Having a face lift is perhaps the biggest type of plastic surgery you can have on the face. Other surgeries, such as a brow lift or a blepharoplasty involve much smaller areas of the face and, thus, will generally require less recovery time. A face lift, on the other hand, involves a large area of the face and changes the shape of the face to a greater degree. The recovery time after a face lift is greater than most facial procedures.
In a face lift, an incision is made in the hairline and along the backside or front of the ear. The skin is separated from the underlying tissue and excess fat is removed. Any loose muscles are tightened up and the skin is trimmed so that when it is sutured to the original incision line, the skin is redraped in a way that reduces wrinkles and smoothes out the face. The only incisions are those in the hairline and by the ears.
The face lift recovery period depends on a couple of factors. Common side effects of a face lift that can alter the recovery period include swelling, bleeding, hematoma formation and infection. If you get a hematoma, which is a blood clot formed beneath the skin from excessive bleeding, you may need to have another surgery to remove it if heat packs to the area does not resolve the hematoma. Infection is also treated with local heat and the use of antibiotics to settle down the infection. Any of the latter two side effects will extend the recovery period.
When you first see the doctor a few days after surgery, you will still be bandaged and will be swollen with some bruising. Your sutures or clips will be removed after about five days. The doctor may leave them in longer if necessary. Your bandages will probably be removed after a week.
During your face lift recovery period, you will need plenty of rest. After a week, you will be able to move around more, however movement should be minimized as to reduce altering your bandages. Your face may feel numb for a while, but this will resolve after a few weeks. Do not tug on your hair because half of the incision is in your hair line. Do not restart smoking because it will slow the healing process. Avoid alcohol for a few months while you are healing. You should also not take very hot showers, or go into steam baths or saunas for several months following the procedure.
Most people can return to work after about two weeks. Some bruising or swelling may still be present but should be minimal at this point. You can hide the bruising with certain cosmetics products if desired.
In some patients, mild depression can occur after having a face lift procedure. This is mainly due to high expectations for surgical outcomes, on top of the longer recovery period for face lifts compared to other facial plastic surgeries. You will look different from what you are used to, and it may take some time getting used to. Allow yourself to become adjusted to your new fresh face, as most people are satisfied with their face lift once the healing process is finished.