Rhinoplasty is a complex surgical procedure with a surprisingly brief recovery period required before returning to your regular routine. Most rhinoplasty patients are surprised at how short their initial rhinoplasty recovery time is after surgery with an experienced NJ plastic surgeon. Patients typically feel minor pain and soreness, and some only report discomfort due to congestion from swollen facial and nasal tissues, swelling and facial bruising. A rhinoplasty is a safe and extremely popular surgery that can transform your facial aesthetics and remedy breathing problems.

Recovery from mostly any surgery, rhinoplasty included, depends on the individual with everyone on their own timetable. To give you a basic idea of what you can expect after rhinoplasty, we’ll cover the rhinoplasty recovery timeline that the average patient follows. Initial recovery is typically completed in a week (about 7 days after surgery). Although,

This is your time-off work (or school) time, where you relax as much as possible, sleep propped up, ice your nose and watch too much of your favorite TV show. By the end of week one, or sometimes week 2, patients are typically delighted with the outcome. At Cohen/Winters, we especially enjoy the big “rhinoplasty reveal,” as the splint comes off.

Good Prep Work Can Shorten Rhinoplasty Healing Time

Well before surgery day, after you’ve found the right surgeon, you received your rhinoplasty pre-surgery and recovery instructions in writing and had the details explained. You’ve chosen a pal, who’s agreed to drive you to and from surgery–and stay with you for the first day and night afterward. (We will go over post-surgery instructions with your pal as well before he or she takes you home.) In the instructions:

  • You may have been asked to avoid certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines, especially those which may cause excess bleeding like vitamin E, fish oil and aspirin. Don’t skip any Rx medications you normally take, unless instructed to do so by your surgeon.
  • You’ve been asked to quit smoking well before surgery, if applicable.
  • You’ve picked up your pain medication in advance from the pharmacy and purchased a wedge pillow. This will help you to sleep semi-upright to limit swelling after rhinoplasty.
  • You’ve also been to the grocery store and purchased a couple bags of frozen peas. They make excellent, form-fit ice packs for your nose during rhinoplasty recovery time.
  • If you’re interested in herbal/homeopathic remedies, check with your surgeon beforehand for a go-ahead. Some patients have had good results with pineapple juice or bromelain supplements and arnica montana which can help to limit swelling and bruising for some individuals.
  • You’ve got button-front clothing to wear on surgery day and during early recovery.

Meet Dr. Winters, our rhinoplasty specialist


Rhinoplasty Recovery Timeline

Surgery Day

Recovery begins on surgery day, as soon as you’re taken to the recovery room in our adjacent surgery center. There you’ll be awakened from anesthesia gently. You may not remember these early hours after surgery, later on. You will be bandaged in a nasal splint. You may have packing in your nose.

If packing isn’t needed, you’ll have an attractive drip pad taped below your nostrils to catch the blood (a small amount) that may appear on your first night post-rhinoplasty. You’ll feel some pressure around your nose, and sinus congestion as your rhinoplasty recovery time begins. Later on at home, you may take pain medication if needed when your surgical pain meds wear off. Use the package of frozen peas to decrease swelling and relieve pressure.

When dripping stops, you’ll start cleaning your small nasal incision (using hydrogen peroxide) regularly. You’ll use ointment to keep crust from forming under your nostrils. You might eat something if you feel like it. Your loyal pal will get you glasses of water, food, etc. Some grogginess from surgery may persist and we don’t want you to fall, or bang your newly completed nose on anything! Let your friend help.

Days 2 – 3

  • This can be a tough couple of days, though not usually painful. (Pain is rated by most patients as 3 – 4 on a pain scale of 10. Be sure to use your medication to relieve any pain). You may be feeling nauseous. Your mouth-breathing may make it hard to sleep. Nasal irrigation, from your post-surgery instructions, will help you feel better.
  • Sleep propped on two big pillows (or your wedge), supporting your torso to minimize swelling. This also helps with bruising and limits bleeding.
  • After day 1, you may return to light activity. Please don’t bend over, blow your nose or try to lift anything over about 5 lbs. Don’t take Aspirin, Advil or Motrin.
  • If you have packing in your nose, you’ll visit your surgeon to remove it on about day 2.
  • Never fear–things only get better from here!

