Patients should not be alarmed by the site or feel of their face immediately following surgery. Your face will likely appear pale, puffy, and bruised. The features of the face are often distorted by swelling, and facial movement may be somewhat stiff. You are likely to experience some numbness of the skin as well. Any significant discomfort following surgery can be lessened with pain medication prescribed by the surgeon. If a drainage tube has been used, it should be removed one to two days following surgery, while bandages are typically removed one to five days following surgery. The metal clips, along with most sutures, are removed within five to seven days, though some sutures located in areas other than the front of the ear may be removed up to two weeks later.
By the third week, most patients look and feel much better. Some specific bruising may remain for 2 to 3 weeks following surgery, while any numbness typically disappears within several weeks to several months. Special make-up can help to camouflage any remaining bruising. The scalp may take longer to heal than other areas, and the hair surrounding the temples may remain thin for several months. Your skin may also feel dry and rough for several months after surgery. Male patients may discover a need to shave in new places, generally behind the neck and ears, as areas of beard-growing skin may have been repositioned during surgery.
The surgeon will want to conduct follow-up visits during certain points in the healing process, and it is essential to keep these appointments. These visits will allow the surgeon to monitor both the healing process itself and any potential complications. Be sure to immediately report to your surgeon anything unusual that you may encounter, such as severe or persistent pain, or sudden swelling of the face.
Recovery time following facelift surgery will vary from patient to patient, but on average most patients are up and about within a day or two following surgery and back to work after 10 to 14 days. However, plan to take it easy for the first week as you may tire easily. The surgeon may instruct you to keep your head elevated and as still as possible for several days following surgery. This will help minimize swelling. Because the skin may be both tender and numb, and may not initially respond as it should, you need to be particularly gentle with the face and hair. Your surgeon will provide you with specific guidelines for gradually resuming your normal activities, but you will generally need to avoid strenuous activity for at least two weeks following surgery. Your surgeon may also tell you to avoid alcohol, along with steam baths and saunas, for several months.
Your face will gradually improve day by day. Patients must be aware, however, that the healing process is a gradual one, and that the final results of facelift surgery can take up to a full year to be apparent. While the effects of one facelift may allow you to look better and younger years later, the results of facelift surgery are not exactly permanent as you will continue to age. In some cases, patients feel the need to repeat the procedure five to ten years later.