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what to expect during your facelift recovery

In addition to the information below that is specific to face lift recovery, be sure to read the general recovery and healing information also provided for you at BeautySurg.com.

dressings: After your faceift surgery, you will go home with gauze bandages over your incisions. It is normal to see some pinkish or even red drainage on the gauze. If the dressing is getting soaked through with red blood, call your doctor. If you had any work done on your neck or under your chin, you will probably also have an elastic bandage that wraps around to the top of your head to keep gently pressure under your chin and prevent bleeding or swelling. Sometimes this bandage can feel like it's choking you. If this is the case, your nurse or doctor can make a little adjustment by loosening the bandage or cutting into the elastic a little bit. Do not do this by yourself because relaxing it too much will defeat the purpose of wearing it, putting you at risk for complications. Do not be surprised if you come out of surgery looking like a mummy. After facelift surgery, some doctors wrap the head and neck with gauze, leaving just your face exposed.

drains: You may have one or two drains with a bulb attached to collect excess fluid and blood; however, drains are not always necessary. If you do not have a drain, then your body will simply reabsorb any excess fluid. It is important to keep the bulbs collapsed so that suction is maintained. To do this, pull out the stopper, squeeze the air out of the bulb, and then replace the stopper before you release your hold (while the bulb is still collapsed). While the drains help to prevent fluid accumulation, they also increase your risk of infection so it is especially important to take your antibiotics as directed. For face lift surgery, the drains usually come out at your first post-operative appointment.

hair/showering/hygiene: Your hair will be matted down under the bandage and covered with surgical soap, ointment, blood, and sometimes even KY Jelly (used to keep your hair off your face during surgery). Some doctors wash and even condition your hair after your facelift before the bandages are applied, since it may be a while before you're allowed to do it yourself. Some doctors allow a shower the first or second day after surgery, while some ask you to wait for up to 2 weeks. This is to prevent bleeding and protect the stitches from being disrupted. If you color your hair, hopefully, you've done this before surgery since it may be 4 to 8 weeks before your doctor gives you the okay for coloring again. (Read preparing for your facelift information). After facial surgery, it may difficult to open your mouth. A baby toothbrush and mouthwash can come in handy for clean teeth and fresh breath. You should wait at least 4 weeks before scheduling any dental work.

food: During your facelift recovery, your doctor will want you to start with a liquid diet, and then progress to soft foods, before moving on to a more substantial meal. Especially if you have had incisions in your mouth, your doctor may not want you to chew anything for up to a week. Juice, gatorade, soup broth, jello, pudding, applesauce, and yogurt are all good starter foods. (Yogurt is especially helpful to balance the natural bacteria in your gut that will be wiped out from the antibiotics). Crackers, bread, toast, or rice are good to munch on before taking your medications to minimize the chance of nausea from the drugs.

activity: Your doctors instruction to rest is an order, not a suggestion. For your own sake, please take it easy. Too much activity too soon into your face lift recovery period will only cause problems and delay healing, unnecessarily worrying both you and your doctor. No exercise, no sex, no lifting, no driving, no cleaning the closets, no playing with the dogs, no shopping, etc. until your doctor says it's okay. When in doubt, clear it with your doctor or nurse first. Engaging in too much activity or getting bumped in the surgical site can cause blood or fluid accumulation, ripped stitches, infection, and even tissue death. You've made a big investment in your appearance. Minimizing your activity will help protect that investment.

swelling and bruising: You may have very little swelling or, on the other hand, you may be so swollen for the first few days that you hardly recognize the face in the mirror. Especially if you have swelling around the eyes, this can be shocking. Do not be alarmed! The swelling will usually get worse before it gets better. Usually the first 3 days are increasingly swollen and bruised due to the natural healing response. Rotating cold packs (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off while you're awake) can keep the swelling down and soothe your discomfort. Do not put ice directly on your face because numbness can prevent you from sensing a freezer burn. Keeping your head and shoulders elevated during your face lift recovery will also help reduce swelling. Once you get up and move around more after your first few days, there is a tendency for some swelling to return as your blood pressure increases.

