Before you get a facelift, it is important to know the common side effects that come with the procedure. Patients tend to experience pain, bruising and swelling post-surgery — symptoms that will subside over time at different rates. Keep in mind that every individual heals differently, but the healing process will not be overnight.
Facial swelling will take the most amount of time to fully disappear. A facelift disrupts your lymphatic vessels, causing the damaged tissue to hold more fluid. Redness and heat in the affected areas are caused by an increase in blood flow and movement of fluid to the area of inflammation. When the vessels reconnect and begin to function, proper lymphatic drainage will return and the swelling will go away.
Before the procedure, talk to your surgeon about possible swelling. For some surgeries, swelling can indicate healing or infection. The following guidelines regard normal post-op swelling — if you or a loved one is experiencing abnormal lumping or pain, consult your surgeon right away.
Swelling Recovery Timeline After Facelift
Swelling after a facelift will be different for everyone, but typically:
- Most of your swelling, up to 60 percent, will disappear in the first couple of weeks after surgery, but then the wait begins for the remainder to subside.
- After three months, 80 percent of the swelling will be gone.
- After six months, 90 percent of the swelling will be gone.
- And the last 10 percent can take almost a full year to fully disappear.
After three months, the swelling will usually not be noticeable, and in general, most people feel they look their best at this time. However, the patient will be able to tell that the swelling is not fully healed at three months because the facial tissues will still feel firm. In general, the swelling will be prolonged if the central face or cheek area is manipulated during the facelift.
Swelling after a facelift is normal and expected. Everyone heals differently—but some retain a little more fluid for a longer period of time. Most can return to work and play two weeks following the procedure, and on average, patients can be presentable with makeup in 14 days.
If the fluid is leaking from a closed incision, follow up with your surgeon. If it is a small amount of fluid, the body will eventually reabsorb it. If it is a larger amount, a drain and compression may be required. It’s important to drain the fluid to avoid potential infection, so the skin can properly tighten for a smooth facelift contour.
Post-Facelift Swelling Treatment Options
Every patient needs to be treated differently. We will need to examine your specific case in order to provide further instruction, but in general, we have a few tips to help keep your swelling down:
- Some surgeons advise that patients wear a compression garment for the first two days following surgery. If an area of the neck was involved in the procedure, the garment may need to be worn for up to a week. These garments help improve blood circulation, minimize swelling and accelerate the patient’s healing process.
- A low salt diet starting before surgery and continuing after surgery can also minimize fluid retention, along with sleeping with your head elevated for the first two weeks following the procedure. Apply a cool compress religiously during the first few days following surgery, and 10 days after, participate in a gentle lymphatic massage once a week.
- Lymphatic massage will help relieve the swelling. To engage in this type of massage, apply firm but gentle pressure, and push the fluid out of the swollen area by moving your hands in an upward direction. This will assist the remodeling vessels to best match your facial contour. Massaging sutures will also help with their healing process.
- If you have lumps and irregularities, or if you are concerned about your facial swelling, visit your plastic surgeon and he or she will guide you further.
Keep in mind that swelling will return to normal as time passes — recreating the lymphatic vessels takes time. Meet with your surgeon to discuss detailed practices to reduce swelling and other facelift side effects.