Facelift Scars: What to Expect after Surgery

A face lift also known as rhytidectomy is a cosmetic surgical procedure that can tighten the appearance of your face, giving you a more refreshed look. Many changes occur in your face as you age – like sagging jowls or droopy cheeks. But luckily, facial sagging and changes in the shape of your face can be corrected with this procedure! If you are considering surgery, you should also consider facelift scars and a recovery plan. 

As with every surgery, there will be face lift scars from this surgery. The surgeon will make incisions along your hairline from the temples, continuing around the ears and down to the lower scalp, this is where your scars from facelift will be. The scarring can be hidden in your hairline and the natural creases of your face. A slight incision may be made under your chin to tighten the neck area leading to neck lift scars.

Facelift Surgery

A facelift is a cosmetic surgery designed to give your face a more refreshed appearance. This procedure helps diminish signs of ageing, such as sagging face skin, wrinkles, and drooping cheeks.

During the surgery, a fold of skin from each side of your face is pulled back, while surgically altering the tissues below your skin. Before closing the flap with the help of sutures, excess skin is removed as well. This helps to contour your face giving it a more radiant shape.

However, you should understand that undergoing this procedure won’t completely get rid of all the wrinkles or damage caused due to sun exposure. It’s also important to note that while results are permanent, this will not prevent future ageing and your skin may begin to sag again.

What is SMAS Facelift?

A traditional procedure lifts and tightens the skin but does not deal with the facial muscles under the skin. A facelift SMAS is best for patients with noticeable sagging skin and is used to create natural-looking results. SMAS stands for superficial muscular aponeurotic system, which is the muscle plane beneath the facial skin.

This technique is Dr Doyle’s preferred technique and he performs it as part of a greater facial radiance plan including neck lift, chin liposuction, facial fat transfer for optimal results. He always performs neck lift at the same time as it helps to treat saggy neck skin. Having both areas treated at the same time results in a more natural appearance.

facelift smas

As you age the SMAS layer starts to sag and sink down the face causing:

  • Droopy brows
  • Deep nasolabial folds
  • Marionette lines
  • Jowls
  • Loose skin
  • Neck muscle bands
  • Sagging neck or “turkey neck”

Types of Facelift Scars

Of course, every surgery is different and each scar is different based on the applied technique. We’ll cover the various types of surgeries and the associated scars, sizes and placements. 

SMAS Facelift Scars

smas facelift scars

The SMAS facelift technique leaves scars along your hairline and ears. The SMAS facelift incision goes along your hairline and in front of and behind your ears, leaving an s-shape or S lift scars. In some cases, the surgeon may also make an incision under your chin to tighten the deeper tissues of your face and neck. This is the preferred technique used by Dr Doyle, which he commonly combines with other surgeries such as a neck lift.

Deep Plane Facelift Scars

Many ask what is the difference between SMAS facelift vs deep plane? With a deep plane technique, your scars are the same as the SMAS, however, the incisions go deeper. By performing this surgery on the deeper layers of the skin, this method helps decrease tension on the ears.

Short Scar Facelift

neck lift mini face lift scars

Mini face lift scars have shorter scars than average and can be hidden in the crease in front of your ears. Also called the short scar facelift or short incision facelift, this is a less invasive facial procedure that produces natural results. As a result, mini facelift recovery is often shorter than a traditional lift.

Please note that a mini facelift is best suited for younger patients under 30 with minimal signs of facial ageing. Often injectables are a good solution for these patients until they have more significant jowls which require surgical correction.

Face Lift Recovery Timeline

As each person is different, their rate of healing is different too. Everyone has their own unique experiences during the recovery period. Follow the post-operative care instructions carefully to make your recovery easier and result in the best outcome. 

Commonly, recovery will take about a month, below is a timeline below of what to expect.

Week One 

  • Some swelling and bruising on the face, and around the eyes.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, sun exposure, and hot showers.
  • Following the first week, most people feel they are ready to go out in public.

During this first week of recovery, special care should be taken to keep your incision site clean to prevent any infection and follow post-operative care instructions as provided. You can shower and wash your hair as normal the day after the surgery.  It’s recommended that you sleep on your back with your head elevated at about 30 degrees to assist swelling.