The first couple days of rhinoplasty recovery time, you’re in what we call the “uncomfortable” phase. Right now, you may not be breathing through your nose and you probably can’t smell anything. You keep your phone next to your recliner, just in case you need to call your surgeon about anything. (You can reach your surgeon anytime, if you have a concern.)

You’ll also need the phone for other things! You’ll take lots of selfies, record a vlog for your Facebook or post your 6-second highlights on Vine. Your own YouTube channel is not out of the question. However, if you’d rather be discreet, it’s usually no problem.

It may be hard to envision right now, but within a week or two, your surgery probably won’t be obvious to the general public. So if you choose to be discreet, it should work out just fine. No one has to know. Hold on, the worst part of rhinoplasty recovery time will be over in a day or two.

Week 1 (Days 4 – 7)

Milestone: Your Splint is Removed

  • Your splint will be feeling loose about this time–and we will most likely remove it at the end of this week, along with any stitches you may have.
  • At this point, you’ll be able to see the basic shape of your new nose. You’ll have quite a bit of swelling, but it’s likely to be symmetrical, so you can visualize the end result–even at this early stage.
  • You may return to work (or school) with no heavy lifting or strenuous activity, although some patients are advised to take two weeks off for rhinoplasty recovery time.
  • You’ll be wearing a hat (or avoiding the sun) over the next 2 months (yes months) to prevent sunburn.

Week 2 (Days 8 – 14)

Milestone: Return to Work

In about the middle of this week, 10 days after your rhinoplasty, bruises have usually faded significantly. In another week or less, generally, swelling and bruises aren’t noticeable to a casual observer. You return to work or school on about day 8, but some patients are instructed to take 2 weeks off for rhinoplasty recovery time. In that case, you’d return to work on or about day 14.

Weeks 3 and 4 (Days 15 – 30)

  • At the end of week 3, you’re usually cleared by your surgeon to begin your normal exercise and activity level (meaning moderate).
  • You should take at least another month off from contact sports or very strenuous exercise. If you’re willing to wear a protective mask, you can resume sports earlier. Always check with your surgeon.
  • Much of your swelling is gone now, with the tip taking the longest to subside. You’ll notice your nose becoming more refined as the days pass.

Month 2 and 3: Rhinoplasty Recovery Nearly Complete!

You’re looking better every day and the swelling of the nasal bridge has typically gone down. The tip of your “new nose” may still feel a bit numb, but the feeling is coming back daily. If you had an open procedure, your scar will continue to fade.

1 Year Post-Procedure

  • At the 12-month mark after your rhinoplasty, all (or nearly all) of your nasal swelling is gone. Your scar, if any, has faded almost completely.
  • See your surgeon at this point to evaluate your outcome and monitor any scar tissue.

The Future: How Will Your New Nose Age?

As you age, your nose naturally ages and changes along with the rest of your face. If your surgeon was meticulous with your care, your nose will continue looking great, in harmony with your facial features over time.

Getting Back to Normal Life Quickly After Your Nose Job…

Many patients go back to work or school in about a week and feel very comfortable showing their face in public. Bruising is greatly diminished by a week after your rhinoplasty recovery journey. At that point, or soon after, only those you know well and who look carefully at your face will notice you’ve had a nose job. With a skilled surgeon, your rhinoplasty recovery will be flawless and you will notice results promptly after surgery.

…While Your Nose Keeps Looking Better

After that first week of rhinoplasty recovery, you’ll still have fairly significant swelling. In fact, up to a year after your procedure, you’ll still have a bit of swelling remaining. This is normal with the recovery process, as the cartilage and bone need time to completely settle. During the healing process from rhinoplasty nose reshaping, swelling dissipates gradually. With less and less swelling, the details of your new nose become clearer. As swelling disappears, you’ll find that your rhinoplasty results look more apparent each day.

What About Persistent Swelling after Rhinoplasty?

