The Ultimate Rhinoplasty Recovery Guide

The ultimate guide to rhinoplasty recovery.

Like any surgery, it’s no small decision to choose to undergo rhinoplasty (nose job). Chicago men and women who want to transform their faces often ask about rhinoplasty to create a smoother, narrower, or more refined nose. However, because it is an extensive procedure, rhinoplasty requires a sizeable recovery time.

There are many things you can expect on the long road to recovery. Here are a few main highlights and how you can make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Preparing for surgery 

Successful healing starts with thoughtful planning. When preparing for rhinoplasty surgery, be sure to take proper care of your body. Refrain from nicotine or tobacco for two weeks before surgery and avoid pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. You should also avoid sun damage during this time and wear plenty of sunscreen when outdoors.

The night before surgery, don’t eat or drink anything (including water) after midnight. Arrange for someone to drive you to and from the hospital safely.

Products to stock up on  

By gathering supplies before surgery, you can spend your first days of recovery relaxing without worry. A few good items to have on hand include:

  • Prescriptions: Fill your prescriptions ahead of time, so you will have them ready after surgery.
  • Ice pack/cold compress: Ice packs are one of the best ways to reduce swelling after your rhinoplasty. You can use a traditional ice pack or even a frozen bag of produce (such as peas or berries) in a pinch.
  • Thermometer: Watch your temperature and make a note of any major fluctuations. 
  • Laxatives: Surgery and pain medications can have a significant impact on your digestive system. Stool softeners will help you stay comfortable in the days to come.
  • Humidifier: Running a humidifier in your room can help prevent dry mouth and lips.
  • Magazines, books, or an iPad: You will be in bed for a while during recovery. Give yourself easy access to your favorite entertainment.

You’ll also want to pick up some antibiotic ointment or A+D ointment before your surgery so you can apply it around the outer edge of your nostrils. We talk more about this and provide answers to other recovery questions on our Rhinoplasty FAQ page.

The recovery timeline  

  • Immediately after surgery: Once you have returned home, apply a cool compress over the next 24 hours. You’ll feel some discomfort and pressure in your nose after surgery (learn more in a related blog post). Be sure to take any pain medications prescribed to you by your doctor. Change the surgical dressing underneath your nose as needed. You can return to work or school at any time but most prefer to wait until the splint comes off, when bruising is minor and can be easily hidden with a little makeup. 
  • 1 week: Stitches and your splint will be removed during your follow-up appointment. Major bruising will begin to fade. Most patients can return to vigorous exercise at this time, but avoid contact sports or activities for six weeks.
  • 2 weeks: The majority of your bruising and facial swelling will begin to subside. Breathing will slowly become more comfortable.
  • 6 weeks: Any bones disrupted during surgery will now be more stable. Most patients can safely wear their glasses on the bridge of their nose and return to more intensive physical activity.
  • 6 months: Any lingering numbness should fade as the nerves repair themselves, and full feeling returns to the nose. 
  • 1 year: Any final swelling will have completely subsided, revealing the final form of your new nose. Enjoy!


When to call your surgeon 

Surgery is a significant occasion. Your body will feel a bit sensitive and uncomfortable afterward. When your face feels tender and unusual, it’s normal to worry and wonder if you should contact your doctor. However, some feelings and side effects are more concerning than others.

Normal Side Effects

  • Bruising, swelling, tenderness: These are the most common parts of rhinoplasty recovery. Any discomfort can easily be solved with the provided pain medication. 
  • Numbness: Surgery can disrupt the small nerve endings in the nose, but sensation will slowly return over time.
  • Bloody nasal discharge: A small amount of blood is normal and will collect on the gauze dressing directly beneath the nose. This mainly happens around 24 to 48 hours after surgery.
  • Excess mucus: Splints used inside the nose will often temporarily stimulate mucus production. 

Cause for Concern

  • High fever: Contact the office if you experience a temperature of 100 degrees or more.
  • Significant pain: If your medications aren’t helping and your pain levels continue to grow, please notify your doctor.
  • Excessive bleeding: While some bleeding is normal, the issue should subside after a few days. If you continue to experience noticeable amounts of bleeding after surgery, contact your doctor.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons offers some suggestions for questions you should ask your surgeon before your surgery so you know what to watch for during recovery.

What to expect with bruising  

Bruising is a natural part of rhinoplasty recovery. There are many delicate veins around the nose and face, and they react to the disruptions created during surgery. 

Bruises begin to fade around a week after rhinoplasty surgery. For more patients, the issue fully resolves about 10 days after the procedure. Dr. Mustoe and Dr. Sinno use advanced techniques to minimize potential bruising around the surgery site. Our practice also offers a state-of-the-art laser treatment that can dramatically reduce the appearance of bruising in a single post-op session.

Returning to exercise  

It’s important to let your body rest and relax during your recovery period. Patients should take a break from any exercise or intensive physical activity for at least a week. Even lighter activities, such as bending forward and stretching, can potentially increase nasal swelling. When working exercise back into your routine, start with short walks or other gentle movements. Activities like cardio and heavy lifting should wait until the 6-week mark or until your doctor gives you the green light. 

Long-term healing and final results

Rhinoplasty recovery is an extended process. While most swelling will subside after 3 to 6 months, it takes around 1 year for patients to see their final surgery results. There is little visible scarring after rhinoplasty surgery, as the incisions used are quite small. Using sunscreen regularly will prevent any discoloration and help your results look flattering, natural, and refined. You can see examples of these results in Dr. Mustoe’s rhinoplasty before-and-after pictures and Dr. Sinno’s rhinoplasty photo gallery.

Rhinoplasty surgery is undoubtedly an investment that a vast majority of people find worth their commitment. Dr. Mustoe & Dr. Sinno’s close communication with their patients and dedicated care during recovery helps patients feel comfortable and heard throughout the recovery journey.

If you are considering a nose job and want to discuss your best options with an experienced rhinoplasty surgeon in Chicago, please request a consultation online. You can also contact our practice office by phone at (312) 788-2560.

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