Facelift: Everything You Need to Know

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A facelift is a cosmetic surgery to make your face look younger. It removes extra skin, smooths wrinkles, and tightens your face. But remember, it’s not necessary for your health and has risks.

As you age, your skin gets looser and wrinkled. A facelift, also called rhytidectomy, fixes this by lifting and tightening your facial tissues.

During a facelift, they take away extra skin, smooth wrinkles, and tighten your face. But it doesn’t fix your brow or eyes, although you can do those too.

A facelift focuses on the lower part of your face and sometimes your neck or chest. People get facelifts for different reasons, like hiding signs of getting older.

How Does a Facelift Work?

A facelift, also called a rhytidectomy, is a type of surgery that helps improve signs of aging on your face and neck. During a facelift, surgeons adjust or remove skin, fat, and muscle to make your face look younger. It can address issues like:

  • Loose, drooping skin on your face.
  • Deep lines or creases between your nose and mouth corners.
  • Sagging cheeks or jawline (called jowls).
  • Extra fat or loose skin in your neck (sometimes called a “double chin”).

However, it’s important to know that a facelift won’t change your appearance completely or stop aging. It also doesn’t fix things like fine wrinkles, sun damage, or skin discoloration. Each facelift is tailored to the patient’s face and their specific goals for the outcome.

Types of Facelifts

There are different types of facelifts, including:

  • Traditional facelift: This surgery involves incisions around the ears, hairline, and below the chin. The surgeon tightens muscles and supporting structures, removes excess fat, and repositions the skin for optimal improvement of moderate to significant aging.
  • SMAS facelift: Targeting the lower two-thirds of the face, this procedure tightens muscles, trims excess skin/fat in the cheeks and lower face, and is a variation of the traditional facelift.
  • Deep plane facelift: Lifts the SMAS, fat, and skin as a single unit, addressing multiple areas of the face simultaneously.
  • Mid-facelift: Focuses on the cheek area by repositioning fat and tightening skin.
  • Mini-facelift: A quicker, less invasive surgery lifting the lower face and neck, recommended for younger individuals with early signs of sagging.
  • Cutaneous facelift: Involves the skin only, targeting the neck and lower face.

However, these terms can be vague, and surgeons might use different names.Patients should tell their surgeon which area they want to improve, like the lower face, instead of using a specific term for their facelift.

People often combine facelift surgery with other procedures such as eyelid lifts, nose jobs, facial implants, brow lifts, injectable fillers, jawline rejuvenation, chemical peels, or laser skin resurfacing for comprehensive facial rejuvenation.

How Much Does a Facelift Cost?

Insurance typically doesn’t cover facelift surgery (rhytidectomy) because it’s considered cosmetic or elective. This means you’ll likely need to pay for it yourself.

In 2017, the average cost of a facelift was around $7,448, as per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This price doesn’t cover hospital or surgical center fees, anesthesia, recovery expenses, or other related costs. So, the total bill could end up being much higher.

The actual amount you’ll pay depends on what you’re aiming for with your facelift, how skilled your surgeon is, and where you live.

Who Can Try Facelifts?

Facelifts are a popular choice for cosmetic surgery, with over 131,000 people opting for them in the United States each year.

Generally, you’re a good candidate for a facelift if:

  • You’re in good physical health without any medical conditions that hinder healing.
  • You don’t smoke.
  • You’re mentally well and have realistic expectations about the results.

The ideal candidates for facelifts usually show signs of aging but still have some skin elasticity. Typically, these are patients in their 40s to 60s, though younger or older people may also qualify depending on their specific circumstances.

How to Prepare for a Facelift

Getting ready for a facelift is similar to preparing for any surgery. Before the procedure, your doctor may request blood work or a presurgical evaluation.

They might ask you to:

  • Stop taking certain medications or adjust their dosage.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory pain relievers, and herbal supplements to minimize bleeding and bruising.
  • Apply specific products to your face beforehand.

