Skin Discoloration After a Facelift

Dr. Michael Menachof Headshot
Dr. Menachof, MD, FACS has performed thousands of facial plastic surgery procedures in over 20 years of experience. He has been recognized as a Fellow by multiple academies, named one of America’s Top Facial Plastic Surgeons continually since 2003 and is featured in multiple national publications.

The facelift healing process requires a lot of patience. Face discoloration is a typical side effect from a facelift, but will go away as time passes. If you have had a facelift and are experiencing a discoloration in your skin, do not panic. If you are considering a facelift, it is important to know that discolored skin is a potential part of the healing process.

Healing After a Facelift

Skin Discoloration Facelift

After a facelift, patients typically experience minor discomfort, swelling, hardness, bruising and possibly scarring at the incision site. The healing process varies from patient to patient, and unfortunately, is difficult to predict. If you are concerned about facelift side effects, consult an experienced surgeon and have an in-person evaluation – both before and after the procedure.

What Does Skin Discoloration Mean & How to Fix it

Black, blue, purple, green or yellow discoloration of the skin is the result of blood spreading beneath the facial tissues. Bruising is rarer with younger patients, and they typically only have a slight yellow discoloration. In older patients, however, bruising of the eyelids, face, cheeks and neck can appear as a black and blue or purple discoloration. As this bruising heals, the colors will go from a purple skin discoloration to a lighter yellow discoloration. Apply moist heat to the affected area to speed up the healing of the discolored skin. Remember that minor bruising is a normal part of the facelift healing process.

Different Types of Facial Bruising

Discolored skin after a facelift is normal. Most facial bruising is a yellowish-green color, resolves after two weeks and can be covered up by a little makeup. However, some patients experience excessive bruising that causes a darker discoloration and takes longer to heal.

Hemosiderin Staining

Patients who have more serious bruising or develop a hematoma (blood collection) may experience hemosiderin staining. The trauma from the facelift causes this yellow, brown and purplish iron pigment to spread to the facial tissues, causing a discoloration in the skin. The body’s immune system can slowly heal the hemosiderin staining, but it will take longer than two weeks.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is the darkening of the skin around the incision site. This process is stimulated and enhanced by the skin being exposed to ultraviolet light (sunlight). This type of discolored skin can be treated with the use of topical hydroquinone cream, kojic acid or with retinoids. Avoiding direct sunlight on the incision area can help avoid this phenomenon.

Spider Veins

Thin-skinned individuals may notice spider veins, and fair skinned individuals may have visible blood vessels on the face. These visible veins typically regress after six months, but laser treatments are also a possibility.

Be Prepared for Healing

It is important to be as prepared for the healing process as you were for the actual facelift procedure. Hardness, swelling and discolored skin on the face are normal, but for some patients, these side effects will be more pronounced. With time and guidance from your surgeon, you will be able to see and enjoy the final results from your facelift.

If you are experiencing skin discoloration or lumps after a facelift, address any concerns with your surgeon. These two side effects are due to swelling and bruising, and therefore should be treated separately and with the guidance of an experienced doctor. Your surgeon can physically examine the area of concern and ensure you are healing properly. In the meantime, be gentle to your skin and stay out of the sun as much as possible!


This blog was originally posted in March of 2018 and has been reposted in 2021 with updated information.

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