Day 1

You’ll have mild bruising and swelling post-operatively and you’ll also feel dizzy and sleepy from the general anaesthesia. So, you should arrange for someone to drive you home and take care of you for the first 24 hours after surgery. 

You’ll also have bandages around your head to apply pressure to the face and suture lines which will help minimise any swelling that may occur. Pain medication will be given to you to overcome any discomfort.

Day 2

You can remove your head bandages and apply cold compress intermittently. You will be able to wash your hair and apply an antibiotic ointment to the suture lines twice a day. It’s important to wear the provided facial garment as much as possible for the first five days.

Day 3

You should be able to move around a bit and start feeling a bit better but consider resting as the swelling and bruising will be highest during the third and the fourth day. Swelling and bruising will last for a further few weeks. You can continue using pain medications during this time.

Day 4-6

Most people will no longer need pain medications during this period, and the swelling will start subsiding. You should be able to move your body comfortably. You may remove your garment if you are going out in public but please try and wear the garment as much as possible when you are home.

Week Two 

  • Typically feeling well enough to return to work.
  • Able to do light activities and walking.

Day 7-14

You’ll most likely have some swelling and bruising around the facelift incision sites. Due to swelling and bruising, you’ll most likely have some common side effects of the surgery like numbness, tingling sensation, and tightening of the face. You should be able to start light walking again and in some cases, some people can resume their work.

Week Three and Four 

  • The majority of your swelling and tightness have dissipated.
  • Scars are pink but continue to fade
  • Close to seeing your final results!

Day 15-30Facelift Scarring

A small amount of swelling will be present, and you will be feeling and looking much better than in the initial two weeks. You should be able to start seeing the improvement in your face contour during this period. You will also be able to start less strenuous exercises. The scars will become pinkish-red in colour which will eventually fade. 

One Month Post Surgery

After about a month you should be completely healed and able to return to your daily routine, including exercise (after your surgeon has cleared you to do so). Minor swelling, tightness, bruising, and numbness may persist until a year, which is not noticeable to other people. 

How Long Does it Take for Face Lift Scars to Fade?

One month after surgery, your scars may still appear pink but will eventually fade and become less noticeable.

During recovery, it can take an average of 6-12 months for scars to fade and become barely noticeable. The post op facelift recovery time frame varies for everyone as taking care of your health is crucial during the healing process. The size of scars will also vary depending on which type of facial refreshing you decide on.

Facelift Recovery Tips

1. Arrange for someone to support you after your surgery

Right after surgery, you’ll be a bit dizzy and feel sleepy as well. Arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery and take care of you for the first 24-48 hours after surgery, as you may need assistance. 

2. Prepare your recovery area and food prior to the procedure

You should prepare a recovery room prior to your operation. As it is recommended to sleep on your back while keeping your head in an elevated position, consider having a recliner or at least two pillows to keep your head in an elevated position.  

You should store and prepare meals that can be easily prepared at least for the first week, giving you time to rest. 

3. Switch to a healthy diet before and after the surgery

Your body requires a lot of energy for the recovery process. Ensure that you supply your body with plenty of energy from various nutritious and healthy foods. You should also drink plenty of water during this period to further aid in your recovery process. Consider switching to a healthy diet before surgery and stick with it throughout your recovery, this will help your scars heal as well.

4. Understand the potential side effects of a facelift before the procedure

Surgery is relatively low risk but there are always risks associated. You should understand all the likely risks and complications before the surgery to take the necessary measures for prevention. Apart from the general risks carried by any surgery, specific potential risks associated include:

  • Hair loss on the incision sites
  • Clotting of blood in the tissue 
  • Prolonged swelling and bruising 
  • Uneven skin surface after fat removal

You should be in constant touch with Dr Doyle post-surgery and update him if you have any concerns about your condition. 

5. Stop smoking before and after surgery

Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict and damages vital blood vessels necessary for recovery. It also increases your risk for other complications. It is recommended that you stop smoking at least 6-8 weeks prior to your surgery and 6-8 weeks post-surgery.

