Navigating Your Journey: Tips for a Smooth Facelift Recovery

Dr Darren Mckeown

Published by Dr Darren McKeown

Date posted — 22.05.24

Key Take Aways

  1. Pre-surgery preparation is essential, including avoiding alcohol and nicotine, and arranging for post-operative support. Emotional readiness is crucial, as post-op blues are common.
  2. The recovery process involves gradual improvement, with initial swelling and bruising peaking around day three, and less pain than expected. Daily hair washing and cold compression are recommended for optimal healing.
  3. Post-facelift, most normal activities can resume around weeks 2-3. Full healing takes months, with continued improvement in facial contour and scar fading. Emotional acceptance of the new appearance evolves over time.

Your Facelift Recovery Explained from Day 1 to Day 30

Deciding to begin your journey to getting a facelift is an exciting step. However, understanding the recovery process is essential to ensure a smooth journey and successful outcome. From the moment your surgery is finished, this guide will walk you through every aspect of your facelift recovery, helping you feel prepared to navigate each day with confidence.

Run-Up To Your Facelift – What Can I Expect on the Day of My Facelift Surgery?

We recommend that you do not consume alcohol for a week before your procedure. This is because alcohol can ‘thin the blood’ and make you more likely to bleed, causing worse bruising and swelling after the surgery. We also need you to avoid any nicotine containing products for at least six weeks before your surgery. This is because nicotine constricts blood vessels, which means less blood supply to the tissues to help them heal after surgery which increases the chances of wound healing problems.

On the day of surgery it’s normal to feel apprehensive. If you are a very anxious person, then we may prescribe a mild oral sedative to calm your nerves before the procedure. We perform the procedure under local anaesthetic, which means you are awake throughout. This means you don’t have the additional risks associated with general anesthesia. When you go into the operating room the procedure begins with injections to numb your face – similar to going to the dentist.

Stages of Facelift Recovery




Before undergoing a facelift, it’s crucial to prepare your recovery area. This includes ensuring that you have a comfortable place to rest with your head elevated, which helps to reduce swelling. Stock up on soft foods and hydration supplies, as your diet might be limited immediately after surgery. Some patients find that their mouth is quite tight and chewing is difficult after surgery, so be prepared to have a softer diet if necessary. It is helpful to have someone assist you for at least the first few days post-surgery, as your energy levels will be reduced and you will feel quite stiff for the first few days. You should also have a good supply of ice at home, to help with cold compression.


It’s equally important to prepare yourself emotionally for the recovery process. Many patients experience the ‘post-op blues’, where you feel down at the decision to undergo surgery for a few days. It can be tough to see your face looking back at you in the mirror bruised and swollen, knowing that you did this voluntarily by choosing to have cosmetic surgery. This emotional response is quite normal, and usually passes in the first few days – although knowing to expect it, can help you to deal with it when it happens. It can be helpful to have a support system in place, such as friends or family who understand what you’re going through and can provide emotional support during your recovery. Usually within a few weeks, most patients are very glad they chose to have the surgery performed.

Immediately After Your Facelift – How Will I Feel?

We perform our facelifts as an outpatient procedure which means you go home the same day. Before you leave the clinic however we keep you here for a short while to make sure you feel OK. We usually get you a drink and something light to eat. We will show you how you look in the mirror although remember – this is not the final results. This is just the beginning of the healing process. At this stage your face will look swollen, although the bruising is usually yet to come out. You can normally see there has been a dramatic improvement in the jowls and sagging skin on the neck, but your face will look odd because of the swelling. It is normal for you to feel tightness in your face and neck, but this is a temporary sensation.

Day One

The first day after surgery the bruising and swelling usually is worse than the day before. It is normal for things to get worse for the first few days, then start to slowly improve. There is usually surprisingly little pain following the surgery. Patients talk about stiffness and discomfort rather than actual pain, and most patients do not need anything more than simple paracetamol for pain medication. The skin that has been lifted will feel numb to touch. This is normal, and in most cases the sensation returns within a few months although it can take up to one year. We recommend that you try to use cold compression to help reduce the swelling. You can use an ice bag, although make sure you don’t apply the ice directly to the skin. If you are able to do this for 20 minutes every hour, that should make a noticeable reduction in the swelling you experience.

We ask all of our patients to wash their hair daily, starting on day 1. Whilst you’re showering, we want you to allow the hot soapy water to run over the incision sites. This keeps the incision sites clean and optimises wound healing. Often patients are scared to touch their wounds, but allowing the water to run over them and patting them dry with a towel is fine – so long as you don’t rub hard.

