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Face-Lift: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

A face-lift is surgery to firm and tighten the skin of the face and neck to give a more youthful appearance. It may remove many wrinkles, but it does not change the texture of your skin.

You may have stitches or staples in your cut (incision). Your doctor will take these out in the first week. A bandage will cover the incision. You may have gauze wrapped around your head and neck. You also may have an elastic bandage around your chin and the top of your head. The bandage probably will be removed on the day after surgery.

You may have a drain in place to remove excess blood and fluid from your face and neck. If so, follow your doctor's instructions on how to care for the drain and how to write down how much fluid comes out.

Your face likely will be bruised and swollen. The swelling may get worse before it gets better, but it will probably go away in 1 to 2 weeks. After a few days you may get some bruises on your neck and chest. This is caused by gravity, which pulls the excess blood and bruising downward.

You will feel some pain for 2 to 4 days after surgery. You may have some trouble opening your mouth for several days. The skin around the incision probably will be numb. You may have some itching or shooting pain as the feeling returns, though it may take several months for the numbness to go away.

Most people recover in 4 to 6 weeks. But it probably will take 3 to 4 months to see the final result from the surgery.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Keep your head raised for several days after surgery. Sleep with your head up by using 2 or 3 pillows.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk.
  • You will probably need to take 1 to 2 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do, how you feel, and whether you want to return to work before you have completely healed.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for about 3 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Follow your doctor's directions about showering. You may be able to shower 1 or 2 days after surgery.
  • Use a baby toothbrush to brush your teeth if you have trouble opening your mouth.
  • For men: Be very careful shaving after a face-lift, because you will not be able to feel the blade on your skin. It may help to switch to an electric razor for a few months, until feeling returns to the skin on your face and neck.

Diet

  • Eat soft foods for the first few days after surgery. Try soup, juice, pudding, yogurt, applesauce, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes.
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
  • When your doctor tells you that it is okay, you may wash the incision with soap and water and gently dry the area. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • Do not put lotions or ointments on your incisions unless your doctor tells you to do so.

Other instructions

  • Put ice or a cold pack on your face for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the first 2 or 3 days after surgery (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You are bleeding from the incision.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter M835 in the search box to learn more about "Face-Lift: What to Expect at Home".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.