If you’re considering plastic surgery, don't forget about post-treatment recovery.

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It lingers in the background, only surfacing perhaps while you wait in the doctor’s office. Or maybe even later—when you come to post-surgery as the pain sets in.

We spoke with the experts to find out what you can expect post-recovery, whether it’s surgery you’ve signed up for, or a non-invasive treatment—along with tips on how to look and feel your best.

Downtime

According to Sheena Benson, medical esthetician and clinic manager at Q Esthetics Laser Clinic in Toronto, the beauty of non-invasive treatments—which can include fillers and laser skin tightening—is that the results can be achieved with minimal pain, little downtime and few side-effects or risks in comparison with other treatment options. “In today’s busy world,” says Benson, “patients want fast, visible results, and they want to be able to make it in to work in the morning.”

Despite the minimal downtime, there can be a few symptoms with non-invasives, post-treatment. According to Benson, redness and inflammation is expected following most laser procedures, often lasting from a few hours to a few days. Dr. Robert A. Mounsey, FRCSC, FACS, medical director at Revesse Facial Plastic Surgery Clinic in Toronto, adds that patients who get hyaluronic acid fillers for facial rejuvenation, while able to resume normal activities almost immediately, may see minimal bruising.

Surgical procedures, on the other hand, which can range from body contouring to breast enhancement, often involve more recovery. “Typically, a period of reduced activity and rest is helpful to minimize swelling and avoid the chance of damage or stress to the operative site,” says board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Wayne Carman, MD, FRCSC director of the Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Toronto. “This period of recovery can be as little as a day or two for minor procedures, such as minor liposuction or scar revisions, and as long as two weeks for major or combined operations such as a tummy tuck and breast surgery with body contouring.” To manage your post-treatment expectations, Dr. Carman recommends a careful and detailed consultation with your doctor before treatment in which you ask questions and define your goals, limitations regarding downtime, and other concerns. “Only agree to treatment if you are comfortable with all aspects of the proposed plan,” says Dr. Carman. “The ultimate goal of both the surgeon and the patient is to achieve the best possible result.”

Dr. Mounsey notes that while you can expect bruising, swelling and minimal pain after surgery, even invasive treatments “can be pretty painless nowadays.” In fact, “pain can be an indicator of complications,” he says. If you’re concerned, see your physician.

Pain management

After non-invasive procedures, says Benson, patients may feel a mild sunburn-like sensation following laser treatments and mild bruising in the case of body treatments or vein removal. “The application of an ice pack or acetaminophen can help provide relief, though it’s not usually necessary,” says Benson. “Most patients get back to their regular activities almost immediately.”

When it comes to surgery, “For many types of procedures, such as facial surgery, pain is minimal, and patients are pleasantly surprised at the ease of recovery,” says Dr. Carman. “Surgery involving the body or breasts can be more sensitive, and prescription pain medication is advised.”

Dr. Mounsey agrees that over-the-counter pain remedies, such as analgesics can be helpful but not necessary, while cold compresses and local therapy can help with comfort and minimize swelling. Natural therapies, such as arnica, may also help to minimize bruising, he says.

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Skin care

“Generally, the skin is sensitive following a procedure,” says Benson, who recommends gentle products with mild, soothing and hydrating ingredients for individual home-care regimens catered specifically to each patient’s skin concerns. “PCA’s Creamy Cleanser includes aloe vera, which is a nice calming agent,” says Benson. “PCA’s ReBalance is also a nice light moisturizer that calms the skin and restores hydration.” Dr. Carman also recommends the Alyria line, and Dr. Mounsey recommends using simple creams without a lot of additives. “The fewer the ingredients, the better,” he says.

As part of your daily skin-care regimen, avoid sun exposure and apply a broad spectrum SPF to protect skin and prevent any risk of pigmentation, says Benson, who adds that you also want to avoid excessive heat and chemical exposure. “While any redness is present, we want to avoid any irritants that can contribute to unwanted side-effects, such as any chemicals or deep heating like hot tubs, saunas, sports or any activities that cause excessive perspiration, and swimming especially in chemically treated water.”

Lifestyle

As for other lifestyle changes, Benson stresses the importance of keeping hydrated. “Water is important for all of our natural body processes—it helps our body heal, regulates the body temperature, flushes toxins and is critical for the functions of our skin,” says Benson. “It keeps us hydrated from the inside out, which is very important following a treatment.”

Benson adds that a healthy diet of whole foods and exercise is not only good for our health, energy and overall well-being, but it’s also good for skin health. “It’s important to remember that what we put into our body is reflected on the outside,” says Benson. “An antioxidant-rich diet made up of lean meats, vegetables and fruits is key for healing and achieving an all-around healthy glow.”

Of course, Dr. Mounsey also recommends avoiding trauma to the area after procedure. “It may be advisable to refrain from exercise for a bit,” he adds.

Keep in mind that each patient’s skin concerns are unique and his or her treatment and recovery plan should be, as well, says Benson. “At Q Esthetics we build a treatment and after-care plan to suit an individual’s needs in order to help him or her reach and maintain his or her skin-care goals.”

Post-Op Healing Tips

Rest and reduce activity following treatment to minimize swelling and avoid the chance of damage or stress to the site.

Ask your doctor about pain meds and keep on hand an ice pack or acetaminophen to help provide relief.

Avoid exposure to excessive heat, chemicals and the sun. Be sure to use sun protection, as well as gentle moisturizers and cleansers, as prescribed by your doctor.

Drink lots of water, and eat a diet of healthy foods to encourage healing.

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