Rhinoplasty is a popular surgical procedure for reshaping the nose. The surgery can reduce dorsal humps, correct asymmetries, refine bulbous tips, improve hanging columella, and even improve breathing in some cases. Whether you’re seeking surgery to enhance the appearance of the nasal tip or bridge or to improve breathing by correcting a deviated septum, rhinoplasty can boost quality of life by increasing confidence and helping functionality.

Swelling can take 12-18 months to reduce after rhinoplasty, but the noticeable swelling fades long before your final results debut. As more and more of your swelling post-op fades, you’ll gradually start to see the shape of your new nose. Most patients start to see improvements as initial swelling fades within a few weeks, but the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that the new nasal contour takes about a year to fully refine.

To avoid causing increased swelling or risking complications such as infection, you should avoid strenuous activities such as running or weight lifting until your doctor says it’s safe to return to them. This break from the gym typically takes about six weeks but varies from patient to patient. 

Jumping back into your usual exercise routine too soon after rhinoplasty can negatively impact the appearance and functionality of your results. Believe it when we say resting and taking it easy for six weeks is worth the new nose you’re about to fall in love with.

Timeline Of Swelling Stages After Rhinoplasty

Be patient with your body as it heals after your rhinoplasty. You’ll notice the swelling gradually fade at whatever rate your body naturally permits, but we’ve listed a general timeline of what to expect at each stage of post-op healing.

The most common areas patients see swelling after rhinoplasty are the nasal tip, the nasal bridge, and the areas of the face surrounding the nose. Swelling may worsen before getting better, so don’t be alarmed if you have more swelling a few days following rhinoplasty than immediately after your surgery.

First Week Post-Op

Be prepared to have significant swelling for the first few days after your rhinoplasty. You may experience some tenderness and discomfort during this period. Some difficulty breathing is usual during the first few days after your nose job, but this will improve as the swelling dissipates.

We recommend stacking plenty of pillows the first night after your rhinoplasty and sleeping in a nearly upright position to improve blood flow from your nose and reduce swelling and inflammation. According to Mayo Clinic, resting with your head elevated higher than your chest reduces swelling and bleeding.

During the first week after your rhinoplasty, your nose may appear puffy, and you’ll likely have bruising around your eyes, cheeks, and lips. One week after your surgery, you’ll visit Dr. Markarian to have your cast, splint, and stitches removed. At this stage, your nose will appear swollen. Do not be alarmed. It will look nothing like the final result.

Second Week Post-Op

There is a significant reduction in post-op swelling by the second week after your nose job, even if it’s not noticeable to you as you look at yourself every day. Some patients even feel comfortable enough to go out in public again two weeks after surgery by covering any residual bruising with concealer. Most patients with jobs that aren’t physically demanding can return to work at the end of the two-week mark.

Weeks 3-4 Post-Op

Although swelling may seem very noticeable to you, there should be a dramatic reduction in swelling by four weeks after your rhinoplasty. Almost all of your visible post-op signs, like bruising, should be faded at this stage. 

This 3-4 week mark is when patients first start to feel a sense of excitement as they begin to see their new noses slowly come to light. It’s normal, however, to still have some more noticeable swelling at this point if the skin on your nose is slightly thicker.

2-3 Months Post-Op

Your swelling should be fading more, slowly revealing your new nose. Your bone structure should become strong and more stable again about 2-3 months after your surgery, so your doctor may allow you to get back into weight lifting and more intense cardio.

4-6 Months Post-Op

Once you reach 4-6 months post-op, most swelling should be gone, and you should start to get a good sense of the look of your final results. You should no longer feel any numbness or tingling in your nose at this point. According to RealSelf, about 90% of the swelling resolves by the 6 month mark, with the remaining 10% mostly residing in the tip.

12-18 Months Post-Op

After about a year, you should be able to see the final results of your rhinoplasty surgery. You may have minimal swelling until up to 18 months after your surgery, but any changes after the 12-month mark will be subtle. Repositioned and reshaped cartilage should be settled by this point, and your nasal bridge and tip should be noticeably refined.

What Affects My Recovery After Rhinoplasty?

A few factors can affect the rate at which you heal after a nose job, including:

  • The extent of your surgery, including how much manipulation of the nasal skin, bones, and cartilage is involved
  • The type of surgical techniques used
  • Your body’s healing process
  • Whether your procedure is a primary rhinoplasty, septorhinoplasty, or revision rhinoplasty
  • The texture and thickness of your skin
  • Whether you allow yourself to rest 

How To Reduce Swelling After Rhinoplasty

Although everyone heals at different rates, and you can’t dramatically speed up the rate at which your post-rhinoplasty swelling goes down, there are actions you can take to promote the best healing.

Our recommendations for reducing post-op swelling after your nose job include:

  • Avoid strenuous exercise until you have your doctor’s permission to resume
  • Avoid blood-thinning medications
  • Keep your head elevated
  • Go for light walks to prevent blood clots
  • Maintain a healthy diet full of nutrient-rich foods
  • Sleep on your back
  • Avoid blowing your nose
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Apply any cleansers, moisturizers, or creams as recommended by your doctor
  • Use cold compresses
  • Be vigilant about using sun protection
  • Avoid smoking

When Should I Worry About Swelling After Rhinoplasty?

Swelling is normal after rhinoplasty to an extent, but it can become alarming and should be reported to your surgeon when:

  • The swelling is severe and does not show any signs of improvement over time
  • The swelling causes significant pain or fever
  • Discharge starts to come out of the treated area
  • Swelling causes you to have trouble breathing through your nose 

Why Is Day 3 After Surgery The Worst For Swelling?

The appearance of your nose immediately after surgery is more similar to your final result than your nose 2-3 days after surgery because the swelling hasn’t begun. After rhinoplasty, swelling worsens before it gets better because inflammation is the body’s way of starting the healing process. It typically peaks around the third day after surgery and may cause you the most discomfort. Your doctor may prescribe pain medications to keep this discomfort at a minimum.

Ready To Love Your Nose?

If you’re considering reshaping your nose and prepared for the long road to your final result, book a virtual consultation with Boston plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Markarian to share your concerns and discover whether rhinoplasty is right for you. During your rhinoplasty consultation, Dr. Markarian will listen to your goals, assess your nose, show you before and after photos of past patients with noses similar to yours, and give you a rough outline of what to expect throughout your journey to newfound confidence.