the subsequent timeline for recovery after facelift.

In this blog, Consultant Plastic Surgeon Anthony MacQuillan will give you more details about facelift surgery, including the timeline for recovery.

More about the Facelift Procedure

To navigate the road to recovery, you first need to understand the facelift procedure. It begins with an initial consultation where Anthony will discuss your medical history, your expectations, and the possible risks and complications. He will also explain the procedure in detail, ensuring you’re well-prepared.

During the surgery, incisions are made around the hairline and near the ear, allowing Anthony to lift and tighten the underlying tissues. Excess skin is then removed to give a smoother, more youthful appearance. The procedure generally takes several hours, and you may have it under local or general anaesthesia.

Post-surgery, you will notice immediate changes, but remember, this is just the start. The true results will be revealed gradually over the next few months, making the timeline for recovery after facelift a crucial aspect of this journey.

The Importance of Knowing the Timeline for Recovery after Facelift

Understanding the timeline for recovery after facelift is vital for both physical and emotional wellbeing. It allows you to prepare for what lies ahead, manage expectations, and cope with the changes that follow the surgery. It also helps you plan your personal and professional life around this period.

The recovery timeline varies from person to person, depending on factors like age, health, and the extent of the surgery. However, a general timeline can provide a guide. It’s important to remember that healing is a process, not an event. Patience and adherence to post-operative guidelines are key to a successful recovery.

It’s also worth noting that while the physical changes are noticeable, the emotional adjustment can be equally challenging. You’ll need to be patient with yourself, allow your body to heal at its own pace, and be open to the changes you’re experiencing. This understanding of the facelift recovery timeline is invaluable in your journey towards reclaiming your youthful appearance.

Immediate Post-Operative Period: What to Expect

Immediately after your surgery, you may feel groggy from the anaesthesia. You’ll notice bandages around your face to minimise swelling and bruising. You may also have small tubes inserted to drain any excess blood or fluid – I personally tend not to use drains and use external quilting sutures in their place to prevent the accumulation of fluid beneath the skin. It’s vital to follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding care and maintenance of these dressings and drains.

There might be some discomfort (the quilting sutures I use are definitely uncomfortable but the benefit in terms of decreased swelling and haematoma rates is massive), this can usually be managed with prescribed pain medication. Avoid any strenuous activities and ensure you take plenty of rest. This period is crucial for the initial healing process, setting the tone for the rest of your facelift recovery.

It’s normal to feel a mix of emotions during this time. From excitement about the changes to anxiety about the recovery, it’s all part of the journey. It’s important to stay positive and patient, as this is just the beginning of your recovery timeline.

The First Week of Facelift Recovery

The first week post-surgery is a period of significant healing. The quilting sutures are removed on day or 4 following surgery and after this the restriction of movement in your neck (especially turning from side to side) will improve. Swelling and bruising will be maximum for the first week, after which they will begin to subside. You should continue to avoid strenuous activities and ensure you’re getting plenty of rest.

It is essential not to bend, lift objects or strain for the first couple of weeks after a face or neck lift. Once the skin is lifted from the underlying tissues it does not stick straight back down again (we are not like Velcro!) and it takes 2 weeks for sufficient scar tissue to form to prevent and increase in blood pressure resulting in bleeding from the ends of the cut vessels filling the potential space created between the skin and the layers beneath.

Eat a healthy diet to support your body’s healing process and keep yourself hydrated. It’s also important to keep your head elevated, even while sleeping, to help reduce swelling.

It’s important to remember that healing is not linear. Some days, you may feel better than others. Listen to your body and allow it to guide you through the recovery process. Each day brings you closer to the end of your timeline for recovery after facelift.

The First Month

By the first month, you’ll notice significant improvements in your healing. Most of the swelling and bruising will have subsided, and you’ll start to see the more defined results of your surgery. You may also be able to return to your normal activities, although vigorous exercise should still be avoided (as it will result in swelling and skin flushing)

During this time, it’s important to continue following Anthony’s advice. This includes protecting your skin from the sun, as it can cause pigmentation and hinder the healing process. You should also continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle to support your recovery. It is absolutely essential to refrain from smoking and stay off nicotine (in any form) as it will delay healing and could comprise blood flow to the skin.

While you may be feeling better, your body is still healing. It’s important to continue to be patient with yourself and your recovery. You’re well on your way in the timeline for recovery after facelift.

