Full facelift recovery usually takes 2-3 weeks but the most painful and restrictive phase of it lasts only 1-2 days, and ordinary daily activities start getting easier within 3-5 days. Patients are usually driving by 7 days, and back to work by day 10-14. After recovery, final results of the facelift are seen four weeks after surgery, or in rare cases, 8 weeks after surgery.
For men and women interested in reducing long-term laxity, drooping or hanging skin and jowls, wrinkles and folds in their lower and mid face turn to facelifts as the most popular and effective cosmetic procedure of its kind.
Unfortunately, extended recovery periods can, quite correctly, cause many would-be perfect patients to rethink this effective answer to their facial aging problems.
But because of contemporary improvements in cosmetic surgery and the availability of skilled facial plastic surgeons, facelift recovery is now faster and easier than many people imagine.
In fact, the procedure is so bearable that it was one of the most popular plastic surgeries of the past year, with more people turning to it to dial down the signs of facial aging that appear so obviously on virtual video calls—whether it be on social media apps like TikTok and Instagram, or on virtual video conferencing calls in (work-from-) homes around the world.
So how long does it actually take to heal from a facelift?
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Healing length varies based on the type of facelift
Before we can break down the healing process, we’ll need to consider the types of facelift that are available, since each has a slightly different healing trajectory.
Healing from a mini facelift differs from healing from a full facelift.
Traditional facelifts target the drooping and wrinkles in the bottom part of the face, and often include a neck lift for total rejuvenation. Through the years there have been different types of facelifts that have been developed based on the traditional facelift such as the “mini facelift.”
The popularity of mini facelifts has grown over the last several years as a result of their acceptable outcomes and reduced recovery time.
A mini facelift, also known as a limited incision facelift, treats some of the same regions as a standard facelift but requires fewer incisions and a shorter recovery period.
For patients dissatisfied with the definition of their neckline and jawline, submentoplasty alone or in combination with a facelift targets excess fat and any loose muscle beneath the chin.
The 2 Phases of Recovery from a facelift
There are two main recovery phases that follow a facelift procedure.
After a facelift, you’ll need some time to recuperate. Don’t hurry the healing process and give yourself plenty of time.
Once you’ve recovered, you’ll appear 8–10 years younger and be able to enjoy the effects for many years.
The two phases of recovery include: the surgical downtime and the social downtime.
Here is what to anticipate at each stage.
Surgical recovery time
Surgical downtime refers to the period immediately after your surgery. During this phase, which lasts from 3-5 days at most, you’re physically limited from performing certain day-to-day activities. Your first shower will be a bit difficult, as will opening heavy doors, and moving around.
Elevated blood pressure, which occurs automatically when physical force is applied to even the most mundane of tasks—bending over, walking, stretching, showering—impacts your newly done facelift. You’ll be advised to prepare your house for recovery as best you can in advance of surgery, and to have help on hand if at all possible.
A helping hand at home isn’t a requirement but it will make recovery easier during the first 1-2 days of your recovery.
Most patients don’t feel pain per se—since they are on pain medication—but a slight discomfort, deep soreness, and stiffness.
To maximize your healing and recovery during this period, you’ll be provided with specific instructions.
The healing period after surgery usually lasts up to 7 days.
During this time, it’s suggested that you take it easy, avoid all strenuous activity, and rest and relax for much of the day, without being totally imobile. The lightest forms of physical activity, such as walking, are an important part of your recovery.
It’s best to focus entirely on your healing for the first 3-5 days after a facelift and you’ll spend a good portion of the day doing so. Activities like preparing meals, eating, drinking plenty of water, changing dressings, resting, and relaxing will and should be your focus during this time.
Social downtime refers to the period after you’ve started feeling better, but before you are ready to bare your newly fresh face to the world.
After incisions have closed and are healing nicely, bruising and swelling will likely still be present.
Patients typically approach their “coming out” to the world after a facelift a bit cautiously, doing whatever they feel they comfortably can, which generally increases day by day.
Driving becomes safe and possible after pain has been reduced enough that you can move around comfortably (including moving your face and neck in all directions without feeling soreness or shooting pains), and after you have stopped taking all pain medication.
(No-Driving caveats vary by the type of pain medication you may have been prescribed and its dates and details will be available on prescribing information packing with the medication.)
You can resume many activities, including walking outdoors, while wearing a hat and sunscreen—but don’t apply it until your incisions are closed and healed.
Some bruising, swelling, and slight numbness are usual for 10-14 days.
It’s also often advised that you avoid social gatherings for 1-2 months, as you won’t be completely recovered for about that length of time.
Social gatherings are usually a play-it-by-ear occasion and are open to you: a) after your surgeon has removed any sutures, and b) you are over the hardest part of healing. There are also ways to conceal or hide your facelift scars during this period.
That being said, if you’re comfortable being around your friends and family, that is completely up to you as long as the healing process is going smoothly and you feel good enough to attend those types of events.
How long does full facelift recovery last?
As previously mentioned, every facelift is unique, and every patient is unique. Thus—you guessed it—every patient’s recovery period varies.
For the “average patient,” they can expect 1-3 days of the toughest part of recovery, 3-5 days of still-at-home but not in any pain, and 10-14 days of total recovery. If a patient also got a neck lift or a facelift and breast augmentation at the same time it will of course take longer than 10-14 days to recover, and each of the aforementioned recovery stints will be a bit longer.
Patients who opt for a mini facelift may be able to return to work in about a week. Though it does have a slightly shorter recovery period, some surgeons suggest that their patients avoid a mini facelift and just wait out the few years before they are ready for a full or proper facelift.
Two of the most frequent adverse but expected effects of any facelift are bruising and edema .
Most patients feel comfortable leaving the home and returning to public settings after noticeable side effects have subsided in about a week. The majority of the outward indications of healing will have progressed by the first two to four weeks, while complete recovery might take six to twelve months.
A little preparation beforehand might go a long way in ensuring a positive recovery if you’re considering getting a facelift. Recognize that healing takes time, and make a commitment to allowing your body that time. Plan to take roughly 2 weeks off of work, and ask your friends and family to assist you with other tasks in the days just following your surgery. It’s important to take your time recovering and never rush that process– this will ensure you get the best outcomes from your facelift.
[Photo by Molly Champion]