During my 15 years of experience in Toronto, I have categorized recovery from plastic surgery into 3 types, and the 3 often overlap: the functional part, the pain & discomfort part, and the “social” part.
The functional part is important for my body surgeries such as tummy tuck; buttock, pectoral and calf implants; liposuction; breast augmentation; etc. As far as facelift procedures are concerned, the functional part is a very small component of the recovery, as patients are quickly able to move about, talk and eat. Pain is also very minimal with most facial procedures, including a complete rhinoplasty where nasal bones are manipulated, moved and reset in the desired position.
The most limiting part of necklift and facelift procedures for my Toronto patients is the “social recovery”. Bruising, swelling, incisions, drains, a special compression garment, and stitches are all present in the first days post-surgery. Those facial “social inhibitors” will vary, depending on the extent of the facelift techniques.
The mini-facelift has a small amount of recovery, but it has fewer benefits as well. Still, it might be the right decision for some patients.
For most, a more thorough and comprehensive facelift technique is required, including:
- A full repair of the neck, as described in my previous blog post, To Open or Not To Open
- Neck liposuction
- Perhaps fat grafting for patients requiring ongoing fillers
- Laser skin resurfacing for peri-oral wrinkles (smoker’s lines)
- Temporal extension
- Eyelid lift
- Chin implant
Fat grafting and full laser resurfacing, although powerful for rejuvenation, are the 2 adjunct procedures that will lengthen recovery the most.
“A well performed comprehensive facelift will have great rejuvenating powers and will last for a very long time. And it will look natural.”
On average, recovery after a comprehensive facelift can last between 2 and 4 weeks, with 4 weeks being mostly for the facelifts done with microfat grafting for volume replacement. A special garment is worn for about a week. I like to use very small drains for one night to minimize swelling and bruising and to shorten the recovery. Most bruises have turned green after 7 days and yellow after 10-14 days, after which most ecchymoses (bruises) can be covered with makeup.
The mini-facelift, which consists mostly of minimal undermining, a short scar and skin-only lift, will have a much shorter recovery, often without bruising. Stitches are often internal and the few external ones can be removed 7 days post-surgery. That being said, the results of mini-lifting procedures are less drastic and will be shorter in duration.
The good news is that the tenderness is minimal with all facelifts and necklifts, so my patients rarely need analgesics for more than 1-2 days.
Here are my 10 commandments for a healthy and smooth recovery:
1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition, avoidance of sunshine, sunscreen, good protein intake, and avoidance of cigarettes.
2. Stay in a quiet environment. You can recover at home if it is quiet; otherwise, I recommend a cottage, country house, etc. This may require having grandparents take care of the kids for a few days.
3. Many patients find oral naturopathic bromelain and arnica to be of help in facilitating and speeding up recovery; an iron supplement is often recommended, too.
4. A good protein intake (and low fat) is important for healing.
5. Avoid nicotine, ephedrine and other vasoconstrictive drugs (e.g., many street drugs), especially with a facelift, breast lift, open rhinoplasty, or tummy tuck.
6. Lymphatic drainage of the lower face and neck is also encouraged post-facelift and our technician will see my patients weekly for this treatment.
7. Get all your prescription medications a few days pre-surgery.
8. Prepare the room where you will be recovering; prepare your iPad with movies, have magazines and books you would like to read nearby, and load your iPod with some happy, uplifting, and relaxing music.
9. Prepare comfortable clothes for the visit at the surgical centre and for the recovery period. Consider pullover versus button-up shirts, and shoes without shoe laces, if possible, to avoid having to bend over. Wear easy-to-wash clothes, in case they get soiled during the recovery, etc.
10. Finally, be optimistic, and keep in mind that in a few weeks, you will have regained the face — or body — you once had.
Dr. Marc DuPéré, aesthetic plastic surgeon