Having a facelift or other major plastic surgery is an investment in your future appearance and peace of mind. It’s money and time well spent when the procedure goes well. Sometimes, however, patients are too anxious to see the results or to get back to work or their normal routines long before the incisions are properly healed and the swelling has subsided.
Just as there are many things patients can do to optimize their facelift results (setting up a home recovery room before the surgery is one), there are many activities they should avoid so as not to interfere with or harm the recovery process and ultimately the results.
Many active patients can’t wait to get back into the home gym or health club after cosmetic surgery. They stress out over missing even a few days of weight lifting, thinking they will lose all the progress they have made in the months or years leading up to facelift surgery. All that pain and gain for nothing. The danger is that any kind of strenuous exercise or heavy lifting places undue strain on the incisions and could undo the procedure entirely. It’s best to wait at least two weeks until most of the swelling has gone down and the incisions have had time to heal.
Avoid blood-thinners like aspirin and garlic, which may increase the risk of bleeding during recovery. Use only Tylenol and other pain killers on your doctor’s instructions (consult with your plastic surgeon if you are on blood thinners for circulatory problems or clotting). And no matter how greasy your hair may look and feel after surgery, wait at least two days before you wash it to prevent facial stress and soap irritation. If you wear makeup, hold off for at least a week so that the incision areas remain clean and clear of contaminants.
Don’t smoke. Nicotine only diminishes blood flow, and your incisions need well-oxygenated blood in order to heal well. Don’t drink and drive. That means no alcohol, which interferes with blood circulation and causes dehydration. And don’t drive – at least, not until you feel well enough to do so. Wait a minimum of 48 hours before you even think of getting into a car.
Avoid direct sunlight for several weeks. UV light damages the skin, and your facial skin following surgery is especially vulnerable. Wear sunblock with an SPF rating of 15 or higher if you expect to be exposed to the sun for any length of time. Refrain from tanning for at least six weeks.
Following facelift surgery, it’s normal to feel slightly depressed and sluggish. This is due to hormonal changes caused by the trauma of surgery. The feelings will pass over time. Finally, get lots of bed rest after surgery but plan on getting up as soon as possible. Moderate activity not only alleviates boredom and gets the blood flowing, it promotes healing and ensures optimum results from plastic surgery.
A qualified plastic surgeon can provide further help on making the most of your downtime after cosmetic surgery.
Dr. Philip Miller is a board certified plastic surgeon and an expert in the field of facial plastic surgery. Call his Manhattan office at (212) 750-7100 for a personal consultation.