The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but sometimes, the window treatments need updating. Eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, provides a much-needed cosmetic boost with subtle adjustments that create dramatic results.
Despite the procedure’s widespread popularity, patients often have questions about what recovery from eyelid surgery is like. To help you know what to expect, we’ve put together this guide offering information about the types of eyelid surgery, a recovery timeline, and top tips to maximize your surgical outcomes. Read on to learn more.
What Happens During Eyelid Surgery?
Eyelid surgery refreshes the eye area by cosmetically improving the appearance of sagging lids and under-eye puffiness. In some cases, the surgery is medically necessary to restore the patient’s full range of vision.
Blepharoplasty can be performed on the upper or lower eyelids individually or on both during the same procedure.
Upper Eyelid Surgery
During upper eyelid surgery, your plastic surgeon will remove the excess skin contributing to the lids’ heavy, drooping look. The procedure may also eliminate any pockets of fat that are protruding and will tighten the underlying muscle.
The incision is discreetly placed for minimal cosmetic impact. It heals well and is naturally concealed by the crease above the eye. If a low, sagging brow is also creating a tired, aged look, your plastic surgeon may recommend combining your blepharoplasty with a brow lift to further refresh the eye area.
Lower Eyelid Surgery
Lower eyelid surgery is performed one of two ways. The first involves an incision along the lower lash line, while the second goes across the membrane that lines the inner eyelid (transconjunctival blepharoplasty). Both surgeries leave near-invisible scarring.
During lower eyelid surgery, the plastic surgeon targets the “puffiness” caused by excess fat. This fat is either removed or repositioned for a smoother, more even look. The skin may also be trimmed to make the eye appear wider and more open.
Is Blepharoplasty Safe?
All surgery carries some degree of risk or complication. However, working with a board-certified plastic surgeon with significant experience in conducting both lower and upper eyelid surgeries is crucial for both the safety and cosmetic outcomes of your procedure.
If you are interested in finding out more about blepharoplasty, we cover what to expect from your procedure in our related blog post.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Eyelid Surgery?
The initial recovery period for eyelid surgery typically lasts two weeks, although your final results may take longer to appear as post-operative swelling dissipates. Your plastic surgeon will provide detailed instructions to guide you through a safe, smooth recovery.
Here’s what you can expect following your procedure.
The First 48 Hours
If you have had both upper and lower eyelid surgery performed, you may find it difficult to see or open your eyes fully. However, this usually resolves within 2 to 3 days as the swelling subsides. Bruising is also expected and may take up to 2 weeks to disappear.
We recommend using ice or cold packs to alleviate the swelling and help minimize the appearance of bruising. The general rule for how long to ice after blepharoplasty is 20 minutes on and 10 minutes off during the first 48 hours after your operation.
Your follow-up appointment typically occurs within 3 to 5 days after surgery. Your plastic surgeon will assess how well your eyes are healing and remove your sutures. After the stitches are out, you can start showering again.
You can often re-introduce light exercise at the end of the first week and may feel well enough to return to work or school, depending on the cosmetic impact of your recovery.
Bruising generally fades after 10 to 14 days, allowing most patients to end their “social downtime” and be comfortable being seen by coworkers, classmates, and the general public.
Do not wear contact lenses for the first 2 weeks of recovery, and wear dark sunglasses when outside to protect your eyes from the sun, wind, and other possible irritants. You’ll also need to refrain from wearing makeup during this period.
While you can usually start doing more strenuous activities at the end of the second week, the following restrictions are still in place:
- Heavy lifting (more than 10 pounds)
- Aerobics, jogging, and running
- Gardening (anything that involves bending over)
- Dusting (anything that can irritate the eyes)
These restrictions prevent you from increasing the blood pressure in your head, immersing your incisions in water before fully healing, or causing your head to move abruptly or repetitively.
Week 3 and Beyond
Most patients have turned the corner in their recovery by this time and are largely back to their daily routines. The bruising will have resolved by this point, but residual swelling (usually noticeable only to you) may persist for up to 3 months.
The results of blepharoplasty can be enjoyed for many years. Some people need only a single surgery in their lifetimes, although others may eventually require a second upper eyelid procedure if sagging becomes more pronounced.
Tips for Aftercare and Recovery
Strictly adhere to your plastic surgeon’s post-operative instructions. Following these instructions minimizes your risk of infection and protects your results.
To facilitate a smooth and easy recovery, we recommend the following:
- Avoid activities that may dry out your eyes or cause strain, such as reading or staring at a TV or computer screen
- Take regular naps to rest your eyes
- If you must look at a screen for work, school, or recreation, take short breaks every 20 minutes
- Keep your head elevated at all times, including when asleep (prop your head up with pillows or sleep in a recliner to keep your head higher than your heart)
- Apply eye drops (prescription) or artificial tears (over the counter) to stave off dryness
- Use wipes with a gentle formula or a soft washcloth to clean your eyelids
As with any cosmetic surgical procedure, healing takes time, but the results are worth the wait. You can see for yourself how much younger and more alert our patients look in our before-and-after photo gallery!