You may notice an area of firmness in the cheek or under the chin from a pocket of swelling. Do not worry, it will likely go away. If it's turning purple or enlarging, contact your doctor immediately to be sure it's not a hematoma (blood collecting under the skin). The natural course of bruising during a facelift recovery will take you from red to blue to purple to green to yellow before the bruise is gone. (Some lucky patients skip the rainbow and go straight to yellow!) For some, arnica, bromelian, and vitamin K can reduce bruising and swelling, but check with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or other medications.

Due to the natural force of gravity, the blood will drain downward through the planes of tissue. For facelift surgery, this commonly means that your neck and chest can become bruised in a matter of days. (Many patients have been alarmed that the doctor operated on unauthorized areas because of noticeable bruises on the upper chest). The bruising will usually be increasingly noticeable over the first few days as the blood is pushed from deeper layers to the more superficial layers of the skin. Bruising and swelling will dissipate in 1 to 2 weeks at which time you should really start to like what you see in the mirror. At 4-6 weeks you'll be very pleased with your new look, although some swelling can persist for months.

stitches and scarring- Some stitches by your ear will be removed after 5 days. Stitches or staples in the hair can stay in longer and help to provide additional support without risking visible scarring from the sutures. The scalp can keep stitches up to 10 or even 14 days since any scarring will be less visible beneath hair. The facelift incision is pretty well healed after 2 weeks, but the scar will remain pink for months. Once the incision is healed and any scab has fallen off, the face lift incision can be covered with camouflage makeup and of course, with strategically styled hair. Now is the time to watch for hypertrophic scarring. It's easier to treat it in it's early stages, rather than wait until it's very thick, raised, and itchy. (read more about scars)

nerve sensation- After a face lift, you will have some areas of numbness on your cheeks. This will gradually return in the weeks and months following surgery. Be careful as decreased nerve sensation puts you at risk for burns from cold packs, curling irons, and hair dryers. Many people experience discomfort or ringing in the ears. It is possible that some blood traveled into your ear during surgery and needs to be cleaned out. Sometimes, irritation of a nerve on the cheek that goes to the ear (the greater auricular nerve) can cause uncomfortable sensations after surgery. This will almost always resolve over time. Specially designed pillows with a hole cut out for the ear can help you sleep more comfortably once your doctor gives you permission to sleep on your side. As the nerve sensation returns, you may feel itching, shooting pains, or shock like sensations. This is normal, and can sometimes be minimized simply with aspirin. (Check with your doctor before taking any medications).

pain and discomfort: Recovering from facelift surgery is usually not very painful. Most people get by with some narcotic pain pills for a few days, and then Tylenol while many just use Tylenol without the narcotics. (If you've had facial implants or rhinoplasty at the same time you will experience more discomfort). The deeper facelifts (subperiosteal, deep plane, and composite lifts) also do tend to create more discomfort because several layers of tissues have been manipulated including the muscle, and swelling is more pronounced. (read more about types of facelifts) The most common complaint after a facelift is discomfort, tightness, or pulling behind the ears. As your skin relaxes slightly, swelling subsides, and as you become used to the tightness, this discomfort will dissipate. If at any time you have significant pain, increasing pain, or pain that seems out of proportion to what you expected, call your doctor. (read more about warning signs)

misc: You may be pretty "out of it" after your face lift, especially if you're having deeper anesthesia so it's important to have someone to take care of you. Your vision may be blurry from ointment that was placed during surgery to protect your eyes during the operation. Although you'll be sleeping alot the first few days, some people enjoy books on tape to help pass the time without straining the eyes. Antibiotics can wreak havoc with some women's gynecologic systems. If you develop a yeast infection, don't be shy about asking your doctor for treatment. If you know that you're prone to this problem, your doctor can even prescribe some medication ahead of time for you to have on hand.

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