It’s a natural concern ahead of any situation where we anticipate some level of physical or emotional pain, as if we could somehow brace ourselves, mentally, and blunt it just a little bit.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room: How Long Will it Take to Recover from Plastic Surgery?
Unfortunately, there’s no precise way to answer that question in the context of cosmetic plastic surgery (or, really, any other context) because pain is subjective. But I can give you a general sense of what you can expect. We’ll get to that in just a moment.
More importantly—because this is something you can control—so much of recovering from plastic surgery comes down to having a plan and following it. Your doctor’s going to provide you with a set of post-care recommendations before your procedure. But, treating them more like hard and fast rules is the surest path to a speedy recovery.
Your mobility’s going to be very limited for the first few days, so stock up on everything you’re going to need, from bandages to groceries. And schedule more time off than your doctor estimates your recovery time will be. That’ll alleviate the stress that could crop up with unexpected delays. Stress hinders the body’s ability to heal. Ideally, put yourself in a bubble for a week or two and focus solely on your recovery.
Pain & Discomfort
One patient’s post-operative ache is another’s throbbing. Pain is personal, and for that reason, it’s never discounted. Appropriate pain medications are prescribed to help minimize the discomfort.
Generally, the discomfort is fairly minimal with cosmetic facial procedures and slightly more with liposuction. Operations that require elevation or tightening of the muscles, such as a tummy tuck, have a post-operative pain level that many equate to a C-section.
Bruising and swelling
In the first few days following surgery, the bruising will be a dark black, purple, or blue—which can look even more traumatizing when it’s in a highly visible place, like the face. But it should begin to lighten up by the fifth or sixth day and subside completely within two weeks.
The swelling, similarly, is going to be its worst over the first few days after the surgery. It’ll begin to go down after a week, and within two weeks, the swelling should reduce by about 75 percent. Six weeks out, almost all of it should dissipate. Any lingering swelling will go down over the next few months.
The recovery period
The length of the recovery period following plastic surgery depends on the procedure and the patient. Most will need assistance for the first couple of days. They should be able to manage on their own from that point, but they may still need help caring for small children.
To give you a basic idea, these are approximations for a few popular procedures:
Breast surgery — Almost everyone is able to move around on their own by the second day after the operation. And, as long as their job doesn’t entail heavy lifting, they should be able to return to work within a week.
Liposuction — It depends on the number of areas treated, but most can get around on their own by the second day. And they resume normal activities within a week.
Tummy tuck — Most will need three of four days before they’re comfortable walking around without help. The recovery is almost identical to a C-section.
Facelift — Many are usually out of bed by the second day, but it could take up to a week before they’re comfortable venturing outside and two weeks before returning to work.
Keep in mind, these estimates only really cover the most immediate phases of a patient’s recuperation. Comfortably moving around the house is very different from returning to even modest exercise. In fact, you’ll want to avoid any vigorous activity during the first two weeks to minimize the risks of bleeding, swelling, and bruising.
In the case of a facelift, for example, most of the stitches are usually removed between days four and 14. But there may still be some mild swelling and numbness for several weeks, or even longer. So, even if you do feel ready to do more, error on the side of caution and allow your body the rest it needs to fully recover.