If swelling lasts up to a year, how will you go back to normal activities well before then? You’ll be looking presentable in just a week or two because the swelling under your eyes and cheeks will go down first and that’s the part that’s most obvious. Since everyone heals at a slightly different rate, some patients take off 2 weeks from work, but you’ll feel significantly better after the first few days post-rhinoplasty.

Incision Healing

Your rhinoplasty incisions may be entirely inside your nose if you had a closed rhinoplasty, or you may have a small incision across the skin that divides your nostrils if you underwent an open rhinoplasty. An open rhinoplasty allows the surgeon the most direct access to the surgical area, which works best for certain nasal reshaping procedures. The only visible scar (the external scar from the open procedure, if you have one) will be well hidden in the slight shadow that usually obscures the area when you’re interacting with people. You may only be able to see the tiny triangle shaped scar on your septum between your nostrils if you hold a mirror below your nose which will fade to a thin white line over time.

Follow-ups Minimize Rhinoplasty Recovery Time

Here’s an outline of the follow-ups that should occur after rhinoplasty and how you can ensure flawless healing:

Week 1: Your surgeon will see you about 3 times in the first week after your surgery. During these visits, your surgeon will check to see that your incisions are healing properly with no signs of infection and that you have no excess bleeding or swelling.

Your NJ rhinoplasty surgeon may also remove any non-dissolvable stitches and any packing inside your nose a day or two after surgery. Then you’ll be able to breathe more normally through your nose rather than your mouth. The cast or splint will generally be removed at about 1 week. Nasal congestion may persist for a week or two.

Week 2: You may have some numbness of the skin on and around your nose during your rhinoplasty recovery time, but it will typically return to normal and will not affect your breathing.

And beyond: After the first two weeks, your follow-up appointments are scheduled farther apart. For instance, you might have a follow-up a week after surgery for splint removal. Then you might see your NJ plastic surgeon in two weeks, then once per month, then sometimes after 3 months for the last visit. Follow up continues for about a year, seeing you through your complete rhinoplasty recovery time.

Remember that all timing is general information. Your surgeon will likely set a unique schedule for you, depending upon the details of your procedure and the progress of your healing.

Between Follow-Ups, Follow Instructions

To ensure your recovery progresses as rapidly and uneventfully as possible in between rhinoplasty follow-up visits, you’ll follow your NJ plastic surgeon’s instruction sheet. It will have specific steps to guide you to: care for your incisions, keep your nostrils (your mucous membranes) moist, use ice to keep the swelling down and watch for signs of infection.

Tips to Shorten Rhinoplasty Recovery Time

  • Call with questions: Between your follow up office visits, you must contact your surgeon right away if you notice anything that concerns you–or if you have a question about the nasal care instructions. You should contact your surgeon if you bump your nose if you experience renewed bleeding or notice excessive swelling after day 3. Keeping the lines of communication open will also ensure you have a more comfortable and relaxed rhinoplasty recovery time.
  • Don’t overdo activity: These complications are more likely to occur if you ignore or forget post-surgery instructions like not bending over, not lifting anything and not exercising to the point of raising the blood pressure. All of those can cause bleeding. Walking around the house is fine and encouraged to keep circulation normal, but no strenuous or even moderate exercise until your surgeon clears you to do so. Strenuous exercise will likely be off the menu for 6 weeks or more. Swelling can worsen if you forget to sleep propped up. Your surgeon may instruct you to avoid salty foods so that swelling dissipates as quickly as possible.
  • Let your friends help: Your friend or family member must drive you to and from your surgery. He or she should also stay with you for 24 to 48 hours. Arrange for childcare for a week or two because lifting anything or anyone is not allowed.
  • Avoid bumps: Young children or pets can bump into your healing nose, so be very careful holding them close or in your lap. You don’t want any setbacks to lengthen your rhinoplasty recovery time or ruin your results. If you wear prescription glasses or sunglasses, don’t allow them to rest on your nasal bridge until your surgeon gives the ok–you may need to tape them to your forehead above the nose.
  • Watch for infection: If you run a fever, feel nauseous, notice excessive skin redness or discharge from your nose, contact your surgeon immediately. These may be signs of infection. Your plastic surgeon has methods to deal with such complications, but you must let him or her know right away. No matter how skilled a surgeon is, it is also your responsibility to keep the area clean to prevent infection post-operation.
  • Arnica and bromelain: These supplements may help with swelling and bruising. Ask your surgeon how she or he feels about these products and/or when you should use them before and/or after surgery.
  • Accept compliments: As mentioned, anyone unaware that you were undergoing rhinoplasty may notice something different about you, but may not be able to pinpoint it. When you choose a skilled NJ rhinoplasty surgeon, your nose will look natural, yet will better compliment all your other features and bring them greater notice.
  • Enjoy your new outlook: A truly excellent rhinoplasty often provides a confidence boost and you may even feel more outgoing – without the distraction of your nose bothering, distracting or hindering you. You’ll find your facial features are in harmony and the new balanced appearance will ensure you don’t avoid pictures. (Most patients feel they’re more photogenic after a successful rhinoplasty.) Rhinoplasty won’t change other people or make them treat you differently, but you may note a difference that’s entirely due to your new outlook on life.