We see all of our patients back in the clinic for the first follow up visit up on day 1 to check and make sure things are healing as expected and there have been no collections of blood formed under the skin overnight. At this appointment we usually remove any tape that has been applied at the end of the procedure to reduce bruising.

Facelift Recovery Week 1

During the first week post surgery you will notice both the swelling and bruising getting worse in the first 72 hours, before they slowly start to improve. After the swelling peaks at around 72 hours, it usually a slow gradual process of noticing the swelling coming down day by day. After 72 hours you should stop using cold compression: beyond this point it can do more harm than good. We ask you to keep up with daily hair wash during this period.

Sometimes one side of the face heals faster than the other which is normal. If one side suddenly becomes worse than the other – by becoming red, hot or swollen – then you should call the clinic and arrange an emergency follow up appointment to make sure you are not developing an infection or haematoma. We will prescribe you a weeks worth of antibiotics to reduce the chances of this happening.

Towards the end of the first week we will ask you to come back to the clinic for another routine follow up visit so we can check on your progress and check for any signs of complications. We usually use dissolving stitches so you don’t need to have the stitches removed, but we like to keep a close eye on you during the recovery process to maximise your chances of a successful recovery and optimal cosmetic outcome. If you have any collections of fluid that have built up under the skin then we will drain these at this appointment by inserting a needle through the skin. If you have formed a collection like this, which is relatively common, then we may ask you to continue taking antibiotics for another week to reduce the chances of a secondary infection developing.

Facelift Recovery Week 2

In the second week, you can usually begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. The swelling should be coming down and any bruising should be turning from dark red or purple to yellow and green colours. Most patients can feel there energy levels getting back to normal in the second week and you might want to resume some light exercise, like going for a walk or some light housework – although you will still not be quite ready to resume normal activities. Your facial skin will still be numb at this point, although you may notice an itch or tingling feeling as the sensation begins to return.

While some patients may be able to resume work from home, it is essential that you don’t try to over do it at this stage. You still need time to rest!

Facelift Recovery Weeks 3 and 4

By the beginning of your third week after your facelift surgery you should be able to start getting back to most day to day activities. Most patients feel comfortable enough to go back to work at this stage, without people noticing the visible signs of surgery. Although things have improved quite a lot by this time, you are still not fully healed and the healing process will continue for many months before you can truly appreciate the final outcome of surgery.

At this stage, the initial dramatic swelling has usually gone by there is still some residual swelling that will slowly dissipate over the months ahead – although creative use of hair and make up will assist this! At this stage you can resume wearing make up, although we ask that you don’t apply it directly to the wounds for another couple of weeks. Most patients find it helpful to use their hair to cover their ears, which hides the scars which will still be visible at this point. As you approach the end of this month-long recovery journey, you’ll be close to seeing your final results.

During this time, you’ll notice visible improvements in your facial contour, and will find yourself looking and feeling much better than the first two weeks.

What to Expect After Day 30

At this point, you should be well on the way to complete healing and able to comfortably resume your daily routine, including more strenuous exercise. At this stage the general facial swelling should be gone, but you will notice that you still have some pockets of swelling that persist. Most patients don’t mind this however because they can see there is already a dramatic improvement from the pre-operative state.

Although the scars will still be red at this point, you may start to notice them begin to fade.

Two Months Into My New Face

The second month after your procedure is when patients really start to get used to their new look and enjoying the benefits of their surgery. Any minor swelling that persists will continue to fade and the scars continue to improve. If there are any areas of the scars that do not look to be healing well, this is the stage that we can start to think about adding in some laser treatment to improve the final result.

Three Months After My Facelift

By the time you get to three months after your cosmetic surgical procedure, many patients are starting to love their results – although you sometimes get so used to your new look that you forget what you looked like before. That’s why taking ‘before’ photos to refer back to is so important.

The Psychology of Facelift Surgery

Most of our patients who chose to have facelift surgery or a neck lift surgery feel guilty about the decision. They feel that they should know better than to care about their appearance, or they feel like they should have more important things to spend their money on. However, it is an inescapable truth that we are all judged on our appearance and women are – wrongly – judged more harshly than men. Over time, that can have an impact on how we feel about ourselves. Patients often tell us that they don’t have as much confidence as they used to, or that they don’t feel like socialising as much because of how they feel about the deterioration in their appearance.

