Facelift Quick Facts
- Best Candidates: People who are seeking to tighten loose facial skin and smooth deep wrinkles in the face
- Procedure Length: 2 to 5 hours
- Inpatient/Outpatient: Usually Outpatient
- Anesthesia: Local with sedation or general
- Results: Long-lasting
- Procedures in 2020: 234,374 (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)
As we age and the skin loses elasticity, the skin on the face and neck can loosen and begin to sag. Though nothing can stop the aging process, a facelift can reverse some of the effects of time.
During a facelift (also called a rhytidectomy), the skin is tightened to smooth the face and restore a firmer, more youthful look. The majority of facelift patients successfully achieve an improved appearance and an increase in self-confidence.
The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to facelifts. Schedule a consultation with a Top Plastic Surgeon to receive a medical examination and discuss your facelift options.
The loss of elasticity that comes with aging makes the skin of the face and neck, and the underlying tissues, more susceptible to the effects of gravity. Signs of aging often appear in the face as deep wrinkles, drooping jowls, a sagging neck or other unwanted changes.
A facelift (rhytidectomy) is a surgical procedure that improves visible signs of aging in the face. During a facelift, the skin is lifted and tightened to smooth the face, minimize creases and restore the contour of the jowls, neck, cheeks, temples and chin. Facelifts can be performed alone or in combination with other facial procedures. Many patients find that a facelift in conjunction with a forehead lift, eyelid surgery, laser skin resurfacing or treatment with skin injectables rejuvenates the entire face for a younger look.
How a Facelift is Performed
The incision for a facelift usually starts at the temple (inside the hairline) and extends down around the front of the ear, behind the earlobe and back around into the lower scalp. A small incision may also be made under the chin to lift the neck. The skin is then separated and pulled back to reveal the underlying tissues. After muscles and other tissues are tightened, excess skin is removed and the remaining skin tightened and secured with stitches and metal clips. Any excess deposits of fat that are present in the neck and chin can be trimmed or removed with liposuction.
Facelifts can take several hours to perform, depending on the extent of the procedure. The surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in your plastic surgeon's office, in an outpatient surgery center or in a hospital. However, an overnight stay in the hospital may be necessary in some cases.
Facelifts can be performed using local anesthesia with sedation or general anesthesia. Local anesthesia numbs the area of surgery and is combined with a sedative to render drowsiness. Under general anesthesia, you will sleep throughout the procedure. The type of anesthesia used depends on the extent of the procedure and the preferences of you and your surgeon.
The best candidates for a facelift are people who are in good health and want to improve the appearance of their face and neck with tighter skin and an enhanced facial contour.
In general, the best candidates for a facelift:
- Are in good physical and psychological health.
- Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
- Want to improve their appearance by reducing loose, sagging skin and minimizing wrinkles on the face and neck.
- Have facial skin with good elasticity.
Most facelifts are performed on people 40 to 60 years of age to minimize the appearance of aging. However, the procedure can benefit people of any age who want to reverse some of the changes caused by age or want to revise inherited traits such as hanging jowls.
If you believe that you may be a good candidate for a facelift, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your condition, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.
Complications are rare and usually minor when a facelift is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. However, all surgeries, including facelifts, carry risks. To minimize your risk, carefully follow all of your surgeon's instructions both before and after the procedure. Contact your surgeon's office immediately if you experience any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.
The most common risks associated with facelift surgery (rhytidectomy) include:
- Injury to nerves that control facial muscles (usually temporary)
- Inhibition of facial movements
- Pain, swelling or bruising beyond normal levels
- Excessive bleeding
- Numbness or tingling (usually temporary)
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Dissatisfaction with results
The scars left by a facelift are usually concealed by hair or hidden in natural skin creases. Your surgeon will make the incision so that the resulting scars are as inconspicuous as possible. Scars may remain pink for several months before fading to faint lines.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the national average surgeon/physician fee for a facelift in 2013 was $6,556. This figure does not include other costs, such as a facilities charge or anesthesia. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with complete information on costs and financing options at your consultation.
The total fee for a facelift can vary considerably depending on the region of the country, the type of procedure and your specific needs as a patient. The cost of a facelift is usually not covered by health insurance, as it is considered to be a cosmetic procedure.
If you decide that you might benefit from a facelift, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. During this meeting, the doctor will examine your face, including the skin and underlying bone. He or she should carefully listen to the goals you have for your appearance and explain the different options that are available.
The exact nature of your facelift will depend on the specific techniques used by your surgeon, the condition of the skin and underlying tissues, and the extent of the surgery. The surgeon should give you the full details of the recommended procedure, including the benefits, risks, costs and recovery time, and fully address all of your questions.
The surgeon will take a complete medical history and check for existing health conditions that could cause problems with the surgery, including uncontrolled high blood pressure, blood clotting problems or a tendency to form excessive scars. Bring a list of any vitamins and medications that you take, both prescription and non-prescription.
As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for your facelift. These instructions will include guidelines for eating, drinking, and medications and vitamins to take or avoid before and after surgery.
After a facelift, your results may not be immediately apparent. Your face may be pale, bruised, swollen and stiff at first, but will look and feel much better within a few weeks. Swelling should disappear within a few days and bruising within a couple of weeks. Minor swelling and bruising can be hidden with special makeup until the visible signs of surgery fade.
For the first few days after your facelift, take it easy, get plenty of rest and carefully follow all of your post-operative instructions. Most patients experience very little pain after a facelift. Any pain should subside quickly and be easily controlled with medication. Your plastic surgeon may ask you to keep your head elevated for a few days to reduce swelling. Many patients experience some sensation loss (numbness), but normal feeling should return within a few weeks.
If bandages were used, you should be able to remove them after few days. A surgical drain may be placed behind the ear to remove excess fluids before being removed after a day or two. Most of the stitches will be removed in about a week and the metal clips in about 2 weeks.
Always follow your plastic surgeon's advice on when you can resume your normal activities. Most patients are up and around a day or two after surgery and can return to work within 2 weeks. Strenuous activity, including sex, heavy housework and vigorous exercise, should be avoided for at least 2 weeks. Sun exposure should be limited for several months to avoid damage to the skin.