23rd May 2024

Facelift Recovery Guide: How to Successfully Navigate Your Healing Journey

Deciding to embark on a facelift procedure can bring questions about recovery.

In our Kensington Medical facelift recovery guide, we map out the healing process, what to expect immediately after surgery, and steps you can take to facilitate a smooth and positive experience.

We will give you the essential care tips and the typical recovery timeline in an easy-to-read

format. Undertaking cosmetic surgery is an important decision but if you are knowledgeable about the post-operative care instructions and the process you are on your way to a successful result.

Key points

  • Facelift recovery is a progressive multi-stage process that takes a number of months, with positive improvement within the first two weeks and complete recovery taking up to six to twelve months.
  • At Kensington Medical our post-operative care, including adherence to detailed aftercare instructions, use of cold compresses, keeping the head elevated, proper nutrition and hydration, and avoiding strenuous activities, is crucial for a successful facelift recovery.
  • Regular follow-up appointments with your Kensington Medical facial plastic surgeon are vital for monitoring healing progress, managing pain and discomfort, addressing any complications, and providing guidance for skincare and scar management to ensure great results.


Understanding the Facelift Recovery Process

illustration of a woman after facelift recovery

A facelift recovery is a multi-stage process, starting after surgery and continuing over a number of weeks to months. Following the right protocols will bring you a step closer each day to the appearance you want to achieve. But, just like any facelift journey, it’s essential to be well-prepared and understand the steps needed, including the facelift recovery process and the facelift recovery timeline.

During the first two weeks after a facelift, patients generally experience significant improvement. However, we do find that full recovery varies for each patient. The key to a smooth journey lies in following the aftercare instructions diligently.

Before the procedure, there are a few steps you can take to ensure a smoother recovery:

  1. Choose a specialist GMC-registered plastic surgeon experienced in all types of facelifts, not just one type of facelift. You want the best procedure for your facial structure and skin laxity.
  2. At Kensington Medical we recommend you stop smoking at least six weeks before your surgery date. Smoking can lead to complications during surgery and prolong the recovery period.
  3. In the lead-up to surgery, we recommend that you focus on a healthy diet, little alcohol consumption and engage in regular exercise, movement is key. This will ensure your body is ready and will help in a quicker recovery following surgery.


The Day of Your Facelift

The day of your facelift surgery may be filled with a mix of excitement and nerves. The facelift surgery usually takes between two to three hours, and in most cases, you can go home on the same day.

Whether you are having a local anaesthetic with sedation or a general anaesthetic often depends on the type of facelift you have decided on with your facelift surgeon. This information will be discussed and agreed before surgery with your plastic surgeon.

After the surgical procedure, you’ll be closely monitored by a nursing staff member in a recovery room. Once given the go-ahead by the medical staff you will be discharged from one of our 5 star hospitals. As planned in advance you will have to arrange to have a friend or family member who will be able to take you home.

Immediate Post-Operative

The immediate post-operative period can be an overwhelming time, with common experiences including:

  • Grogginess
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Proper post-operative care can help alleviate these symptoms and ensure a smoother and quicker recovery time. Very little actual pain is felt in the early week, but more of a deep bruised sensation due to swelling. It’s important to remember that these symptoms are normal and temporary, subsiding as the anesthesia wears off.

At Kensington Medical we focus on quality aftercare as much as the results. We use an anaesthetic called TIVA which ensures no nausea and a quicker recovery after the operation.

Following the surgery, pressure dressings are applied, and drains are placed in the neck area to facilitate healing. The bandages are usually taken off around one day after the surgery. This allows the wound to start healing without the restriction of the bandages. Some swelling and bruising are typical after surgery. We prescribe medication to manage any discomfort.

Early Facelift Recovery Phase

Entering the early recovery phase, you can anticipate the following:

  • The peak of swelling and bruising to occur during the first week following your facelift surgery
  • Swelling typically sets in before the onset of any pain and peaks around the third day after surgery
  • This swelling is a result of tissue looseness in the face, especially pronounced along the side of the neck

Asymmetrical swelling (uneven swelling) can be common and is usually temporary, influenced by individual healing, sleeping positions, and the facelift variation.

