A facelift is a surgical procedure a plastic surgeon performs to tighten the skin on your face, as well as the muscles and tissues underneath. While a facelift can make you look younger, it takes time to recover from the surgery. The procedure may be elective and cosmetic in nature, but it still comes with risks. Therefore, it helps to know what's involved before you actually take the step.

What to Expect Following Surgery

It's normal to feel nauseated when you first wake following surgery. Many people suffer nausea as a reaction to the anesthesia. If you have a previous post-operative history of nausea and vomiting, let the anesthesiologist know before your surgery day. There are medications you can take beforehand that will reduce these effects.

After surgery, your face will feel tight and tender to the touch. Drainage tubes likely will be in place to drain excess fluid and blood. You will be wearing a surgical dressing, and your plastic surgeon may recommend that you sleep with your head elevated to help reduce swelling. Avoid becoming discouraged, as it can take months for all the swelling to go away, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Your surgeon will prescribe medication for a few days to alleviate pain you may have after your facelift. In addition, you may receive a prescription for an antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection.

Expect to see a lot of bruising. Your skin will feel numb -- another side effect of surgery that can last for months afterward. If the procedure required the surgeon to make surgical incisions near the mouth, it may be necessary to restrict your diet until the incisions heal.

Possible Risks Following Surgery

Like other surgeries, cosmetic procedures come with risks. Although rare, infection following plastic surgery can occur. Other problems that may occur following facelift surgery include hair loss, blood clots traveling to the heart and lungs, or facial nerve damage.


If your facelift was performed on an outpatient basis, contact your plastic surgeon right away if you experience severe pain, run a fever, or notice more redness. These can be signs of infection. A foul odor or continued drainage from an incision site are other signs of infection.

Infections interfere with how well incisions heal. Incisions that don't heal properly can affect the final outcome of your facelift. If infection occurs and your surgeon has to reopen an incision to allow pus to drain, you may be left with a visible scar. Smoking, including exposure to second-hand smoke, also can delay the healing process and lead to scarring.

Hair Loss

Facelift surgery involves making incisions in the scalp. This can cause hair to fall out, particularly in the temple area. Generally, hair will regrow in time. Your plastic surgeon may recommend treating problem areas with the drug minoxidil (Rogaine), to promote hair regrowth. Hair transplant surgery is an option for permanent hair loss.

Blood Clots

Bleeding and forming clots are possible complications following any surgery. A blood clot that forms in a deep vein -- often in the thigh or calf of the leg -- can break loose and travel through the bloodstream. If a clot reaches the lungs and blocks blood flow, the condition can be life threatening. Signs there may be a clot in your leg after surgery include leg swelling, skin redness, and tenderness or leg pain.

Nerve Damage

Permanent facial nerve injury after a facelift is rare. Even when damage to nerves causes facial muscle paralysis, the problem is usually temporary. Any tingling sensation and muscle weakness normally resolve in time. However, numbness is a side effect that can last longer.