Tightness after Facelift

Facelift procedures have consistently been among the top five most popular cosmetic surgical procedures performed in the United States. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeon’s (ASPS) annual member survey, almost 130,000 facelift procedures were performed by plastic surgeons who are members of the ASPS. Furthermore, it should come as no surprise that the majority of facelift patients are not only female, but older in age. According to the ASPS 2013 member survey, facelift procedures were the most popular among patients 55 and older (more than 103,000 procedures) and women (90 percent of all facelift procedures performed in 2013).

All of these statistics add up to a considerable number of older female patients who are considering a facelift in order to give their face a more youthful, rejuvenated appearance. Because the face is probably the most important feature of the body, such patients want the best possible outcome. Therefore, they are particular about not only selecting the proper surgeon, but following all instructions both before and after the surgery, as well as understanding possible side effects from the procedure.

One of the more common questions that Dr. Vincent Marin gets from these patients is about facial tightness after the procedure: What causes tightness after a facelift; is it normal; and (perhaps most importantly) when will it go away.

Facelift Procedure

As strange as it may seem, tightness after a facelift procedure is not only normal, but actually an indication that you are healing properly. To understand why this is the case, we first need to discuss what actually happens in a facelift procedure. Dr. Marin will make an incision starting behind one ear, then following the hairline. He will then gently lift up the underlying skin, tissue, and muscle to remove the excess, and then suture everything back into place. As a result, any facial tightness is actually the result of the underlying facial structures having been tightened enough to remove the excess.

What Causes Tightness after a Facelift? Is it normal?

Facial tightness is also a sign that the body is attempting to re-establish proper neural pathways following the procedure. In any surgery, various nerves will be severed simply by making an incision into the body. As the body heals over time, it attempts to re-establish these neural pathways, or create new ones. As part of this process, the skin may undergo a number of odd sensations around the incision sites, ranging from numbness, to tingling or burning, to tightness.

When Will the Tightness Fade?

In most cases, facial tightness will begin to fade anywhere from six to 12 weeks after the surgery. Dr. Marin has several recommendations for how to cope with this sensation: Gentle massage around the underside of the jaw line (around the lymph nodes); keep the head elevated; and avoid any heavy lifting or exercise. Ice, cold compresses, and the herb Arnica montana may also help after the initial two weeks after the procedure.

Perhaps the best advice Dr. Marin has for patients who are experiencing facial tightness after their facelift procedure is simply to be patient as their body is healing. Over time, these sensations will fade.

About the Author:

Dr. Vince Marin is a San Diego board-certified plastic surgeon specializes in cosmetic surgery of the face, nose, breast and body. If you wish to contact Dr. Marin, write to [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter!