The prospective cosmetic surgery patient is much better educated than they were even just a few years ago. They’re entering the initial consultation with a pretty clearly defined idea of the procedure they want and what it’s going to entail.
By that I mean they understand that there’s going to be a certain degree of bruising and swelling. That knowledge, however, doesn’t always soften the shock.
Even in the hands of a skilled, board-certified plastic surgeon, a cosmetic procedure is still a type of trauma from which the body must heal. Your body can’t distinguish between tripping and scraping your knee and a doctor taking a scalpel to your chin. Which is to say the bruising and swelling can be relatively intense in the initial aftermath. But there are a few things you can do to ensure a speedy recovery.
What to expect
Before we get into the recovery, let’s discuss what you can expect to see and feel following your cosmetic procedure. 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.
Self-care after surgery
Let me preface the tips that follow by saying that the single-most effective thing you can do to ensure a complete recovery is to follow your doctor’s post-care recommendations. That means keeping dressings and compresses on until you’re told to remove them. If you had a procedure performed on your face or neck, you may be told to sleep with your held elevated for the first few weeks. Stop taking any blood-thinning medications or supplements. It also means, above all, being a diligent observer of what you’re seeing and feeling. Redness around the site of the procedure, for example, coupled with pain and fever could be sign of infection, which warrants immediate attention..
Beyond that, simply take care of yourself. Don’t smoke. Avoid alcohol for at least the first few days. Drink lots of water. Stay out of the sun (exposure can deepen the color of bruises). Avoid strenuous activity, including exercise, for the first few weeks after surgery. And get plenty of sleep. Again, your body believes it’s recovering from a trauma, so enable your immune system to work at its full capacity.
When to return to normal activity
You may have a ready-made excuse for avoiding the gym for a while, but you’ll want to get out of bed and at least walk around the house a bit as soon as you feel up to it. It’s essential to promote healthy circulation and discourage the development of clots.
If the bruising makes you self-conscious, you should be able to mask it with makeup after a few days, but clear it with your doctor first. And steer clear of open wounds and stitches.