When we perform a facelift surgery – or any other cosmetic procedure – our objective is not to get you to a point where you are constantly in the mirror admiring your new beauty. We want you to be able to walk past a mirror without having a wince of regret at the appearance of jowls that remind you of your mum or gran. We want our patients to get on with their lives, without negative thoughts about our appearance interfering with your self confidence or your ability to get on with life in social situations.

How McKeown Medical Differs From Other Cosmetic Clinics?

At McKeown Medical we care about our patients. You’d expect us to say that though, right? But the truth is, we really do care. When you come for a consultation, our first objective is not to sell you as much as we can.

We want to understand how you feel about your appearance, and why you are thinking about altering it so we can make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. When we know that you’re doing it for the right reasons, our team of doctors will come up with a bespoke treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Our doctors work together as a team – each doctor with their own special skill sets that complement each other, and a specialist in their own right. So the doctor who does the surgery, will not be the same doctor who does the laser or the volume.

We have different specialists for each aspect of your care, working together to give you the best possible outcome.

Are You Considering Facelift Surgery?

Ready to transform your appearance with a facelift? Discover the exceptional services offered at Dr. Darren McKeown’s Facelift Glasgow clinic. Our expert team, led by renowned specialist Dr. McKeown, provides top-tier facelift procedures tailored to meet your unique needs.

FAQs On Facelift Recovery

What Not To Do After A Facelift And A Neck Lift?

The main thing not to do after a facelift is to underestimate the post operative recovery period. You’ve just been through major surgery and you need to give yourself time to rest and recover, and follow all of the necessary precautions your doctor advises. You need to give yourself a couple of weeks off to recover where you can sleep sitting up right, avoid bending, avoid direct sunlight, take time for the bruising and swelling to go down.

How Painful Is A Full Facelift?

Honestly, most patients are surprised at how little pain there is following a facelift. The face and neck will feel tight and you might feel stiff and a bit like a dull ache, but patients rarely complain of actual pain. Typically simple paracetamol with regular cold compression in the first few days is enough to keep the discomfort to a manageable level. If a patient requires anything stronger, then we may prescribe a opiate like codeine or dihydrocodeine, but this is not common.

What Pain Medication Is Recommended During Facelift Recovery?

Most patients feel very little pain following their facelift or neck lift surgery, and simple paracetamol is usually all that is required. If a patient is particularly sensitive and requires anything stronger, then we may prescribe a opiate like codeine or dihydrocodeine, but this is not common.

What Are The Worst Days After A Facelift?

The worst day after a facelift – or any cosmetic surgical procedure – is usually day three. On day three the swelling and bruising usually peaks, and many patients develop the post operative blues and start to feel down. This is usually temporary and improves as the swelling and bruising fade and by two weeks most patients are happy they had it done.

Do Facelifts Ever Look Natural?

A facelift should ALWAYS look natural – provided it has been properly performed. One of the biggest mistakes that people make with facelift surgery is that they believe a ‘mini-facelift’ will give them a more natural result because it’s less invasive. The way a mini-facelift works however is putting tension on the tissues – which is what makes things look stretched. Conversely, when you perform a full deep plane facelift and truly reposition the tissues – rather than simply putting tension on them – the results are much more natural. This is a more sophisticated and time consuming – and therefore more expensive – type of surgery, but it is the way to achieve the most natural outcome.

Why Is Day 3 After Surgery The Worst?

Day 3 is always the worst because this is typically when the bruising and swelling peak and most patients look in the mirror and think to themselves ‘what have I do’ and ‘my face is never going to look normal again’. This can be quite traumatic emotionally, and it’s best to expect this and prepare yourself for that before you have your procedure.

What Is The Fastest Way To Recover From A Facelift?

There is no fast way to recover from a facelift – although there are plenty of things you can do that can slow down the recovery by not following the post operative instructions which are all designed to minimise swelling and bruising. If you follow your doctors instructions, you should heal as expected. If you do too much exercise, or don’t take time to rest, then you may prolong the recovery period.

How Long Do I Have To Sleep Sitting Up After A Facelift?

You don’t HAVE to sleep sitting up after a facelift. However, if you sleep lying flat as normal then your face will be more swollen when you wake up in the morning and so, if you can, sleeping upright helps to prevent that from happening – especially for the first 72 hours when the swelling is peaking. After that it becomes less important, although if you are able to manage it for the first two weeks it would probably be helpful.

Dr Darren Mckeown

Dr Darren McKeown

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