6. Take time off work and rest facelift scars

Consider taking at least two weeks off work and getting adequate rest during these initial two weeks. Participating in strenuous activities in these two weeks will result in an increase in blood pressure on your face resulting in an increased risk of bleeding and bruising. This will also allow your facelift scars more time to heal properly.

You should wait at least two weeks before returning to everyday activities and up to four to six weeks before returning to strenuous activities.

7. Limit movement on facelift scarring and maintain an elevated posture

Avoiding excess movement after the surgery helps prevent excess strain on the incision site to drastically improve your post-operative scar. Staying upright at about a 30-degree angle after the surgery helps fluid drainage from the face thus limiting downtime associated with the surgery.

8. Avoid the sun on facelift scars

Your skin along the incision site will be extremely sensitive after surgery. In order to avoid the darkening of the scars and any potential sun damage, it is recommended that you use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and also wear a hat for several weeks following the procedure.

9. Use an ice pack instead of a heat pack

You may experience some numbness in your face after surgery making it difficult to determine the temperature. Generally, it is recommended that you use an ice pack instead of a heat pack as people can burn themselves as their skin won’t be able to determine the temperature of the heat pad. You should use the ice pack for fifteen minutes per session multiple times a day for the first week. 

10. Communicate with Dr Doyle and follow all the post-operation care instructions

Your postoperative care instructions are crucial for your recovery. You should wear the compression bandage and chin strap for a minimum of two weeks. You should strictly follow these instructions and communicate with Dr Doyle if you have any questions.

11. Have patience – facelift scars will continue to fade

Be patient during the recovery process – trust and follow the post-operative care instructions provided by Dr Mark Doyle. You’ll be able to see some portion of the outcome during the third to fourth week post-surgery. Some swelling, discomfort and numbness may last over a year but will gradually subside with time. You should be able to see the outcome of the surgery in six months or after a year. 

Together these tips should help your facelift scars fade and become barely noticeable. If you happen to be dissatisfied with the look of your scars, there are other options including revision surgery. You can contact your surgeon to discuss potential options that could help improve the appearance of your scars.

What to Avoid

There are a few common mistakes that you should avoid.

How Long Do Facelift Results Last?

The surgery is permanent, however, facial surgery will not stop the ageing process but temporarily renew the appearance of your face. On average you can enjoy your results for 10-20 years, with results varying for every individual.

Which Facial Refreshing Option is Best for You?

A face lift can be performed with other procedures like facial fat transfer, brow lift, rhinoplasty, or a neck lift to get your desired result. Dr Doyle is one of the best plastic surgeons in Queensland and always recommends a combination of surgeries to his Brisbane and Gold Coast patients to deliver a more cohesive and natural result.

Now that you’ve reviewed the different types of facelift surgery, scars, and the recovery process, are you ready to book your consultation? During your consultation, Dr Doyle can answer any questions you have and explore which option is best for you. Always consult a medical professional before deciding on a treatment.

About Dr Mark Doyle FRACS (Plas) – Queensland Plastic Surgeon

Servicing patients in Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Cairns and New South Wales NSW – Northern Rivers, Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore and more.

Dr Mark Doyle is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon with over thirty years of experience performing BreastBodyFace and Nose surgery. Dr Doyle is a fully qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeon with 30+ years of experience. He has completed all required training and only carries out approved surgical practices. There are absolutely NO undertrained doctors or cosmetic doctors acting as surgeons in our clinic.

As a highly esteemed plastic surgeon, Dr Mark is committed to achieving the best possible results for all his breast, body, face and nose patients, both men and women.


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Send an enquiry form today or phone 07 5598 0988 during Clinic Hours.

  • Dr. Mark Doyle AHPRA Registration: Dr Mark Doyle MED0001375519 Specialist Plastic Surgery – MBBS FRACS FRCS

*DISCLAIMER: All information on Gold Coast Plastic Surgery website is general in nature and is not intended to be medical advice nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Results can vary significantly and depend on individual patient circumstances. All images on this website, unless specified as real patient images, are stock images used for illustrative purposes only. Surgery risks and complications will be covered in detail during a consultation with your surgeon. Book a consult for details regarding your cosmetic surgery procedure.