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How long does it take to look normal after upper eyelid surgery?

Quick Answers

It typically takes around 2-6 weeks for the upper eyelids to look normal again after upper blepharoplasty surgery. However, it may take up to 3-4 months for residual swelling to fully resolve and for the final cosmetic results to be apparent.

Swelling and Bruising After Surgery

Upper blepharoplasty, also known as eyelid surgery or an eyelid lift, removes excess fat, skin, and muscle from the upper eyelids. This procedure aims to rejuvenate the eyes and create a more youthful, alert appearance. However, in the initial weeks after surgery, the upper eyelids often appear quite swollen and bruised.

Here is the typical timeline for swelling and bruising after upper blepharoplasty:

  • Day 1 – 2: The upper eyelids appear very swollen and bruised immediately after surgery. Some bloody drainage or tearing may occur.
  • Day 3 – 4: The swelling and bruising start to improve but are still quite noticeable.
  • Day 5 – 7: Bruising lightens to a yellow/green color and swelling decreases moderately.
  • Week 2 – 3: Residual bruising fades. Swelling continues to gradually subside each day.
  • Week 4 – 6: Swelling is minimal but still present. The scars from incisions are faintly visible.
  • Week 8+: Only very subtle swelling remains. The scars have faded significantly.

The severity and longevity of bruising and swelling can vary between patients depending on factors like age, skin type, bleeding tendency, and extent of surgery. Younger patients tend to recover more quickly. Following your surgeon’s postoperative care instructions can help minimize swelling and complications.

Looking Normal in Social Settings

Many patients feel comfortable going out in public about 2 weeks after upper blepharoplasty when bruising and obvious swelling have diminished. At this point, the eyes will likely look noticeably improved from before surgery.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that some swelling and evidence of surgery will still be apparent. Here are some tips for social settings in the first month after surgery:

  • Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect the healing incisions and minimize visible swelling/bruising.
  • Use makeup to help cover residual bruising and make the eyes look more symmetrical.
  • Let friends/family know you recently had eyelid surgery to set expectations.
  • Avoid events with photographs until about 4 weeks post-op when swelling has substantially subsided.

By 6 weeks after surgery, most patients are comfortable attending events without sunglasses or noticeable signs of having had a procedure. However, final results are still developing.

Return to Work and Activities

Most patients can return to work and normal activities within 5-7 days after upper blepharoplasty. However, people who work in more public-facing roles may choose to take 10-14 days off work while bruising remains very apparent.

Here are some general timeline guidelines for return to activity after upper eyelid surgery:

Activity Timeline
Reading, television, computer use 2-3 days
Driving 5-7 days*
Light housework 3-5 days
Exercise, strenuous activity 2 weeks
Social events 2 weeks
Work – sedentary job 5-7 days
Work – public facing job 10-14 days

*When vision clears enough to safely operate a vehicle

Talk to your surgeon about any activity restrictions after surgery based on your unique healing and recovery process.

Final Cosmetic Results

While the eyes will look significantly improved within 6 weeks after surgery, it takes 3-4 months for all residual swelling to resolve and for the final cosmetic results to fully develop. Scar maturation also continues over the course of a year.

It’s important to be patient in the first few months after surgery as you heal and allow your results to settle. Trying to compare your early results to the ultimate outcome tends to cause unnecessary worry. With upper blepharoplasty, the eyes continue to improve gradually over time.

Factors That Prolong Recovery

Certain factors can prolong swelling, healing, and return to normal appearance after upper blepharoplasty. These include:

  • Age over 60 – Older patients tend to experience more bruising and swelling.
  • Thick skin – Increased swelling occurs with thicker skin types.
  • Excess fat removal – Removing larger fat pockets can increase swelling.
  • Second surgery – A revision surgery usually has more swelling.
  • Systemic factors like diabetes or smoking – Medical issues compromise healing.
  • Postoperative complications – Infection, bleeding, or reactions delay healing.
  • Not following surgeon’s instructions – Important to minimize swelling risks.

Talk to your doctor if you have any conditions that could impact your recovery so you can plan accordingly. Following all postoperative care instructions can help optimize your cosmetic results.

Options to Manage Swelling

Your surgeon may recommend options to help control swelling in the first weeks after upper blepharoplasty, such as:

  • Cold compresses – Applying cold, gentle pressure helps minimize swelling and bruising.
  • Head elevation – Keeping the head elevated above the heart when resting reduces eyelid swelling.
  • Medications – Oral steroids or anti-inflammatories may be prescribed to control swelling.
  • Supplements – Arnica, bromelain and other natural supplements can aid healing.
  • Eye ointment – Antibiotic ointment helps protect incisions and prevent drying.
  • Sunglasses – Wearing dark, UV-protective sunglasses shields healing eyelids.

Always follow your surgeon’s recommendations for minimizing swelling, bruising, and other postoperative issues while your eyes heal. Avoid any home remedies or NSAID pain relievers without medical approval.

When to See Your Surgeon

It’s important to follow up with your surgeon at recommended intervals after upper blepharoplasty to monitor your progress. Contact your surgeon right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe swelling or bruising that worsens after 3-5 days
  • Signs of infection like increased redness, pain, pus or fever
  • Vision changes or impaired eye movement
  • Bleeding from the incision sites
  • Severe asymmetry or irregularities in healing

Some swelling, bruising and discomfort are normal during the recovery process. But alert your surgeon promptly about anything that seems excessive so it can be evaluated.


It typically takes around 2-6 weeks for upper eyelid surgery patients to look presentable in social settings again as bruising and swelling subside. However complete healing takes 3-4 months. Factors like age, skin type, and extent of surgery impact individual timelines. Listen to your surgeon’s advice and be patient for final results.