The DOs & DON’Ts of Cosmetic Surgery Recovery
The post below is just one of many great resources you’ll find in The Scoop, our guide to a safe, successful cosmetic surgery experience.
Choosing an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon is step one for a safe surgery and beautiful results. Step two? Follow the recovery instructions that your surgeon provides.
With my own patients, a big chunk of our pre-surgery consultation time is spent going over the all-important recovery process. The particulars I give to each patient vary, depending on procedure, lifestyle, and medical history. However, there are some universal DOs and DON’Ts that all patients should adhere to when recovering from cosmetic surgery.
Take a look at them now—before you’ve scheduled your procedure—to put yourself in a position to ace your recovery and love your results.
Recovery begins before surgery. Here’s how to start.
We think of recovery as healing after surgery, but setting yourself up for success before surgery will play a big part in how quickly you will recover. Do this by creating an optimal environment for healing, both in your body and in your home.
DO eat a balanced diet filled with nutritious whole foods.
A healing body needs extra nutrients, so the sooner you nourish your body with quality proteins, vitamins, and minerals, the better. Stick to pasture-raised and hormone-free meats, organic fruits and veggies, and healthy fats from nuts and seeds. Processed and sugary foods stress and inflame the body—not what you want when you’re about to have surgery.
DON’T smoke, vape, or use nicotine prior to and after surgery.
There’s a laundry list of reasons to quit smoking, especially if you’re having surgery. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, choking off blood supply to incision sites. This slows down healing, which increases risk for infection, poor scarring, and even tissue death, especially with procedures that involve a lot of tissue repair, like tummy tucks, body lifts, and breast reduction. I won’t perform these procedures on patients who’ve smoked within six weeks.
DO check your list of prohibited substances before taking any medication, herb, or supplement. DON’T use anything on the list within two weeks of surgery.
Did you know that aspirin and green tea are off-limits before cosmetic surgery? Turns out, a lot of normally benign or even healthy substances are risky before surgery. They may act as blood thinners, increasing risk of internal bleeding, or they may interfere with anesthesia drugs. Your surgeon will provide you with a list of medicines to avoid before and after surgery. Read it thoroughly, keep it with you, and take it seriously.
DO make arrangements for child care, pet care, and you care prior to your procedure.
Frankly, you’ll be pretty useless for a few days after surgery. You may need help with things you normally take for granted—getting out of bed, going to the toilet, getting dressed, etc.—let alone getting your kids bathed and fed. Recruit help ahead of time so your household does not descend into chaos and you are not tempted to overexert yourself. Schedule full-time child care for about one week after breast surgery and two weeks after a tummy tuck or body lift. Don’t forget about your furry kids—pet care is a good duty to designate to an older child or neighbor.
Surgery’s done; let the downtime begin.
Downtime is tough for patients who are used to being on the go from dawn ‘til dusk. Here’s where a little mind-over-matter comes into play: view recovery like it’s your job (because it is!) and remember that downtime is temporary. You’ll be back in the gym in no time.
DO take your pain meds for the first day or two.
A lot of patients hate taking pills—and I totally respect that. But even if you’re not in much pain after surgery, pain meds will help you rest comfortably, and rest is key during early recovery. It’s probably fine to switch to Ibuprofen (or take nothing) after the first few days, as long as your surgeon gives you the “okay.”
DON’T drive while you’re taking pain meds or can’t react normally.
You wouldn’t want to be on the road with someone who’s impaired or can’t turn to check their blind spot before changing lanes. Don’t be that person. Get someone else to drive you to your initial follow-up appointments and anywhere else you need to be until you’re off the pain meds.
DO drink plenty of water and get your fiber!
Staying hydrated will help you feel better faster, flushing out the residual effects of anesthesia and helping your body deliver nutrients to healing incisions. It also helps keep post-op constipation (a common side-effect of pain meds) to a minimum.
DO take good care of your incisions
Incision care is key, not just to ensure that your scars heal and fade beautifully, but also to protect you from infection. We’ll provide you with detailed instructions for how to take care of incisions, but here are the biggies:
- If your incisions are covered with surgical tape, don’t peel it off to take a peek. Leave it in place as long as possible; surgical tape protect your scars from dirt, which can cause infection, and the stress of body movements, which can widen scars. Same deal with a compression garment. Take it off to shower, but wear it to sleep, work, and everything else.
- Keep your incisions dry. Showers are fine, but baths, hot tubs, and swimming are not allowed for the first four weeks or so, as submersion raises infection risk. After showering, pat your incision sites dry gently with a clean towel.
DON’T do too much too soon, even if you’re feeling better.
Once you start feeling better, you may start getting bored with all the downtime and feel tempted to go full throttle. Easy, tiger! Feeling like yourself again is a sign that your recovery is going well, not that it is finished. Don’t jeopardize your health and results out of impatience—an extra week or two away from your workouts will not hurt your long-term fitness. When you are cleared to resume activities, follow this rule of thumb: if anything hurts, pulls at your incision sites, or doesn’t feel “right,” it’s too soon for that activity. Back off and talk to your surgeon about any concerns before trying it again.
DO stay in touch with your plastic surgeon.
All the key facts you need
Questions are bound to pop up along the way. If anything concerns you, no matter how trivial it may seem, give your surgeon’s office a call—the last thing we want is for a patient to be unnecessarily worried. Also, make sure you come in for recommended follow-up appointments, even if you think things are going swimmingly. We need to be sure your recovery is going normally; plus, it’s an opportunity to thank your team if you’re pleased with everything.
Treating recovery with respect is a must if you want to heal quickly and get the great results you set out to achieve. If you have any questions about the process, let us know! Leave a comment below or contact our office to set up a personal consult in Granite Bay.