Rhinoplasty recovery: Tips for a speedy healing process

Knowing what to expect after a rhinoplasty surgery may determine how successful the outcome will be. During your rhinoplasty recovery, there are certain things you should take into consideration such as resting, staying hydrated, exercising, returning to work, smoking, being exposed to sunlight, etc.

In order to ensure a safe recovery for you, we have prepared a thorough and detailed rhinoplasty recovery guideline that will take you through the stages day by day, week by week, and the results you will get at the end of the first year. You will also find some tips for a successful healing period. 

Without further ado, let’s start.

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Rhinoplasty recovery timeline: getting to the finishing line

In order to fully grasp what a post-surgery period means, rhinoplasty patients should take look at the rhinoplasty recovery timeline. A rhinoplasty recovery timeline describes the stages of the postoperative period by dissecting it into little time frames ending at the end of the first year. This way it creates a clear image of what a rhinoplasty patient will experience during his/her recovery time. 

How long is the recovery time from rhinoplasty?

Although every patient has different nasal skin features that will also affect their healing process, there is a general conception that most people can agree upon. In an ideal nose job procedure, the time it takes for a patient to heal enough to return to daily life is about 2 or 3 weeks after surgery.

So, what to expect 2 weeks after rhinoplasty?

Given the fragile state of the nose, during this time, the things that patients can accomplish are limited. For a complete recovery, patients actually have to wait till the end of the first year.

Below, you can see a timeline of the swelling progress after rhinoplasty. The healing rate of the swelling would approximately follow this pattern:

1-7 days
Swelling progress 70%
The second week
Swelling progress 50%
The first month
Swelling progress 30%
3-6 months
Swelling progress 15%
The first year
Swelling progress 5%

Let’s analyze this concept one by one.

First week: immediate recovery

In most cases, patients are able to leave the hospital right after the initial checkup following the surgical procedure. Since you won’t be able to drive by yourself, you will need to find someone to take you home and accompany you for some time.

During the first two days, the nasal swelling and pain might manifest themselves the most. So, do not forget to take the medications your doctor prescribed for you. Another effective way to reduce facial swelling and discomfort is to apply cold compresses to your nose and the surrounding area every hour. And always remember to drink plenty of water. This is also a good way to reduce nasal swelling.

3 days after rhinoplasty, you will begin to feel that the pain and swelling are reduced considerably. Additionally, you may feel a bit queasy for up to three days, which is a result of anesthesia and the blood amassed in your throat.

During these couple of days, you should get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous activities. Walking around the house from time to time can also be beneficial. You will also need to sleep with your head elevated. This way, you can prevent excessive blood circulation around your face. Lastly, try not to blow your nose at all. If you have to sneeze, try to sneeze with your mouth open.

Other than that, you may get back to your normal daily life. 5 days after rhinoplasty, the bandages, and other dressings will be removed. This is the first instance in which you get to see the initial outcome of your surgery.

Now that we have reviewed the symptoms experienced in the first 7 days after rhinoplasty, let’s examine the post-operative care for a longer period of time following rhinoplasty surgery.

Second week: early recovery

Your second week has special importance. Because around this time, you will see that the swelling and the bruising have started to disperse.

With your doctor’s permission, you can start working again or go to school if you’re a student. In most cases, a routine checkup with the doctor won’t be necessary for a while, unless your nose has damage from an accident or whatnot.

By the end of the second week, your nose is still healing and starting to look better and better each day. The second week can also be a good time to return to normal activities according to your doctor’s instructions.

First and second month: mid-term recovery

4 weeks after rhinoplasty, your nose looks far better than it did during the first couple of weeks. Most of the swelling and bruising have disappeared. You should feel much more comfortable breathing, but you may still experience an obstruction in the nasal passages to a certain degree.

During the first month, your surgeon may give you permission to blow your nose gently. The surgeon can also let you resume light physical exercises. However, you may have to wait for another month to be able to get involved in sports that require physical contact or vigorous exercises. But, if you are okay with putting on a protective mask, you can start earlier.

5 weeks after rhinoplasty, the improvements are definitely visible, and they will get even better in the second month. Around week six, the swelling and scarring are pretty much gone. So, you will have a better picture of what the actual outcome will look like.

You also shouldn’t experience any nasal obstruction by now. But, remember, this is still not the final result. Although at a slower pace, your nose will keep healing over time.¬†

When you reach the eight-week mark, you will realize that the majority of the swelling is gone and no breathing problem is present. However, a little bit of swelling on the tip of your nose may remain for a while.

Third to sixth month: late recovery

Hitting the three-month mark means that a big percentage of the swelling and bruising have gone out of sight. The skin that was raised off during the operation on the bone and cartilage is still not healed completely and will take some time to get back to its original proportion.

By the third month, the results you get can actually be a useful foreteller of the final outcome. But, of course, you should wait for the sixth month or even a year to have an accurate picture. You may still feel numbness at the tip of your nose only to get better over time.

By the sixth month, everything is pretty much sorted out, and you’re good to go. Around this time period, in order to make a comparison, your doctor may show you your pictures that are taken before the surgery and that are taken recently.

First year: long-term recovery

Twelve months after the surgery, the tip of your nose will feel much more refined and sound. And you will also notice that the swelling and bruising have completely subsided. However, it may take 2 or 3 years for a complete recovery.

Moreover, your skin type can be an important factor in establishing a seamless recovery. Likewise, if you underwent a revision rhinoplasty, it will too have negative effects on your recovery process, meaning you may have to be more patient to recover fully.

After the first year, you’ll get to enjoy your new look and your new life, of course. You do not need to worry about your nose as much as you did earlier. But if you still have concerns about your recovery process, feel free to pay a visit to your surgeon just to make sure everything is going as planned.

