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What is a Facelift?

A facelift, or rhytidectomy, is a type of cosmetic surgery procedure that improves visible signs of aging in the face and neck to give a more youthful facial appearance.
It is often said that having a facelift works to “turn back the clock,” helping a patient look like a younger version of him or herself. There are multiple surgical techniques available.

Typical conditions that can be improved by a facelift include:

  • Relaxation of the skin of the face causing sagging
  • Deepening of the fold lines between the nose and corner of the mouth
  • Fat that has fallen or has disappeared
  • Jowls developing in the cheeks and jaw
  • Loose skin and excess fat of the neck that can appear as a double chin or “turkey neck”

Limits of Facelift Surgery

Because it is a restorative surgery, a facelift does not change your fundamental appearance and cannot stop the aging process. Neither the forehead region nor the eyes are directly affected by facelift surgery, which is something that should be considered prior to proceeding with treatment. Given this limitation, facelifts are often performed in conjunction with other cosmetic procedures such as a brow lift or eyelid surgery to rejuvenate aging eyes.

Am I a Good Candidate for Facelift Surgery?

The best facelift candidates have realistic expectations and are willing and able to follow the pre- and post-operative instructions provided by their plastic surgeons. After a one-on-one consultation, the doctor can advise a patient as to whether he or she is a good candidate for a facelift, or whether an alternate procedure might be preferable.

In general, good candidates for a facelift include:

  • Healthy individuals who do not have medical conditions that impair healing
    Nonsmokers
  • Individuals with a positive outlook and realistic expectations

Risks

Because the decision to have plastic surgery is an extremely personal one, it is important that you weigh the potential benefits in achieving your goals with the risks and potential complications of facelift surgery. Only you can make that decision for yourself.

You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks and potential complications.

Facelift risks, while rare, include:

  • Anesthesia risks
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Poor wound healing and skin loss
  • Facial nerve injury with weakness
  • Temporary or permanent hair loss at the incisions
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
  • Persistent pain
  • Unfavorable scarring
  • Prolonged swelling
  • Skin irregularities and discoloration
  • Sutures may spontaneously surface through the skin, become visible or produce irritation that require removal
  • Unsatisfactory results may include: asymmetry, unsatisfactory surgical scar location and unacceptable visible deformities at the ends of the incisions. (It may be necessary to perform an additional surgery to improve your results)
  • Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications

These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It is important that you address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon.

Recovery

Recovery time can vary somewhat, depending on the type of facelift and whether a patient chooses to add other procedures.

After your facelift, a bandage might be placed around your face to minimize swelling and bruising. Small tubes may be present to draw off any excess blood or fluid.

Your surgeon will provide you specific instructions on how to care for the surgical site and drains, medications to apply or take orally, specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health and when to follow up.

Be sure to ask your surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your recovery period, such as:

  • Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
  • What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
  • Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery?
  • When will they be removed?
  • When will the stitches be removed?
  • When can I wash my face and wear make-up?
  • When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
  • When can I color my hair or get a haircut?

Results

While most people are able to go out in public after 10-14 days, it typically takes 2-3 months for the face to feel “back to normal” in terms of texture, sensibility and loss of tightness.

As swelling and bruising subside, the visible improvements of a facelift appear. Your final result should not only provide a more youthful and rested appearance, but also help you feel more confident about yourself.

Although good results are expected, there can be no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.

Other post-facelift tips include:

  • Follow your physician’s instructions to ensure the success of your surgery.
  • To help extend the results of your facelift, continue daily sun protection and a healthy lifestyle.