What It's Really Like To Have Eyelid Surgery

We spoke to three women who decided to undergo eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) for varying reasons...
Patient Perspective
Written by India Bottomley
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What It's Really Like To Have Eyelid Surgery Atsushi Hirao/Shutterstock

We spoke to three women who decided to undergo eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) for varying reasons. They spoke to us about their surgery experience and what recovery is really like, providing prospective patients with insight into how to prepare and insider advice on how to make the process as smooth as possible. Reasons for seeking the procedure vary, from correcting natural excess skin around the eyes to reducing thinning skin in the area to keep a youthful look, every patient’s decision to pursue the procedure is as individual as they are.

Jackie, Los Angeles, CA

Getting bleph surgery was a decision Jackie took after years of being bothered by how her eyelids looked. She struggled to apply makeup and felt the excess skin that caused her double eyelids aged her prematurely. “I had been considering surgery for a while and discussed it with my doctor during my consultation. The clinic was able to produce an edited image to predict what the results of bleph surgery would look like on me, and to me, it made all the difference.”

The AEDITION: How was your experience of the surgery itself?

Jackie: My surgery went as planned, it was relatively quick, and I went home on the same day. I made sure to have my sunglasses with me, as recommended, so I was comfortable on my journey back. Once I got home I spent the rest of the day relaxing and sleeping, I wasn’t in any pain, but my eye area felt a little tight.

The AEDITION: How long did it take you to recover?

Jackie: In terms of looking normal enough to go out without sunglasses on, it took about 10 days, but it took just over three months until I got to see the final result. It was so exciting when I started to see the new shape of my eyelids beginning to form once the swelling had gone down. It takes quite a lot of patience, but I had faith in my surgeon and had been given realistic time frames of when to expect to reach each recovery milestone which was really helpful for me.

The AEDITION: Did your recovery match your expectations?

Jackie: It did, but my face definitely looked worse than I had anticipated. I knew I’d experience swelling, but it’s difficult to picture what that will look like. I also had blue stitches that made the scars look worse until they were taken out. In terms of pain, I had no pain at all until day five, which is when I stopped taking my postoperative painkillers, so that was to be expected. By that time I was a bit bored from being in the house, but my eye movement became more restricted with the pain so I couldn’t really read or watch TV. I ended up watching Netflix on my phone because the smaller screen was tolerable, but it wasn’t ideal! Things got much better once the stitches were taken out and it felt like recovery was smoother moving forward.

The AEDITION: Do you have any advice for patients considering the procedure themselves?

Jackie: Prepare things to occupy yourself that don’t require you reading or using your eyes. I joined Audible and downloaded a bunch of audiobooks before my procedure, and they were excellent. I think it would be useful to have some form of voice-activated device like an Amazon Echo so that you could get things done without having to move around too much, especially in the first few days.

Li, Glendale, AZ

Li, whose family is originally from China, decided to have double eyelid surgery a couple of years after she graduated college. It was not a decision she came to quickly and it was met with some apprehension from her family. “My family is very proud of their roots, and I think they saw my decision as me trying to erase that part of my identity. It took a lot of explaining on my behalf that I wanted the surgery for my own benefit, and not to fit into any social norms. I was deeply unhappy with the way my eyes looked, it was almost impossible for me to wear eyeliner as my friends did, which may seem trivial, but even compared to other members of my community I found my eyes to look a lot worse than most.”

The AEDITION: How was your recovery?

Li: My recovery went well. Because the scars are in such a visible place it makes it difficult to go about daily tasks without having to wear sunglasses, but other than that it was all straightforward. There was swelling, but I managed that by icing regularly. My eyesight was back to normal within a week, and I returned to work after two weeks. It actually gave me a chance to have a good rest which I rarely give myself time for!

The AEDITION: How did you manage your pain post-surgery?

Li: I didn’t experience pain as such, but the swelling felt tight and a little sore if I tried to look straight ahead. I followed my surgeon’s instructions to the letter and made sure I took my medication on time, iced regularly, and slept with my head raised. I actually got more pain from my adjusted sleeping position hurting my back than from the surgery area.

The AEDITION: Are you pleased with the results of the procedure?

Li: I’m really delighted. I panicked for a few days after the procedure because my eyelids looked very asymmetrical, this was due to the swelling. It did take longer than I would have hoped for the final result to show, but I was glad I didn’t need any revision procedures, and the result looks naturally symmetrical.

The AEDITION: If you could go back in time, would you still have had the procedure? *

Li: Totally, my family eventually understood why I wanted the procedure, and that was important to me. I love the results, they make me feel more confident, and I’ve been able to try all sorts of new makeup styles since the procedure that I couldn't have before. It’s a relatively small change, but it has made a massive difference to how I feel about my face.

Margaret, San Diego, CA

Margaret had under-eye blepharoplasty to address the dark circles she had lived with since she was a child. “People always commented that I looked exhausted whenever I wore minimal makeup, and I felt really down about how this part of my face looked. I am pretty OK with the rest of my features, and I take good care of my skin, so I felt almost let down by my genes on that front, and I wanted to get it fixed.”

The AEDITION: How did your loved ones react to your decision to have the procedure?

Margaret: They were so supportive, even though my two sisters had also inherited the under eye-puffiness, they were not bothered by it, so I was worried they wouldn’t understand why I wanted to have the procedure. Once I’d explained how I felt and why I wanted to have surgery to fix the problem they completely understood and even picked me up from the clinic on the day of my surgery.

The AEDITION: How was your recovery?

Margaret: It went well, I was pleased to have my family with me for the first few days, though I felt pretty tired. Aside from that, the swelling didn’t look good, but I wasn’t in pain, which I was worried about before the procedure. It was difficult finding things to do when I couldn’t really see that well over the first few days, but I got better really quickly, so it was fine.

The AEDITION: Do you have any advice for patients considering the procedure?

Margaret: First of all, when the swelling makes your eyes look weird just remember how good that after photo will look in a few weeks time. And secondly, your eyes will probably look asymmetrical during the first week, don’t worry about it, the swelling is distributed differently for each eye, and it will settle with time.

The AEDITION: How satisfied are you with the results?

Margaret: I’m so pleased, it’s made a massive difference to how I feel about myself, and that was why I wanted to have the procedure, so I couldn’t have asked for anything more. The results did take some time, but I was told to expect that, and it was worth the wait. I was worried I’d look too different, but I still look like myself just with less pronounced under eye-circles.

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INDIA BOTTOMLEYis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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