A facelift, also known as a rhytidectomy, is a plastic surgery that lifts and tightens the skin and muscles of the face and neck in order to reduce signs of ageing. It is the most effective cosmetic solution for reversing facial ageing.
However, swelling is a common temporary side effect of the surgery that can be uncomfortable for patients. In this article, we’ll explain how you can better manage your facelift recovery and provide you with some tips for reducing post-surgical swelling that can greatly alleviate any discomfort.
Facelift Swelling Timeline
Swelling after a facelift surgery is a normal part of the healing process as it results from a rush of cells into damaged tissue. As the lymphatic vessels – which are responsible for balancing the body’s fluids – are disrupted after a facelift, the damaged facial tissue retains excess fluid.
As your face begins to heal and the lymphatic vessels are reconnected, the swelling will gradually dissipate. Below is an estimated timeline for this process following a standard facelift procedure. However, this timescale varies depending on the type of facelift you underwent. For example, patients that undergo the more invasive deep plane facelift can expect this timeline to be extended by 2-4 weeks:
- You will likely experience immediate pain and discomfort from the swelling for the first 24 hours after the surgery.
- After 24 hours, our surgeon will remove the surgical dressing and assess your healing process.
- The swelling usually reaches its peak 3-4 days following the surgery. This will coincide with your second follow-up visit with your surgeon.
- You will likely still experience swelling in certain parts of the face 7-14 days after the surgery. However, the pain will have significantly decreased, and you should feel able to resume most of your daily routine, including going back to work.
- You will be scheduled for a final follow-up visit with your surgeons around 12 days after the surgery.
- During the 3rd and 4th weeks following the surgery, the swelling will continue to dissipate, and you will begin to gradually see the results of your facelift.
- After 4 or 5 weeks, the swelling should have completely subsided, and you can resume your normal daily routine, including intense exercise.
- It may take up to 6-9 months for the results of the facelift to become fully visible.
Factors that Impact Facelift Recovery
Each individual patient recovers at a different timescale following a facelift surgery due to a range of factors, such as those listed below:
The healthier you are, the better your chances of making a faster and smoother recovery following a facelift. In contrast, patients that have pre-existing health conditions or lead an unhealthy lifestyle may have a weakened immune system that makes recovery more challenging.
Likewise, the younger you are, the more likely you are to have a healthier immune system and achieve a faster recovery. Furthermore, older patients are more likely to have greater sun damage, depleted levels of collagen, loss of fat, weaker muscles, and other more severe signs of aging. Therefore, their plastic surgery may be more complicated, and as a result, will entail a longer downtime.
Type of Facelift Procedure
The type of facelift procedure your plastic surgeon performs can affect the length and intensity of your recovery. For instance, a deep plane facelift utilising the SMAS technique is associated with a longer downtime as the surgeon lifts and tightens the skin and face of the neck while also getting rid of excess skin. In contrast, the MACS technique has a shorter downtime as the surgeon only tightens the muscles and skin within the face and neck.
Following Aftercare Instructions
Your plastic surgeon will provide aftercare instructions during your consultation in order to ensure that your recovery is as smooth as possible. These instructions may relate to prescribed medication, cleaning incisions, diet, showering, exercise, and other areas of your lifestyle. The more closely you follow the aftercare advice, the smoother your recovery will be.
Tips to Reduce Swelling
Patients can undergo INDIBA treatments following the surgery for a more comfortable recovery process. INDIBA Deep Care is a highly effective technology utilising radiofrequency energy to produce a number of post-surgical benefits, including reducing swelling by improving lymphatic drainage. Most patients notice around a 50% improvement in pain following two treatment sessions.
There are several simple measures that you can take to reduce bruising and swelling and make your recovery more comfortable:
Keep Your Head Elevated
For at least a week after your surgery, you should sleep by laying on your back with your head elevated on a pillow. Due to gravity, this posture reduces the levels of fluid accumulating within the damaged tissue, which leads to less swelling.
You should avoid showering while you still have your surgical dressings in place. Once the dressings are removed, usually within 24 hours, you will be able to have a shower and wash your face. However, you should still take care when cleaning around your incisions.
It’s essential that you keep your body hydrated after surgery, drinking at least the recommended 8 glasses a day. Hydrating your body with water and other beverages will help elevate your energy levels, flush your body of toxins, and help regenerate your skin.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight can disrupt the healing process following a facelift surgery due to the effects of the harmful UV rays of the sun. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the risk of a range of complications in patients, including skin inflammation, discolouration, and the appearance of new wrinkles.
Use Ice Packs
Placing an ice pack on the face can reduce swelling and create a numbing sensation that lessens pain in the area. The cold from the ice decreases blood flow to the area by contracting the blood vessels. As a rule of thumb, cosmetic surgeons recommend placing a cold compress on the area for 20 minutes at a time.
Take Natural Supplements
There are plenty of natural supplements that you can take to boost your immune system, reduce swelling, and help your body recover faster from the surgery.
For example, Vitamin A helps promote the growth of collagen and new blood vessels; Vitamin B promotes healing, cell repair, and reduces inflammation; Vitamin C is high in antioxidants that boost the immune system and collagen formation.
Avoiding smoking before and after cosmetic surgery is advised for many reasons, particularly as it can help speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of other complications such as hematomas. Smoking delays the healing process as it constricts the blood vessels, slowing down the delivery of oxygen and nutrients needed to repair and regenerate damaged tissue.