Your Facelift Recovery Explained: Day 1 to Day 30
Face & Neck Lift, Under-eye Laser, and Restylane Lip Injection
Warning: patient diary post-surgery. Graphic content.
At W Cosmetic Surgery, Dr. Allan Wulc and his team make it their number one priority to make patients feel comfortable, heard, and safe in their decisions and procedures. We believe in equipping our patients with as much information as possible so that they can feel comfortable going into their surgeries knowing they made an informed decision and know what to expect during recovery.
Many people find comfort in hearing from real patients to see what their overall experience was with certain procedures—especially the recovery. In this blog, we’ll share the diary of a patient who underwent a facelift with a neck tightening procedure and a laser for under-eye wrinkles and lip filler.
No two patients will have the same experience, and not all patients undergo the same hybrid set of procedures. Nonetheless, this very sweet and forthcoming patient was kind enough to share her diary and photos with us, providing an in-depth look at her experience recovering from her procedures.
It is crucial to understand that there is no such thing as a typical recovery, but this one is pretty close to the experience of most patients.
Patient Post-Surgery Diary: Sensitive Content Ahead.
I am having a facelift, facial liposculpture, a neck lift, and a laser under my eyes.
I have had several surgeries in the past (a blepharoplasty in 2004 and breast cancer surgery) and I felt I knew what to expect with surgery in general, and know that you aren’t supposed to eat the night before and what to avoid and what to prepare at home. We went over all those instructions in the office preoperatively.
Experiencing Doubts: Why Surgery?
I sleep well the night before the surgery, knowing that I am in good hands. It occurs to me though, before surgery, and especially before this one: why am I doing this? Don’t I look fine the way that I am now?
The answer is yes, but I am hopeful that I will look younger, feel better about myself when I look in the mirror, and look my best before my son’s wedding in a few months.
Once I arrive at the surgical center I ask myself again why I am here and the nerves begin to kick in. Getting up at 530 to arrive at 630 is rough in itself and I hadn’t had a chance to get nervous—it’s too early in the morning to be anxious—now the whole thing feels unreal.
Finding Comfort at Dr. Wulc’s Office
I speak with the anesthesiologist about the surgery and going back to the operating room arm. Everyone is incredibly nice and assures me that I am in good hands with Dr. Wulc.
Dr. Wulc comes in and speaks with me and answers my questions. He makes some marks with a magic marker –my jawline, neck muscles, where he is going to remove fat, and what he plans on tightening. And the incision marks around the ear. I feel less anxious after speaking with him.
Going Through With the Operation
I don’t remember anything—only walking to the OR, with a nurse holding my IV bag, getting settled in the bed, and telling everyone what surgery I was having while they hooked me up to monitors and oxygen.
A note from Dr. Wulc: Surgery is usually accomplished when possible under local anesthesia with IV sedation. In some cases, and based on health and preferences, we put patients to sleep.
The next thing I remember is getting sleepy, waking up in the recovery room with the nurse talking to me, drinking cranberry juice, getting dressed, and somehow getting back home. I have no idea how I got back home!! Or how I got dressed!
I arrive home with a very large bulky dressing on. It is difficult to talk, so I keep the conversation to a minimum. I know the dressing is coming off in 24 hours so I convince myself that I can endure it. My neck and throat feel slightly sore but I don’t feel the incisions. Not sure what’s underneath the dressing.
A note from Dr. Wulc: In patients where there appear to be a lot of bleeding or when we are working around the salivary glands, we use drains. Drains have been shown to reduce swelling and bruising. They are uncomfortable because they are there and limit head movement and attach to the bulky headdressing. Based on how much they drain, we remove them between day 2 and day 5. We try to remove them as soon as they no longer become necessary. And we are using them less and less in practice because of other surgical maneuvers we perform to lessen bruising and swelling.
I decide not to use the Xanax that Dr. Wulc prescribed.
The pain is minimal around the facelift. I eat soft foods because my jaw hurts a bit—yogurt, rice, and soup. Not very hungry but it’s in the instructions to eat. The pain is minimal from the laser, like a bad sunburn. I spend the day in La La Land using cold compresses on the couch, watching TV, and taking my pain med, Ultram.
A note from Dr. Wulc: It’s not uncommon to have jaw pain after this surgery—we lift most of the muscles in the central face and neck with this surgery and things seem “out of joint”—largely just because of the manipulation in this area. That explains her jaw pain. As far as the laser is concerned, with the erbium laser that we use, regardless of how deep our treatment goes, most patients experience stinging only the first night postoperatively.
First Night Post-Op
I have difficulty sleeping. The head dressing is bulky and uncomfortable, and the lower eyelids are stinging from the laser. I take a sleeping medication and find myself waking my husband at night to get me cold compresses.