During this early recovery time, we ask that you follow incision care protocols to avoid the risk of infection. Some swelling may occur, but looking after your skin during this early stage will help with a more seamless recovery.

Long-Term Recovery and Results 3-4 weeks

As the recovery journey progresses, so too does the excitement of seeing the final results. We advise patients that complete recovery, including the resolution of minor symptoms like swelling and bruising, takes around six to twelve months.

At three to four weeks post-surgery patients notice improvements in facial contour. By the end of the first month, we advise that patients can gradually return to daily activities while looking after your healing skin. At this point, you’ll notice the full results of your facelift. You may have some minor swelling which will improve over the next few months. It is an exciting time and keeping to the postoperative care instructions is still important for optimal healing.

We often find that post facelift patients are keen to continue the skincare self care to preserving their rejuvenated appearance.


Our Top Tips for a Smooth Facelift Recovery

Achieving a smooth recovery requires both patience and the right care. Strict adherence to post-operative instructions is key for minimising pain and reducing complications for a successful facelift recovery. Maintaining a healthy post-operative routine also supports a faster and more comfortable recovery time.

This includes:

  • A healthy balanced diet
  • A restful environment
  • No strenuous exercise
  • Trying to get enough sleep during recovery
  • Avoiding smoking: this helps with nutrient delivery and collagen production for the skin, further aiding the body’s healing process.
  • Avoid direct sunlight and wear sun protection

Head Elevation and Cold Compresses

  1. Keeping the head elevated after facelift surgery is essential because it minimises swelling and bruising by reducing fluid accumulation near the incisions.
  2. We recommend that even one week after surgery, continue sleeping with your head elevated to promote healing and decrease swelling.
  3. To manage any pain and reduce swelling we are keen on the use of cold compresses. These can be prepared in advance and should be applied according to your facial surgeon’s recommendations to ensure a safe and appropriate recovery process.
  4. Combining the elevation of the head with the application of cold compresses forms an effective approach to manage pain after a facelift.

Nutrition and Hydration for a smoother Facelift Recovery

We recommended you try to drink at least two liters of water a day to maintain hydration levels. Good nutrition and hydration help in your recovery journey. Staying well-hydrated is important after facelift surgery as it helps flush out anesthesia, supports overall well-being, and promotes tight, plump, and smooth skin.

A diet that focuses on anti-inflammatory foods, eating lots of plant-based foods, other good proteins such as eggs, fish, chicken and pulses are recommended to prepare the body’s recovery systems after a facelift, helping to reduce inflammation.

Eating a diet rich in whole foods (avoid highly processed foods), with low sodium can help wound healing and maintenance of facelift results. A good nutritious diet will support facial skin repair and optimal healing and aid in pain management post-facelift.

Avoiding Strenuous Activities

It’s crucial to allow your body enough time to heal. Strenuous activities should be avoided during the first five days post-op to support initial healing. This includes any form of heavy lifting, heavy weights, vigorous exercise, or any activity that may increase your heart rate or blood pressure such as jogging.

Light exercise is encouraged during the early recovery phase. This could be gentle walking which not only helps keep you active but also enhances blood circulation, which helps the healing process post major surgery.


Managing Pain and Discomfort in your Facelift Recovery

While patients commonly experience a range of symptoms post-facelift, including swelling, bruising, and numb or weak sensations in the face and neck, the pain is usually manageable with the right care. We are here to help and you will be given a contact care line for any questions you may have. Following the surgeon’s instructions for pain medication is fundamental to effectively manage discomfort after a facelift.

Should you experience excessive pain, significant bleeding, or signs of infection, it’s crucial to contact your plastic surgeon immediately.

Pain Medication for Facelift Recovery

As the anesthesia wears off after a facelift, managing discomfort becomes crucial. Prescribed medications play a role in this phase of facelift recovery. While extra strength paracetamol or anti inflammatory medication is advised for pain post-facelift, stronger prescribed medication can be taken if the pain is severe. Your surgeon will guide you regarding the frequency and dosage of these medications.

