Face Lift After The Procedure

After Facelift Surgery

Facelift surgery takes approximately 3 to 4 hours but may take longer if other procedures are also being done at the same time.

View the male or female facelift recovery timeline below to see what to expect at each stage during the healing process.

After Surgery

  1. It is very important not to become nauseated after surgery and/or vomit. To prevent this take Zofran as directed.
  2. Listen to your body. If you are tired, rest. Discomfort during recovery is often a sign of overexertion.
  3. Rest and sleep in a reclined position at approximately 45 degrees. Use ice packs, frozen finely broken up peas or corn constantly for at least the first 3 days, 15 minutes on 15 minutes off. Do not put ice directly onto skin because you will have decreased sensitivity.
  4. Joseph T Cruise, MD will remove all dressings the next day. Afterward you may shower with cool water, gently wash your hair, apply generous amounts of both shampoo and conditioner. Gently wash the entire face with soap and water. Do not try to remove all blood with the first washing. Reapply garment after shower.
  5. You must wait one month before coloring or perming your hair.
  6. Avoid direct exposure of incision to sunlight for at least 6 weeks, apply sunscreen (at least SPF 15) to the area of the incision if you will be in the sun for extended periods of time.
  7. Do not smoke for at least 2 weeks after surgery.
  8. Do not use aspirin-containing products for at least 1 week. You ma take Tylenol or pain medication as prescribed.
  9. Do not apply any cosmetics for the first 5 days. The day after surgery start applying hydrocortisone 1% to face for 1 week twice a day.
  10. Do not put any ointments or creams on incision lines unless instructed by Joseph T Cruise, MD. You should start applying ScarLess® on your incisions seven days after surgery. ScarLess® is a prescription strength cream with vitamin E, silicone and Hydrocortisone to help minimize redness and elevation of the scars. You can purchase ScarLess® at our office.
  11. Do not do any strenuous aerobic activity for 6 weeks after surgery.

What to Expect 

  1. Immediately after face lift surgery, some patients feel groggy or nauseous. These feelings normally subside by the next day.
  2. Remember, face lifting is a very emotional procedure, because it involves the most visible part of your body. It is not uncommon to become very emotional or sometimes even depressed for the first 1-2 weeks. This will go away when the swelling goes away.
  3. Post surgical swelling may temporarily cause the look of unevenness, skin changes, hard spots, and ridges.
  4. Most bruising will fade after the second week. After the first week much of the remaining discoloration can be concealed with a cream-based cosmetic.
  5. Most stitches will dissolve within 7 days; some might need to be removed at 2-3 weeks.
  6. Pink scars will eventually fade to an unnoticeable color.
  7. Your healing incision lines may itch a little. Avoid scratching them. Apply hydrocortisone.
  8. You may experience some numbness for up to one year. Remember not to put ice or anything hot directly onto skin because you may have decreased awareness of temperature damage.


Post-surgical complications are rare and are often easily solved if you promptly notify us. Call us if you experience any of the following:

  • Temperature of 101 or higher
  • Increased local redness or warmth
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, legs swelling or calf pain
  • Or, if you feel that anything might be wrong.

The evening after surgery it is important to look if one side of the face is more firm and swollen than the other. This might represent a blood collection; Joseph T Cruise, MD should be informed about it immediately.

Please call the office @ 949-644-4808 within regular business hours, or page Joseph T Cruise, MD after business hours @ 714-304-8050.