A note from Dr. Wulc: We encourage topical compresses and an emollient ointment to speed healing and increase comfort.
1 Day After Surgery
Up early, eating yogurt, and taking medications.
Very happy today. I wonder if it’s the drugs I got in the OR. Or maybe it’s that I am going to get this bulky dressing off!!
A note from Dr. Wulc: We do give patients intravenous steroids at the time of surgery which can cause mood shifts—increased energy, sometimes depression, and sometimes elation!
No pain–difficult to eat with the dressing on and continuing on soft foods.
The dressing is removed in the office at 11 and the swelling in my face is scary—this doesn’t look like me!
I am bruised but Dr. Wulc and the staff are reassuring me that this is going to be fine and all looks great. No hemorrhage and all the nerves are working fine—smile intact!
A note from Dr. Wulc: Not all patients look great on day one. Some have lingering issues from the local anesthetic and sometimes the nerves will have been “stretched” with the surgery. Your smile can be misaligned but improves very quickly. In instances where it looks like it is going to be longer than two weeks, we can inject the other side with neurotoxin to create symmetry.
I‘ve prepared myself by looking at pictures of other patients, more than once, and I know reassured I am going to get better—but still not prepared to see my face in the mirror looking this fat, tight, and weird!
It does feel great to exchange that bulky dressing for a lightweight head wrap though. Much easier to eat. My jaw still feels “stiff”-sore—so I am continuing on soft foods—bet I lose weight on this regimen!
2 Days After Surgery
Most of the night I continue to soak my eyes. The swelling improves dramatically today and I see improvement in the lower eyelids. I can eat normally– solids food today.
There is no way I will work in 5 days and my expectations were off–disappointed.
A note from Dr. Wulc: Stress about returning to activities, or being seen by friends, family, and work colleagues with the telltale signs of surgery can actually impede your healing—you can’t relax when you are struggling against a deadline.
5 Days After Surgery: The day I thought I would return to work!
Good sleep! Still wearing a wrap and sleeping with three pillows.
Continued with stiffness in the neck. No pain.
Redness improving in eyelids. Swelling continues in the cheek and neck. Very little bruising. Drive myself to work today, and did a few errands. No problems. I wear sunglasses, which cover the redness under my eyes. I wore my hair down over facelift incisions.
Went to work! I did well there but felt tired. No makeup—people noticed redness under my eyes and told me I looked great!!!
7 Days After Surgery
Sleeping well at night. Neck slightly stiff during the day.
Laser redness getting better each day—worse only after drinking red wine.
Today, I went out for a walk and kept my heart rate under 130. Resumed all other activities!!!
Sutures out today in the office and photos!!
I am feeling “normal” again—but like I did something wonderful!!!!
8 Days After Surgery
Back to work for a full day. I wear concealer on the laser area—no one knows I had surgery! I am getting looks and compliments—did I do my hair differently? Did I get a Botox injection?
Slight swelling—numbness in cheeks persists, under eyes now pale pink but continuing to improve.
I work a 10-hour day! And then I sleep well after that.
—I feel beautiful!
2 Weeks After Surgery
Back to work full time. Still need concealer for the laser under the eyes. My energy level is starting to improve. I’m still numb in my cheeks and neck.
Getting a lot of compliments about how great I look. People are noticing the changes. I like what I see in the mirror: I look younger.
A note from Dr. Wulc: For patients who travel to the practice from elsewhere, we recommend that you stay in town for at least two weeks—that means avoiding air travel for that period. Around one week after the surgery, you are capable of sightseeing and can enjoy activities like going out to dinner.
3 Weeks After Surgery
My dimples are back when I smile. I look like my old self as I remember– but better. The numbness is improving along with the swelling in my cheeks and neck. I can go without concealer on my lower lids. The laser remains a little pink and is worse when I have a glass of red wine
Go out on a 3-hour trail bike ride. I have no problems with my energy level–stiffness is gone.
My energy level is back to normal!
A note from Dr. Wulc: Exercise—other than headstands—is permitted and unlimited at three weeks, though your energy levels may only slowly get back to normal.
4 Weeks After Surgery
I feel great and look great. Back to normal, only looking and feeling younger and more confident!
A note from Dr. Wulc: Hard lumps can be felt in the neck and in the face as sutures dissolve and scar tissue matures in the neck after it has been sculpted. We have an ultrasonic treatment that breaks up the tissue that we begin to use around week 6. Numbness around the face gradually goes away but can take up to 4 months to go away, and the underlying neck skin becomes softer around that time as well. At three months, voila the finished product!
Schedule a Consultation Today
As previously mentioned, it’s important to remember that patients all have their own individual experiences post-operation, but we hope to provide you with as much information and preparation as possible.
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Wulc today to get an individualized assessment of your cosmetic goals and options that are best fitted for you.