When patients consider having surgery for cosmetic purposes, they should factor an amount of time to heal properly. This period will include managing bruising and swelling which is an expected consequence of any invasive surgery. Although post-surgical recovery can be difficult for patients excited about their aesthetic improvements, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions to ensure the best possible results after healing is complete.

Board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Steven Montante will provide a detailed recovery plan which will allow his patients to experience optimal healing for the best possible results. This article offers basic information about bruising and swelling and how to manage it effectively after surgery.

Causes of Bruising

Bruising appears after surgery because of blood leaking from small blood vessels (capillaries) once the surgery is complete. Although most of these vessels are cauterized during surgery, there may be some mild bleeding when the blood pressure returns to normal. There is no reason for concern, as bruising is inevitable after surgery and is rarely serious.

Causes of Swelling

After any trauma to the body, cells release chemicals which affect the absorbency of blood vessels in the area of the injury. Surgery, although controlled, cause trauma by way of incisions. This increase in permeability allows fluids, white blood cells, and other chemicals to flood the areas to start the healing process. This process is known as inflammation or swelling.

Bruising Timeline

Bruising is never pretty, especially for the first few days following surgery. It’s particularly unpleasant when it affects highly visible areas like the face. For the first few days, the bruising will be black, dark purple, or blue. By day six the bruising should fade down to a green, yellow or brown hue. The skin should return to normal afterward and completely subside after a couple of weeks.

Swelling Timeline

Like bruising, the swelling will be its worst for the initial days following surgery. It will begin to subside after a week, and by the second week after surgery, you should see about a 75% reduction. Six weeks after surgery you should see a 90% reduction with continued improvement over the next few months.

Managing Bruising and Swelling After Surgery

Here are a few tips to follow to manage any bruising and swelling which occurs after your plastic surgery procedure:


It is not an accident we see athletes on the sidelines with ice packs on injuries. This will start the healing process by reducing pain and inflammation. After plastic surgery, your body has been injured with incisions.

During the initial phase of your recovery, you should apply ice packs to the surgical areas for 40 minutes on and 20 minutes off, continuously for the first couple of days. Do not place the ice packs directly on your skin, rather place a towel or cloth between the ice and the inflamed area.


After surgery, you may be wearing a compression garment when you wake from the anesthesia, especially after a body contouring procedure. This compression accelerates the healing by minimizing the swelling, increasing the circulation to the vital area, and quickens the healing process.


As a rule, you should keep your incisions above your nipples to allow fluids to drain away from the wound area for the first week after surgery. Bed wedges or inclined pillows provide the best elevation so you can relax or sleep comfortably.

Avoid Hot Showers

For the first couple of weeks after surgery, you should avoid hot showers as the heat can promote swelling. Another problem with showers is if a strong stream of water contacts the surgery site, it can cause problems with healing.


Drinking plenty of water is important to maintain maximum health and keep your body operating at a high level. This fact is especially true during recovery from surgery. Maintaining proper hydration levels will allow the body to heal properly and help abate any bruising or swelling after surgery.

Eat Right

Maintain a healthy diet which reduces sodium in your intake. Salt is not good for managing swelling and should be avoided during your recovery. Greens, eggs, and yogurt are excellent sources of vitamin K which is a great component to reduce swelling.

Learn More

Plastic surgery is a life-changing event for many patients in Richmond and can affect their confidence level and promote a positive self-image. However, plastic surgery is still surgery and requires a carefully planned recovery with a commitment of doing what it takes to ensure the body heals properly, and a dedication to reducing bruising and swelling so you can enjoy your results sooner rather than later.

For more information about recovery after plastic surgery and how to manage bruising and swelling, contact us today and schedule a consultation.