Another medication that plays a role in facelift recovery is Arnica. Arnica helps with bruising and swelling. Taking these medications as directed by your surgeon can significantly improve your comfort during the recovery process.

Alternative Pain Management Techniques

While medication plays a crucial role in managing post-facelift discomfort, there are alternative pain management techniques that can provide additional relief.

  1. Deep breathing exercises, for instance, can activate the body’s relaxation response and reduce the perception of pain. Likewise, meditation and mindfulness can help manage pain by focusing the mind and reducing stress.
  2. Light walking and gentle stretching can enhance blood circulation and may support the healing process.
  3. Low-impact exercises can help to maintain flexibility and reduce stiffness without straining the healing tissues.
  4. Acupuncture and other forms of traditional medicine can also offer alternative pain management options.


Emotional Well-being and Support During Recovery

Taking an active role in managing your emotional health is just as vital as looking after your physical well-being. Having a friend or family member you can phone or organise for them to visit you can help lift spirits in the first few days.

Coping with Emotional Changes

Common emotional reactions to facelift surgery include:

  • Excitement for the results
  • Worry about the healing and risks involved
  • Temporary dips in mood
  • Anxiety

While the physical results of a facelift are long-lasting, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions post-surgery. These feelings are completely normal and usually dissipate as recovery progresses.

Adjusting to a new appearance can take time. Practices such as taking a warm bath or reading before bed can help with relaxation and promote better sleep.

Building a Support System

Having a friend or family member you can turn to for a chat can help ease any worries. Having your healthcare professionals details so you can contact them during the facelift recovery process will ease any nerves.

We advise having someone to assist you during the first 48 hours post-surgery can help. This could be helping with meals, some emotional support and company, all make a world of difference during your healing journey.


Monitoring Your Progress and Follow-Up Care

As you navigate your facelift recovery journey, follow-up appointments with your plastic surgeon are crucial for closely monitoring healing and providing additional guidance.

These check ups not only help track your healing progress but also provide an opportunity for your surgeon to address any complications quickly, ensuring a smooth and successful recovery.

Regular Check ups with Your Surgeon

First follow-up visit with the surgeon: day after your facelift surgery

At Kensington Medical we schedule the first follow up for the day after a facelift to check on healing, the incisions and make necessary adjustments to the dressings. This check-in allows your surgeon to monitor your progress and provide reassurances, easing any anxieties you may have about the healing process.

Suture removal week 1 to week 3

Suture removal is an integral part of the facelift recovery process. This generally takes place from the end of the first week to the third week, depending on the specifics of the facelift surgical technique and individual healing progress. It’s at these check ups that you’ll notice the full results of your facelift. As the swelling subsides and bruising fades, your new youthful and rejuvenated appearance will be revealed.

You can wear makeup after the first week.

6 week post operative care appointment

Your 6-week post-operative appointment marks a significant change in your healing journey. During this time, your surgeon will check on your progress and ensure your healing well. They will answer questions or address any concerns you may have. Your surgeon’s ongoing support and your commitment to the recovery process will ensure that you’re delighted with your facelift results.

Identifying Potential Complications

While complications from facelift surgery are rare, being aware of potential issues can help you recognise them early and seek assistance. Complications that may occur include:

  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Hematoma (blood clot)
  • Nerve damage
  • Hair loss around incision sites
  • Temporary or permanent facial asymmetry

These issues can be addressed with medications, wound care, and possibly additional procedures to reduce scarring. The first step is to communicate any concerns to your surgeon, who can provide guidance and solutions to ensure a successful recovery.


Skincare and Scar Management

As your recovery journey progresses, skincare and scar management become increasingly important. Adopting a personalised skincare routine after a facelift is key to preserving results and maintaining a healthy, radiant complexion.

We recommend wearing a hat to protect from the sun and applying regular sunscreen with SPF 50 to protect your rejuvenated skin from UV damage and extend the benefits of the surgery.

Clever hairstyles can also be used to conceal any visible scarring post-facelift, enhancing the overall aesthetic results.

