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San Francisco Plastic Surgery

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How to Reduce Swelling and Speed Up Recovery After a Facelift




You’re considering a facelift, but you’re concerned about how to get back to your busy life ASAP. Are there ways to reduce swelling after your facelift that your plastic surgeon may not be telling you, or maybe some common sense things to worry about before surgery?  There are -  and I will babble about them for you.

  • Control Your Blood Pressure
  • Facelift Technique Matters
  • Less Surgery = Less Swelling
  • Be Prepared AFTER Surgery
  • Diet Has Little to No Effect
  • Compression Garment Has Little to No Effect
  • Lymphatic Massage AFTER Your Facelift
  • Other Facelift Articles

You’re considering a facelift, but you’re concerned about how to get back to work/ get back to your 25 year old sexual partner/ get back to life ASAP.  Are there ways to reduce swelling after your Facelift that your Plastic Surgeon may not be telling you, or maybe some common sense things to worry about?  There are-  and I will babble about them for you.

Control Your Blood Pressure

Before surgery, you will probably need pre-surgical clearance from your family doctor.  If you have high blood pressure, it’s should be optimally controlled, meaning that it should be slightly lower than 120/80.  

A facelift tightens a decent amount of loose facial skin, tightens the SMAS (the thin layer of tissue between your skin and muscles), and can reposition facial structures to give you a more youthful appearance.  

However, if you have high blood pressure, you may induce more bleeding during and after surgery, resulting in more bruising, more swelling, or even a hematoma -  a collection of blood that needs to be drained on an urgent or emergent basis.  You can avoid all of this by ensuring that your blood pressure is well controlled before undergoing any facelift surgery.

The same thing goes for blood thinners, such as aspirin or Coumadin.  You may be on these medications for your heart condition or blood clot prevention, but in general, they are “no-no’s” right before any facelift.  Of course, consult with your family doctor, cardiologist, and plastic surgeon to determine your specific course of action.

Facelift Technique Matters

There are several different techniques when it comes to facelifts.  No doctor under the age of 70 just tightens the skin anymore. Doing so does not provide long-lasting or natural results.  Interestingly, this would probably cause the least amount of swelling because it is a superficial surgery.

SMAS tightening can be done in different ways, including just tightening it, actually dissecting flaps and suturing them in various ways, or even going under and above the SMAS in different facial areas to create even more lift and tightening.  

Basically, the more surgical dissection that is done, the more swelling you may have.  If you can go to a plastic surgeon that can deliver great results with less surgical dissection, then you should have less swelling and more rapid recovery.

Fewer Procedures = Less Swelling

It’s very common to get a neck lift with a facelift, along with eyelid lifts, fat grafting for deeper wrinkles, and a forehead lift.  However, the more procedures you get at the same time, the more swelling you may have long term.  

This is actually a great reason to get smaller procedures when you’re younger, as opposed to waiting until you’re 60 years old and getting everything done at once.  If you need fewer procedures, or if your eyelids just need a little “refresher” surgery and not a full blown eyelid lift, then you should have faster recovery, less swelling and bruising, less time in the operating room, and possibly even less cost because you’ve already had some “maintenance” procedures done.

Be Prepared AFTER Surgery

Anything that reduces swelling after surgery helps with your facelift recovery.  So, icing your surgical areas, elevating your head above heart level, and making sure you’re in little pain to reduce anxiety and high blood pressure all help to enhance recovery.

At the end of my facelift procedures, I use long-lasting pain medicine in the operating room, before my patient’s wake up, to ensure less pain for 2-3 days after their surgery.  This definitely seems to help my patients recover faster and feel more “normal” after their facelift.

If you have any anxiety or concern about someone taking care of you after your facelift, I would strongly consider going to a post-op recovery center for a night or two, or hiring a nurse to help take care of you.

Diet Has Little to No Effect

Unfortunately, diet seems to have little effect on facelift recovery.  I do suggest that eating more protein after any surgery seems to help a little in recovery, but this is not a true scientific statement.  Also, with a normal First World diet, I’m not convinced that eating more supplements, vitamins or minerals will actually enhance and speed up recovery.

Compression Garment Has Little to No Effect

Old Skool plastic surgeons may want you to wear a snug or tight compression garment or facial compression wrap to “ensure” there is less swelling.  Increasingly, more and more plastic surgeons who actually attend plastic surgery conferences and stay awake during research paper presentations are learning that it’s the facelift technique and other little enhancements which really aid in reducing swelling after surgery.  

Just wearing an Ace wrap around your face and neck alone, doesn’t seem to cut it any more.  

Lymphatic Massage AFTER Your Facelift May Help  

Reducing swelling right after your facelift may be possible with head and neck lymphatic massage.  This is a deeper, more intense massage, akin to Rolfing or athletic deep tissue massage.  In many of my patients, you can actually see a distinct difference in reduction of their swelling and pain, in the hands of the right masseuse.

Other Facelift Articles

Facelifts are one of my favorite surgeries to perform. I have spent years studying, practicing and perfecting my technique, and I really enjoy seeing my patients recover quickly with long-lasting, natural results. I’ve written many other articles on the subject on facelifts. Click here to read more.  

Should you desire more information about my available services, or want to schedule an appointment, please contact my Patient Care Coordinator at info@drkim.com, or call our office at 415-362-1846.

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  • American Board of Plastic Surgery
  • American Aesthetic Society of Plastic Surgery
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons
  • Real Self