Whether you’ve already undergone plastic surgery or are just considering it, the most common concerns any patient has on their journey is how to prepare and what to expect when recovering from surgery. How soon will your body heal? Can you exercise? How long will you need to take off work?

While the answers vary by procedure, one thing is certain: you should always discuss any concerns with your doctor. We asked some top plastic surgeons what they tell their own patients.


1. Your doctor knows best

Following your doctor’s directions is critical when recovering from surgery. Don’t dismiss any lingering questions you have, and be sure to clarify the information your doctor gives you. Dr. Christine Hamori, a Boston plastic surgeon, says, “Follow the doctor’s orders regarding rest and activity restrictions.”

Dr. Armando Soto, an Orlando plastic surgeon, adds, “Assuming the patient has chosen their surgeon carefully, based on the appropriate prioritization of their safety and the quality of their likely outcome, the most important thing they could do to assure they are safe and happy is to follow their chosen surgeon’s instructions in every detail and not deviate from them in any way without first communicating with the practice.”


Related: Here’s how much downtime you’ll need for top cosmetic procedures


2. Make a list (and check it twice)

No matter the procedure, there are the items nearly every patient will need while recovering from surgery. A few that can be picked up from a local drugstore include:

  • Ice packs
  • Gauze pads
  • Bandages
  • Comfortable cotton panties (for mommy makeovers)
  • Wetnaps
  • Vitamin C
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Pill case for organizing prescribed medicine
  • Bottled water
  • Small flashlight for late night bathroom trips
  • Low sodium soups
  • Digital thermometer


3. Get organized and line up help

Before your surgery, it’s important to take care of your life’s demands. Make a list of all the errands you’d normally run, and get to them early if you can. Clean your home, stock your refrigerator with foods that are easy to heat and eat, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or schedule pet or child care. Anything you can do in advance or ask others to do for you while you focus on your recovery journey is important.


4. Stick to a healthy diet

Dr. Hamori suggests a diet with lots of protein to speed healing. She gives her patients perioperative vitamins to take for two weeks pre-op and four weeks post-op. A nutrient-rich diet can help address inflammation and even scarring.

“Arnica and bromelain have been proven to shorten the recovery time after plastic surgery (bruising and swelling), but only in very specific doses and when used together. There are a few companies that sell a pre-dosed kit,” said Dr. Soto. He adds that Senekot can help with constipation, which is common after surgery.


Related: Why eating healthy helps you heal after plastic surgery


5. Be patient

Patience is a virtue, particularly when it comes to giving your body time to heal. “I think the most important thing patients should add to their postoperative recovery kit would be the understanding that their commitment to being safe and achieving the lovely outcome they desire does not end with the surgery,” said Dr. Soto. “Healing will take four to six weeks, and scar maturation even longer.”

“It is important not to think of plastic surgery as a “drive-thru” service, but rather as the development of a solid relationship between yourself and a reputable surgeon,” he continues. “[It is] based on the mutual goal of giving the patient a pleasant and safe experience, leading to a great outcome.” He suggests loading your iPad or phone with your favorite playlist or shows for entertainment while you rest.


6. Dress for (recovery) success

“When recovering from surgery, it’s important to dress in clothing that makes you feel good and comfortable,” said Dr. Soto. “After a mommy makeover or body lift procedures, patients may not feel too excited about having to dress for a few days, and being comfortable will be a priority.” Look for loose clothes you can pull on easily, even when you may not want to bend over or lift your arms above your head.

You may need to wear support or compression garment several weeks after a procedure like liposuction, so make sure you have extra so you can wash the originals when they become dirty.  He adds, “Kotex pads work great to make post-surgical support garments of all kinds a bit more comfortable.”


Ready to contact an expert? Find a doctor near you today.