Best Kept Secrets about Rhinoplasty Recovery

There’s typically no pain to deal with, or very little, from day one. Swelling, bruising and discomfort, yes. After week one, when stitches and packing (if any) are removed, most of the discomfort usually disappears with them.

Although most people have heard this or read this, from plastic surgeons and first-person accounts of rhinoplasty patients, most still expect pain after their surgery. So, you will be pleasantly surprised as you look back on the period we are about to describe.

Your intermediate recovery phase takes place from about a month to 3 months after rhinoplasty. Every day your nose looks better and better, but swelling persists. At the end of this time, most of your result is coming into view. Casual observers may not realize that you’ve had rhinoplasty.

There’s still significant swelling at the nasal tip, however, but it’s usually not noticeable to others. Your recovery is generally complete at about 1 year after surgery. Although your nose will change over many years with age, rhinoplasty is a life-long procedure that should leave you happy with your nose permanently. Now that you have a basic outline of rhinoplasty recovery, let’s go over some details.

The Big Job? Choosing Your Surgeon Wisely

Once you’ve chosen a true rhinoplasty specialist that has your complete confidence, the hard part is over. (Sometimes this is only clear when you’re looking back on it.) After many years in this field, in our experience, the vast majority of rhinoplasty patients emerge from surgery in the satisfied-to-ecstatic range.

Well before you’ve completed your rhinoplasty healing time, we generally see that smile that tells us your rhinoplasty journey was worth it. Patients are often happy with their rhinoplasty result as soon as bandages and splint come off. That’s just a few days after surgery and very early in the rhinoplasty healing stage. Although their nose still has months and months of looking better and better left to go, most patients see the benefit they’ve achieved very quickly. That’s part of why we love this job!

Your NJ Plastic Surgeon’s Role in Rhinoplasty Recovery

A top rhinoplasty surgeon will support you throughout your rhinoplasty recovery period. When you work with an expert rhinoplasty specialist in NJ, you’ll learn about all the options open to you to improve the appearance and/or function of your nose. You and your NJ plastic surgeon will discuss what bothers you about your nose and your surgeon will make a plan to create a refined and proportional nasal shape that you will love.

Your surgeon will correct any anatomical problems that inhibit your breathing, if needed, and will reshape your nose with your preferences in mind. An experienced NJ plastic surgeon, devoted to rhinoplasty, will keep you safe and create just the look you’re seeking. Your nose will be fixed right the first time. At the same time, your nose will be structurally sound to last a lifetime.

Your Rhinoplasty Journey

Chances are when you look back over the experience, your rhinoplasty recovery time will seem minimal, even minuscule. Partner with a surgeon you trust and your rhinoplasty journey will be well worthwhile. Remarkably soon after your rhinoplasty surgery, you’ll look and feel like your best self, like you’ve always wanted.

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Dr. Winters

About Dr. Winters

Dr. Winters specializes in primary, revision, reconstructive, functional and teenage rhinoplasty surgeries. Dr. Winters is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and maintains active memberships in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery and others.