Long-Term Facelift Recovery: What to Expect

During the long-term recovery phase, you’ll see the full results of your surgery. Your face will have adapted to its new contours, and you’ll be able to appreciate the youthful rejuvenation you sought. It’s important to know that while the physical healing is mostly complete at this stage, emotional adjustment may still be ongoing.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still crucial. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and good skincare habits can help maintain the results of your facelift. Avoiding excess sun exposure and smoking can also help preserve your youthful appearance.

Just like a car in order to maintain the best appearance of your face and neck you will need to ‘service’ it to ensure a prolonged benefit. The use of agents to maintain skin quality is essential. These can take form of topical creams (retinol), laser type devices such as intense pulsed light (IPL) and fractionated CO2 laser (commonly referred to as Fraxel, although this is a trade name and there are multiple similar products on the market), micro needling and skin peels. Similarly, despite a facelift you will continue to lose volume from the facial skeleton and the native facial fat pads. If you have had fat grafting as part of your procedure, expect to keep about 50% of the amount transferred in the upper half of the face and about 25% in the lower half of the face. Therefore in addition to skin care maintenance, volume boosting in the form of additional fat graft or deeply place collagen scaffolds like sculptura are likely to be needed. Understanding that ongoing care is going to be required in order to get the best out of a facelift is a key part of the long term recovery process.

The experience and understanding gained during this recovery process will serve you in preserving the results of your facelift. The timeline for recovery after facelift is not just a roadmap to healing, but also to maintaining your rejuvenated appearance.


Tips for a Smooth Facelift Recovery

Here are some tips to ensure a smooth facelift recovery. Follow Anthony’s instructions diligently. He’s your best guide in this journey, and his advice is invaluable. It’s also important to take care of your body. Eat healthily, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest. This will support your body’s healing process and promote a quicker recovery.

But more than anything, be patient with yourself. Healing takes time, and it’s normal to feel a range of emotions during this process. Allow yourself to experience these feelings and remember that it’s all part of the journey.

Keep a positive attitude. Understanding and embracing the timeline for recovery after facelift is crucial to a successful recovery. The journey of a facelift extends beyond the surgery. It’s a process of physical healing and emotional adjustment.


FAQs about Recovery after Facelift

How long does it take to look normal after a facelift?

  • The recovery time after a facelift varies from person to person, but generally, patients start to look more normal and feel comfortable in public within 2 to 3 weeks. Swelling and bruising are common after the procedure and usually begin to subside significantly after the first week. It can take up to several months for all swelling to resolve and for the final results to fully emerge it is going to be a year. It’s important to follow Anthony’s post-operative instructions and attend follow-up appointments to ensure a smooth recovery.

How soon after a facelift can I walk?

  • Walking is encouraged soon after a facelift to promote blood circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. Most patients are advised to start light, gentle walking within a day or two after the surgery. It’s crucial to avoid strenuous activities or heavy lifting for several weeks. Anthony will provide specific guidelines based on your individual case, but gentle walking is generally beneficial for your recovery process.

How long do you have to wear a face garment after a facelift?

  • In my own practice I do not use facial garments (I use the haemostatic net /quilting sutures mentioned above) however for surgeons who do recommend them, it is typically recommended for 1 to 2 weeks. This garment helps to minimise swelling and supports the healing tissues. The exact length of time can depend on the extent of your surgery and your surgeon’s protocol.

What can you not do after a facelift?

  • After a facelift, there are several precautions to take for a smooth recovery. Avoid strenuous activities, heavy lifting, and vigorous exercise for at least 4 to 6 weeks. It’s also important to avoid direct sun exposure on the face and use sunscreen to protect the skin. Smoking is an absolute no as this runs the risk of skin necrosis (skin dying) and the subsequent adverse scar formation and likely need for further surgery. Additionally, avoid using saunas, steam rooms, and engaging in activities that may cause excessive facial movements or pressure in the initial recovery period.

Can I wear makeup after a facelift, and if so, when?

  • Wearing makeup after a facelift is generally permissible, but it’s important to wait until Anthony gives you the go-ahead. This is usually after the incisions have sufficiently healed, usually around 1 to 2 weeks post-surgery. Before this period, applying makeup can risk infection or irritation at the incision sites. Once you’re cleared to use makeup, it can be a useful tool to conceal any residual bruising or discolouration as you continue to heal. Remember to use gentle, non-irritating products and to carefully clean your skin to avoid any complications.

Further Reading about Face Procedures with Consultant Plastic Surgeon Anthony MacQuillan

Medical References about Recovery after Facelift