Facelift surgery, clinically known as rhytidectomy, is one of the most widely known cosmetic procedures for improving the overall appearance of the face and jaw. This surgery has an excellent track record in removing excess skin and lifting and tightening deep facial tissue to turn back the clock for a more youthful appearance. When considering facelift surgery, it is wise to have an understanding of the recovery process and timeline.
Preparation Is Key
The first step to recovery begins before surgery takes place; adequate preparation starts at the pre-surgical consultation. It is essential to carefully follow all pre-surgical instructions. If you smoke cigarettes, your surgeon will instruct you to quit smoking for at least two weeks before surgery. Smoking can prevent oxygen flow and increase recovery time. You will also be asked to refrain from using certain medications, such as blood thinners, that could cause complications during and after surgery.
Making arrangements for transportation and aftercare can decrease stress and help with recovery. Have someone ready to transport you from the hospital or surgery center to your home; you will not be able to drive yourself. Furthermore, expect to take one to two weeks off from work and prep for recovery at home. To make things easier, arrange to have at-home help for the first few days to a week. This will give you adequate time to focus on resting. Some patients make recovery kits that include:
- Extra bandages
- Healthy prepped meals
- Over-the-counter medications
- Prescription medications already filled
- Extra pillows for head elevation
- Loose clothing tops that are easily removable or button up
The First Week
After your surgery is complete, your pre-arranged transportation can take you home to begin recovery. Be prepared to feel slightly fatigued for the first few days. By day two, you should be feeling well enough to get up and start doing light activities with your surgeon’s permission. Some patients may still experience weariness and side effects from the pain medication, such as nausea. It is important to rest and take it easy. However, light activity when you feel up to it increases circulation and aids in recovery.
Incisions are typically done in the hairline or in a hair-bearing area to minimize the appearance of scars. You will have stitches, staples, or both over the incision sites and bandages covering stitches/staples. These areas can cause itching and discomfort as the incisions heal. It is important to follow post-operative instructions on caring for the incision sites daily to prevent infection and minimize discomfort. Staples will usually be removed during the one-week post-op visit, while stitches are dissolvable and will go away on their own.
Swelling and bruising are the main sources of discomfort during the first week. One side of the face may have more swelling than the other, and bruising should peak at about four days. Keeping the head elevated and taking medication as needed should alleviate any discomfort and help with swelling. Dr. Pollack may place drains during surgery to minimize swelling during recovery. You will also wear a compression garment that wraps over your head for the first week.
By week two, you will start to see improvement. Bruising and swelling are still present but should start to dissipate. It is not uncommon for patients to feel tingling or numbness at this point. If you are unsure about something, always consult your surgeon.
By this point, you will start to feel better. Light activity is suggested, but strenuous activity should still be avoided at this time. Incisions will still be healing, and stitches will have begun to dissolve. It’s important to remember that incisions may be red, itchy, crooked, or bunched; this is completely normal as they heal. Keep a lookout for any signs of infection. If you have any concerns, feel free to call your surgeon.
Weeks Three and Four
At 15 days post-surgery, you will feel ready to get back to normal activities, such as work and moderate exercise, but be careful not to overdo it (intense exercise should not be resumed until after four weeks). Bruising will fade, and incisions will appear pink and start to flatten out. You can apply makeup to help cover some of the discoloration. You may still experience some swelling, but most of the discomfort will have passed.
Month Two and Beyond
By now your life can return to normal after recovering from surgery. Residual swelling and bruising could take a few months to a full year to completely resolve. Skin sensation and other skin changes could take up to a year before seeing the final results. It is important to remember that healing and recovery vary dramatically from person to person.
Dr. Pollack and his staff are available to guide you through your entire recovery, so you never feel alone and always have a lot of support. To see if a facelift is right for you, call our office at 858-450-9100.