Personalised Skincare Routine

Creating a skincare routine after a facelift can enhance your results. Your routine should address your specific skin needs and include products that promote healing and minimise scarring. A good SPF sun block factor 50+ is recommended for all year round protection. 

Scar Management Techniques

Managing scars effectively can significantly improve the aesthetic outcome of your facelift and improve the appearance of a scar.

This includes:

  1. Keep the wound clean
  2. Follow post-surgical instructions carefully
  3. Avoid any trauma or stress to the area
  4. Protect scars from the sun is essential, as UV exposure can cause scars to darken and become more noticeable
  5. Use topical treatments such as silicone gel sheets, scar creams containing vitamin E, and hydrogel dressings

While the physical scars from a facelift are typically minimal and well-hidden, it’s normal to have concerns about their appearance.

These scars will fade significantly over time, becoming less noticeable. If required further follow-ups with your surgeon will also allow them to monitor your scar healing and provide recommendations for further improving their appearance.

We are here to support your exciting plans

At Kensington Medical, our facial surgeons are experienced in performing all types of facelifts. They will work with you to ensure that you’re delighted with your facelift results. Your satisfaction is our top priority, and we’re here to support you every step of your exciting journey to a more youthful appearance.

Whether you have a question, a concern, or just need reassurance, we’re only a call away. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. We’re here to provide ongoing support, guidance, and care to ensure your facelift experience is a positive and successful one.

To find out about Kensington Medical, our expert plastic surgeons, our 5 star hospitals and the values we work very hard to keep, click about us


We are located in Harley street, London close to Marylebone High st, and not far from Primrose Hill, St Johns wood, Regends Park, Kensington and Chelsea and Mayfair and our Wimbledon location near to Richmond, Kingston and Putney and Fulham. 

We are here to help you decide

Embarking on a facelift recovery is just as significant as the decision to undergo the cosmetic procedure itself. We are hear to help you achieve your exciting result, from understanding the recovery process to adhering to aftercare instructions. With your commitment to the process and the support of the Kensington Medical medical team you will achieve success in your cosmetic procedure.

Remember, the journey to a more youthful appearance doesn’t end when you leave the operating room. It’s a continuous process that involves diligent aftercare, a personalised skincare routine, and a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition, avoiding sun exposure and maintaining a good exercise routine. This will ensure your rejuvenated appearance lasts for many, many years to come.

To find out about Mini or mid facelift, jowl lift, SMAS or deep plane facelift click here.


Frequently Asked Questions

After a facelift, it's important to:

  • Avoid vigorous exercises for at least 3 weeks. Walking is permitted straight away. Once you start feeling better, gradually ease back into your regular activities to promote healthy blood flow.
  • Avoid the sun on your face, wear a hat and SPF 50+ sunblock.
  • Sleep upright on pillows for the first week to help reduce swelling.

At Kensington Medical we provide you with the top tips and check list so you know you'll be in safe hands. All post operative appointments will be booked before surgery. If you are unsure of anything we are on hand to answer any questions. 

After 2 weeks, you may still have bruising and swelling, with the possibility of some residual bruising on the neck and chest due to gravity. Overall, the swelling should subside within 1 to 2 weeks. Check out our facelift recovery top tips for further information.

At Kensington Medical we find it can take up to six to twelve months to fully recover from a facelift, including the resolution of minor symptoms like swelling and bruising. Following our recommended top tips will ensure a speedy recovery. If you have a question get in touch with our Kensington Medical team and we'll do our best to answer any questions you may have.

Immediately after a facelift surgery, you can expect symptoms like grogginess, lightheadedness, disorientation, tingling, headaches, chills, fatigue, and dizziness. We use TIVA anaesthesia which helps with any nausea and speeds recovery. Read about our top guidelines for a comfortable facelift recovery.

For effective pain management after a facelift at Kensington Medical we recommend you use prescribed medications from your plastic surgeon, cold compresses, keeping your head elevated, taking a walk and even trying alternative techniques like deep breathing exercises, acupuncture and reaching out to loved ones, family or a good friend. Take a look at our facelift recovery guide for further help.