What day of rhinoplasty is the worst?

There is no single day as the worst day of a rhinoplasty, but two…

We can count the first day after the surgery and the day the splints are removed as the worst days of a rhinoplasty.

So, what happens on the first day? 

You are straight out of the operation room and ready to get back to your house. But you are not able to drive yourself. You feel dizzy because of the anesthesia. Your nose feels stuffy and you notice the numbness around your nose. The rhinoplasty swelling is at its most severe form. Your face is ecchymotic because of the bruising, which means it almost has the color dark blue. And to reduce the swelling after rhinoplasty, you are constantly putting ice packs on your face. 

Last but not least, you are not allowed to blow your nose or sneeze out of it. You may think there is no way it can get worse than this.

Then let’s talk about the splint removal day.

Although the first day of your journey looks like the worst, there is not much pain involved in it but only discomfort to some degree. On the contrary, the splint removal day can actually make you feel some pain.  The splint removal process takes place in two different sessions, one for the external and the other for the internal splints. 

  • The first one is considered to be the painful one and it is done after the first week.¬†
  • The second one is carried out during the second week, and this can be uncomfortable rather than painful.¬†

Ethnic rhinoplasty recovery insights

If you have come this far reading the article, you may have wondered if these stages are applicable to people who got an ethnic nose job. Ethnic noses tend to have thicker skin, like the ones people of Eastern European or African heritage have. Having thicker skin can affect your rhinoplasty intraoperatively and postoperatively, which means during and after the operation respectively.

Thicker skin means thicker nostril rims and a wider nasal tip, which makes the operations on the nasal tip much more difficult.

People with ethnic noses generally have to deal with more severe swelling after rhinoplasty, which makes the healing process much longer.

The rhinoplasty patient with thick skin will have a recovery time the same as a non-ethnic patient, which is approximately two weeks. The thick-skin rhinoplasty patient will be able to return to work in about two weeks, and any stent will be removed in the first week. And it often takes one to two years for the tip to heal fully.

Tips for rhinoplasty recovery time: make it safe and smooth

Now, it is time to give you some tips on how to speed up your rhinoplasty recovery. There are numerous things you can do to guarantee a successful and seamless recovery period. These will include your eating habits, physical activities, and even your resting and sleeping performance. 

How to prepare for the recovery time?

Before undergoing a rhinoplasty procedure, a responsible patient must schedule a plan for his/her recovery process according to the instructions the doctor gives during the pre-surgery consultation. These will have a huge impact on the success of your surgery because of their effects on your physical health. Every stage is a must-do and should be taken care of precisely.

Tips on chewing, eating, and everything food

Your eating habits can play a big role during the recovery process. First of all, during the first two days of your recovery, you should prefer foods that are easy to chew on. This way you can minimize the facial effort hence less pain and discomfort.

Secondly, you should stay away from anything that may cause constipation. Always eat things that will ease the bowel movement like fibrous foods, so you don’t have to stress your body while emptying it.

Consuming a healthy diet after surgery helps accelerate your recovery by supplying your body with the resources it needs to rejuvenate.

Protein is a crucial component of skin and cartilage. Thus, foods that are high in protein will assist your body in repairing the harmed tissue. In addition to protein, vitamin intake is also crucial for a successful healing process.

Tips on your shopping list for the recovery

Some additional accessories are crucial to speed up the recovery process and make it a healthier journey. Make sure you put the following materials on your shopping list as we go through them one by one. 

  • Neck pillow: During the first days, it is vital to sleep with your head elevated. Neck pillows are designed to make sure your posture is set at the right angle.
  • Swelling cream: Swelling creams are one of those medications that help reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Cold compress: Applying a cold compress every hour for the first couple of days is heavily advised by the doctors.
  • Sunscreen:¬†Too much exposure to sunlight is a big no-no for a rhinoplasty patient. Make sure you use sun protection every time you go out.¬†
  • Bandages and cotton:¬†Postoperative bleeding is considered normal unless it turns into an unstoppable condition. Bandages and cotton can help you deal with mild bleeding.

Tips on sleep, naps, and resting time

Resting and sleeping are among the main things that dictate our health condition. During the time we rest or sleep, our bodies heal and rejuvenate themselves. That is why doctors can’t stress enough how important the amount of rest you have is.

After the surgery, your doctor will advise you not to return to your work before the second week. This is to make sure that you are getting a sufficient amount of resting and sleeping. During this time, you should also avoid strenuous activities like gym or sports that require physical contact. Only 6 weeks after rhinoplasty will your doctor permit you to do these things.

Resources:

Apaydin F, Stanic L, Unadkat S, Saleh HA. Postoperative Care in Aesthetic Rhinoplasty Patients. Facial Plast Surg. 2018 Dec;34(6):553-560. doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1676379. Epub 2018 Dec 28. PMID: 30593070.

Swamy RS, Most SP. Preoperative, anesthetic, and postoperative care for rhinoplasty patients. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2009 Feb;17(1):7-13, v. doi: 10.1016/j.fsc.2008.09.006. PMID: 19181277.

Gadkaree SK, Shaye DA, McCarty JC, Occhiogrosso J, Spagnuolo G, Derakhshan A, Lee LN. Prospective Qualitative Multidimensional Assessment of the Postoperative Rhinoplasty Experience. Facial Plast Surg Aesthet Med. 2020 May/Jun;22(3):213-218. doi: 10.1089/fpsam.2020.0047. Epub 2020 Mar 30. PMID: 32223570.

Cochran CS, Ducic Y, DeFatta RJ. Current concepts in the postoperative care of the rhinoplasty patient. South Med J. 2008 Sep;101(9):935-9. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e3181807a79. PMID: 18708980.

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