“There’s minimal downtime.” “The pain will be moderate.” “ There is no swelling.” Anyone who has fallen for those soothing words, only to wake up after a laser treatment with her face on fire and looking like a slab of beef carpaccio, knows how misleading recovery terminology can be. To help ease the confusion, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has come up with a lexicon of terms for doctors to use that they hope will help quantify for patients the downtime, bruising, redness, swelling, and pain associated with laser and light-based treatments.
No downtime: Means it will take more than your lunch hour but less than 24 hours to look like yourself.
Minimal: You can expect 24 to 72 hours of downtime.
Moderate: It will take three to seven days to recover. Significant: You’ll want to hide out for more than a week.
No bruising: Well, this one is not exactly true. There can be some pigment change, but it should fade fast and can easily be covered up with concealer.
Minimal bruising: The bruising will take a week to go away.
Moderate: Bruising will fade in one to two weeks. Significant: It will take more than two weeks for the bruising to disappear. Buy some heavy duty makeup to wear in the meantime.
None: Again, not exactly accurate. You may see some redness in the first 24 hours.
Minimal: You can expect one to three days of redness.
Moderate: Count on four to seven days of redness.
Significant: Don’t do this treatment the week before you’re having your picture taken. It will take more than a week to look like yourself again.
Essentially none: Again, this means some. It will resolve in less than three days.
Minimal: You’ll be puffy for three to seven days.
Moderate: This is not so moderate—eight to 14 days of swelling. Significant: This is really significant swelling that takes more than two weeks to heal.
Talking Pain and Discomfort
Essentially none: This means you may need to take something like Tylenol for any pain you have.
Minimal: You may require a topical painkiller during treatment and a prescription painkiller after.
Moderate: Same as above, plus some local anesthesia before treatment.
Significant: You’ll require some intravenous sedation or general anesthesia before treatment. (Translation: This treatment is going to hurt. You’ll be knocked out.)