Whether your surgery is at a surgical center or hospital, you’ll need someone to drive you there and back since you’ll likely be under general anesthesia. It’s better to arrange for someone to stay with you for a night or two after the surgery too.

Before your surgery, create a comfortable recovery area at home with:

  • Gauze, clean towels, and washcloths.
  • A reachable phone.
  • Recommended ointments or creams.
  • Entertainment materials like magazines or handheld games.
  • Loose, comfy button-down shirts.
  • A thermometer for fever checks.
  • Ice packs if advised by your surgeon.

What’s the Procedure for a Facelift?

The facelift procedure can vary based on what you want to achieve. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Incision: Traditionally, a cut is made along the hairline near the temples, in front of the ear, around the earlobe, and back into the lower scalp. For a “mini” facelift, the incisions are shorter.
  • Tissue Adjustment: Fat and excess skin are either removed or repositioned. Muscles and connective tissue are tightened.
  • Neck Lift: If needed, excess neck skin and fat are removed, and the skin is tightened. This is often done through a chin incision.
  • Closure: Dissolvable stitches or skin glue are used for incisions, which are strategically placed to blend with your natural features.
  • Aftercare: Surgical drains and bandages may be applied post-surgery. Stitches may need removal later on.

What Happens After Facelift Surgery

After your facelift (rhytidectomy) surgery, here’s what typically happens:

  • Recovery Room: You’ll be taken to a room for observation until you wake up fully from anesthesia. This usually takes a couple of hours.
  • Hospital Departure: Once stable, you’ll be allowed to leave the hospital.
  • Post-Surgery Care: You might have a bandage around your face to reduce swelling and bruising, along with small drainage tubes.
  • Instructions: Your surgeon will provide specific post-surgery instructions, including caring for your incisions and drains, and scheduling a follow-up appointment.
  • Medication: You may be prescribed pain medication to manage discomfort during recovery.

Risks and Side Effects of Facelifts

Facelift (rhytidectomy) surgery, like any surgical procedure, carries potential complications and side effects. These include:

  • Anesthesia risks
  • Pain or scarring
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Cardiac events
  • Blood clots
  • Hair loss at incision sites
  • Prolonged swelling
  • Issues with wound healing

Facelift results typically last around seven to 10 years, and aging continues afterward. They won’t drastically alter your fundamental appearance, or address superficial wrinkles, sun damage, or skin color irregularities. When looking for a facelift, make sure your surgeon is board-certified.

What to Expect During Recovery from a Facelift (Rhytidectomy)

After the surgery, expect bruising and swelling for about two to three weeks. Everyone heals at their own pace, so some may recover faster than others. While you might not feel like stepping out in public right away, you should start feeling better within the first few days.

Typically, your surgeon will remove the bandages a few days after the surgery. They’ll want to see you a few times over the next two to three weeks to check on your bruising, swelling, and to take out any stitches.

Give yourself about 2 weeks before getting back to your usual daily activities, and wait around 4 weeks before engaging in more strenuous activities like exercise. Your doctor can give you personalized advice based on your recovery progress.

To maintain the results of your facelift, consider the following tips:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Moisturize your face daily
  • Protect your skin from the sun
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Communicate any concerns with your surgeon

Keep in mind that the results of a facelift aren’t guaranteed, and you might not achieve your desired outcome with just one surgery. Sometimes, additional surgeries are needed. 

Talk openly with your doctor about your expectations and what you can do to support a successful outcome.

The Bottom Line

A facelift is a kind of surgery to make your face look younger. It involves removing extra skin, smoothing wrinkles, and tightening up your facial tissue.

You don’t need a facelift for medical reasons, but it can have risks. It’s important to know what to do before and after the surgery.

If you’ve had a facelift, call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Extreme swollen face
  • Bleeding that soaks through your bandage
  • Fever
  • Fluid buildup at the incision site
  • Extreme pain
  • Stitches coming out too soon

Looking for professional skincare advice? Schedule an online consultation with dermatologist Dr. Ava Patel to address your concerns.

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