On waking from anesthesia, you will find yourself in the recovery room with dressings, and ice or gel pack in place. Your vision may be blurry owing to protective ointment applied to your eyes during face lift surgery. You will be able to depart once sufficiently recovered from anesthesia, and lucid. A friend or family member will drive you home and stay with you for the next 2 days to help you with activities of daily living. Initially, you will feel tired and run down. This will be at its worst in the first several days after face lift surgery. The lethargy may be attributed to general anesthesia and will improve substantially over the first week after a face lift. Discharge from your incisions should be minimal over the 1st 2 days after face lift surgery, though bleeding may occur with excessive activity, and at least some spotting over the dressing is normal. The dressing present after face lift surgery will be removed, along with a special garment, during the first post-operative visit. Drains, if present, will likely be discontinued at the same time. If dilute local solution was used (superwet or tumescent technique) pain and discomfort will be mild initially, and will increase and peak within two days. The pain will then subside over the course of one to two weeks. Use of prescription pain medication will help significantly.
Nausea and vomiting in the postoperative period is not uncommon and has to do with the type of anesthesia used and overall patient sensitivity to the various medications. It generally resolves within 1 to two days after face lift surgery. Increasing fluid intake (provided you have no history of heart or fluid trouble), especially via one of the “ade” (Gatorade, PowerAde, etc.) solutions available for sports use, combined with anti-emetic medication should minimize this problem.
Use of opiate pain medication, combined with inactivity, and dehydration may lead to constipation. Increasing fluid intake will help this as well, especially in combination with walking, and use of a stool softener.
Swelling and bruising peak within three days of face lift surgery and gradually subside over the following week, but may persist for up to four weeks. The two sides rarely bruise to the same degree, and a mild difference in swelling is normal, however, if swelling is notably different you will need to come in for evaluation immediately. Your appearance early on in the course of recovery may be distorted by a significant amount of swelling, giving you a bloated, puffy, pale appearance with blotchy bruising. Do not be disturbed, this will pass, and you will look and feel much better within several weeks.
Apart from swelling and bruising, most patients will experience tightness and numbness over the cheek, and possibly the earlobe. Most numb places will regain sensation over several months, the earlobe as long as six months. Neck tightness may limit the degree to which you can turn your neck; this will gradually improve over the following two months. Expect improvement in all of your symptoms, worsening over the course of recovery is not normal and needs to be addressed via a prompt phone call.
Hair may be lost around the incision 1 month after the face lift surgery. It will usually return within 4 months after the initial loss. If the beard-bearing skin of the face and cheek are replaced behind the ear, men may have to shave there, though this is not routine.
Healing incisions will adopt a pinkish hue which should gradually fade over the next six months to a year.
Some patients react to absorbable (inside) suture, small pustules or whiteheads along the incision may signal this. The suture may be removed in the office if the problem becomes bothersome.
Facial camouflage make-up may be applied two weeks after face lift surgery to conceal bruising, and healing incisions. Tell-tale signs of face lift surgery will resolve within 1-2 months. The final result will be obtained once all of the swelling has resolved, typically around six months.