A woman after plastic surgery giving a thumbs up.

Surgery and Swelling: Facelift Recovery Day by Day (Photos)

Back to all posts September 5, 2022
A woman after plastic surgery giving a thumbs up.

Recovering from any surgery is going to be a process that takes time. But when you have plastic surgery–a surgery that is supposed to change your whole appearance–you want the changes to take effect NOW. You want to see results immediately, and it can be kind of a letdown to know that it’s going to take some days and weeks (and even months) before you are fully comfortable in your new skin.

So let’s start from the beginning, and we’ll see what kind of things you can expect from your body and your recovery as you change and develop into the new you.

Day One

Day one post surgery is going to be a day of exhaustion and rest. You’ve just been through a significant surgery and had anesthesia that knocked you out, and the post-op recovery time is going to be noticeable. You may not initially feel much pain, but you will certainly be feeling pressure, partly from the swelling and partly from the bandages wrapped around your face and chin.

As the day wears on you’re going to need some pain meds, and if your doctor prescribes you any prescription pain medication, this is the day to take it. (It depends on your situation whether you get prescription drugs or over-the-counter meds.) This begins your most important facelift recovery week.

Day 2

On Day Two you will likely have a follow-up appointment with your doctor. They will change your bandages and see how the scars at the incision sites look. They’ll be interested in bleeding, in drainage, and in discoloration.

Assuming all looks good (which it will 95% of the time) the doctor will reapply the bandages and send you back on your way home. Your facelift recovery time will depend a lot on how closely you keep to your surgeon’s care instructions.

Day 3

No appointments with the doctor on the third day after cosmetic surgery, which means that this day should be spent primarily resting. If you look in the mirror you’ll notice that you look pretty awful: days Three and Four are among the worst days of face lift recovery for swelling and bruising.

This isn’t to say that the swelling and bruising is going away. You’ll need to come to terms with the fact that swelling and bruising are going to be your companion for several weeks. The facelift swelling timeline can last for weeks.

Days 4, 5, and 6

In these days after surgery, if you had been prescribed pain meds beyond ibuprofen and Tylenol, then this should be the end of those. Now is the time to transition to over-the-counter pain solutions (if you haven’t already).

Also during this recovery process, you’ll feel a little more like getting out of bed and trying to do some things around the house. This is a good sign, but remember to take it easy. You could very easily become lightheaded as well as just tiring yourself out.

Days 7-14

This is where you start to get a look at what the New You is going to look like. There will still be swelling, that’s for certain, and you’ll have a feeling that your skin is being pulled tight (because it is).

But this week is a week for returning to some household duties, and some people even feel that at the end of the second week they’re able to return to work. While not much can be done for swelling, any discoloration can be hidden by makeup, and some go-getters feel the need to get out and see people again.

Days 15-21

This will be the week when your sutures are removed (if your sutures need to be removed–they may be dissolving sutures). But you will start to look and feel much better. As the swelling reduces you’ll be getting your first real glimpses of what you’re going to look like when you’re fully healed–but bear in mind that this is still in the preliminary stages.

Even weeks after surgery you’ll have some bruising and swelling, and to reduce swelling you need to follow doctor’s orders, including avoiding strenuous activity. You’ll look much better in a few more months.

Days 21-30

You should start to feel comfortable returning to light-to-moderate physical activity without fear of splitting open an incision. Walking, jogging, or biking are all good activities for someone in recovery from a facelift.

After the First Month

You’ll be feeling great, but the full picture of what you’ll look like when all swelling is gone will come at the 2-3 month mark. Always make sure that, even if you feel great, you keep your appointments with your surgeon so they can monitor your progress.

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