Celebrity facelifts can seem to happen overnight. Before-and-after photos suddenly appear online and in magazines, and it is easy to forget that the celebrity in question likely spent weeks out of the limelight before showing off their younger look in public. The results of a facelift are certainly glamorous, but the recovery process is often hidden from view, leaving many people wondering what to expect as they heal. The specters of puffy swelling, healing sutures and odd sensations may seem impossible to navigate on your own. Fortunately, recovering from a facelift is more straightforward than you might think — there are just a few simple things to remember during your recovery.

Swelling is Normal

The biggest concern many facelift clients have is that their face looks swollen and it does not seem to be improving very quickly. Most surgeons will recommend that you take two weeks away from work and normal activities. This time frame is suggested because it takes between 10 and 14 days for initial and uncomfortable swelling to reside to a point where you can hide your surgery with hair and makeup. Lesser swelling or a general sense that your face looks “puffy” can take several months to resolve itself. Your final results will take shape over the course of these months, but it does take time for your face to heal and adapt to its new skin.

Your surgeon likely has a few techniques they recommend to keep swelling to a minimum — keeping your head elevated, taking antihistamines like ibuprofen or Zyrtec or using cold compresses can relieve some of the puffiness. If you are particularly concerned about appearing swollen in public, you may want to take extra time away from work or talk to your surgeon about your concerns during your consultation or a follow-up appointment.

Numbness and Tingling Will Fade

A loss of sensation around your neck or ears (near your sutures) is also normal during a facelift recovery, but can seem very worrisome because it is not something that you typically experience in day-to-day life. Most people have experienced swelling and scarring before and understand they are part of the body’s natural healing processes. However, numbness and tingling are usually a sign of ill health or poor circulation, so suddenly having these sensations in new places can be a cause for concern. These symptoms can persist for quite some time; a common time frame before you can expect them to fade is usually between 2 and 6 months, but it is also considered normal for them to last up to a year.

Numbness occurs because nerves in the area are detached as your skin is lifted from your face and repositioned. Your nerves will slowly rebuild themselves and adjust to their new placement. Tingling or pinching is a sign that feeling is returning as your nerves reconnect, and will gradually level out into normal sensation as everything returns to normal.

Scars Take Time to Heal

Your surgeon will take great care to place your scars so that they are hidden by your hairline and the natural folds of skin behind your neck and ears. They will not normally be visible to the casual onlooker, even while they heal. However, we are our own worst critics, and it is common to overthink the appearance of your scars. They will likely be red and raised for several months and it is normal to feel like they may never be fully hidden. In fact, though, it can take nearly two years for your scars to form and flatten. By taking good care of them, particularly in the early stages of healing, you can improve their appearance in both the short and long run. Keeping them moisturized, protecting them from infection and direct sunlight and using scar treatments recommended by your surgeon will go a long way towards ensuring that they heal as invisibly as possible. Some clients also choose redness-reducing pulsed dye laser treatments to reduce redness and puffiness — if you are interested in this option, your surgeon should also be able to recommend a particular laser treatment and advise you on when it is safe to schedule one.

Your Surgeon Knows Best

The most important thing to know about your facelift recovery is that your surgeon is always available to assist with questions or concerns. If you feel like your healing symptoms are not normal or are lasting longer than they should, contact your surgeon right away to make sure you aren’t experiencing complications. Your surgeon is also a great source of recommendations for making sure your healing process is comfortable and that you are taking good care of yourself while you recover. If you need advice on types of scar medications or ways to ease swelling, ask your surgeon what they recommend — they know your procedure and your health history and will be able to provide suggestions tailored to your personal needs.

If you are interested in a facelift or in learning more about the procedure and the recovery, the Maas ClinicTM offers expert plastic surgery services in the San Francisco area. Our facelifts and other cosmetic surgeries are provided by Corey S. Maas MDTM, a world-renowned facial plastic surgeon with years of experience. Call us today at 415-567-7000 to schedule your consultation.

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