Concern Instructions
Blood Clot
  1. It is important to walk at least every 2 hours while you're awake to prevent blood clotting - do not over do it. Right after surgery you will be instructed to walk around every 1 hour. Avoid stairs.
  2. Pay specific attention to leg swelling. If you notice swelling on only one leg or calf pain contact the office.
Fluid Collection
  1. The evening after surgery it is important to look if one side of the face is more firm and swollen than the other. this might represent a blood collection.
Drain Function
  1. Empty drain every 8 hours or when it becomes more than half full and write down amount of drainage.
  2. Drains come out at about 2-3 days, depending of amount of drainage.
  1. If you are constipated at day 2 stop taking Vicodin or Darvocet.
  2. Encourage walking, drink a lot of fluids, consider laxative (Ex-lax or Correctol).
  1. Make sure to cough and deep breaths as fever is usually in lungs for the first 3 days after surgery.
Garment Placement
  1. You will have a big bulky dressing for the first day. You will receive garment at your first postoperative visit. It should be worn for 10 days 24/7 and then at night for one month. Make sure that the garment doesn't irritate your skin and is not too tight on the ears.
  1. You can take a cool shower the day after. Hold drain(s) in shower and allow clean water to run over drain entrance into the body. Make sure you have someone helping you. Apply generous amounts of both shampoo and conditioner. Gently wash the entire face with soap and water. Do not try to remove all blood with the first washing. Reapply garment after shower.
  2. Walk every hour while awake for the first day and then every 2 hours.
  3. Sleep at 45 degree angle for the first 5 nights.
  4. Regarding exercise: If it hurts don't do it. Wait for your body to tell you what you can do.
  5. You can start exercising at about 6 weeks.
Wound Care
  1. Your gauze will be changed at your follow up visit.
  2. Make sure your garment is placed correctly.
  3. Keep surgical area clean and dry at all times.
  4. Start applying ScarLess® at one week

Face Lift Recovery

Long-term Swelling

Much of the swelling and bruising will resolve in about 3 weeks. Complete resolution of swelling can take as long as 12 months. This doesn't mean swelling will be visible to others.

Cryotherapy for Healing

Many of our patients go to cryotherapy to help speed up the healing process and relieve swelling and discomfort.

Returning to Work

Most people return to work in about 3-4 weeks. If you work from home, you can resume as soon as you feel up to it. For those with strenuous, physical jobs (i.e. law enforcement, personal trainers, etc.), we recommend taking up to 5 weeks off work or asking for modified job duties until you cleared for all physical activity.

If you do start working on the earlier side, we recommend just working a few hours a day as you will tire quickly.  Swelling will sometimes increase when you increase activity.

If your job requires interaction with others, and you want to keep your surgery private, plan to take 3 weeks off. It is easier to hide what has been done with long hair, sunglasses, and a hat.  Men don't usually have these "masking" abilities, so it can take longer to enter into the public eye.

Please ask Joseph T Cruise, MD during your follow up visits what's the best time to return to work will be for you.

Emotional Ups and Downs

Periodic feelings of depression after facelift surgery are not uncommon. When the bandages first come off, your face will be puffy and bruised. We recommend not looking in the mirror for that first week. Parts of your face may look distorted until the swelling subsides.

We will typically prescribe Xanax for you to take the first week after surgery to help ease any feelings of anxiousness or depression. This will also help you sleep.

If you are having trouble with your emotinal state, we have numerious resources available to help you out. Please contact our office to discuss.

Facial Movement

Your face will feel stiff and your expressions and facial movements may look and feel off during recovery. Be patient as this is just temporary.

Energy and Exertion

Your body is devoting energy to the healing process, you may find that you tire more easily. Some patients say they sweat more as well. This is because your body is working overtime trying to recover.

Restricted Mouth Motion

Full mouth motion is restricted for a period of time, so eating foods like sandwiches and burgers can be difficult. You may want to consider things like milkshakes, smoothies, soups, and other easy to drink/eat items. Otter pops (thin frozen ice pops) are great to have on hand as well.


Get plenty of rest. Get movies that you always wanted to watch but never had the time. A good book may come in handy as well. Think of it as a "Me time", relax and recover.


Avoid hot showers, (warm water is fine), steam baths, and saunas for several months after facelift surgery.

Physical Activity

For the first three to four weeks after your surgery, you should avoid strenuous activities. Walking and simple stretches are mostly fine, but avoid anything that requires exertion or lifting, including housework. Avoid excess heat and sweating.