The real challenge in facelift recovery is not the pain since it usually lasts just a day or two (and is easily managed by mild painkillers), but the interruption of social activities. The general rule of thumb is to take at least a two-week off to wait for most of the swelling and bruising to subside to a significant degree.
While some patients had successfully returned work on the seventh to tenth day after surgery, at this stage there might be some noticeable symptoms, although scarves, large sunglasses, and camouflage make-up could be of help. For this reason, many choose to wait at least two weeks if they are trying to be discrete.
Patients with desk job can return work about a week postop if they don’t mind unsolicited questions and inquiries from their co-workers. However, they may want to wait a little longer if they are assigned to physically demanding tasks.
Dr. Tarick Smaili, one of the leading Brea plastic surgery experts, says patients who are less active during facelift recovery are less likely to experience persistent bruising and swelling. The idea, he adds, is to keep the heart rate and blood pressure within the “relax level” in the first three weeks.
But Dr. Smaili warns that prolonged immobility and bed rest should be avoided as well because it can lead to persistent swelling and delayed healing, so he recommends short walks several times a day to promote good blood circulation that can prevent the aforementioned complications.
Because “uncontrolled” stress could delay one’s recovery, some patients choose to work part time for a while, then resume their usual routine after they get their preoperative energy level back, which can take four to six months. Meanwhile, anecdotal reports show that people who are physically active prior to their surgery recover faster than individuals whose lifestyle is less active.
Aside from waiting for most of the swelling and dark bruises to dissipate, patients who are trying to be discrete may consider getting a drastic hairstyle beforehand. Doing so might also be ideal because it can take a minimum of six weeks before they can dye or cut their hair.
Overall healing—i.e., skin redraping to the new contour and looking more relaxed than overly tight—can take up to six months. For this reason, in the first few weeks it is not uncommon to look “overdone,” explains the leading Brea plastic surgery expert.