As you get older, skin and tissues naturally lose their elasticity. This leads to sagging and wrinkles. A facelift, also known as rhytidectomy, is a surgical procedure that lifts and tightens these facial tissues.
A facelift can involve removing excess skin, smoothing out folds or wrinkles, and tightening facial tissue. It doesn’t include a brow or eye lift, although these might be done at the same time.
A facelift is only focused on the bottom two-thirds of the face and often the neck or décolletage. People get facelifts for lots of different reasons. A common reason is to help disguise signs of skin aging.
Good candidates for facelifts include:
- healthy individuals who don’t have medical conditions that can interfere with wound healing or recovery from surgery
- those who don’t smoke or misuse substances
- those who have realistic expectations of what the surgery entails
During a facelift, your surgeon repositions fat and tissue under the skin to:
- help smooth out creases
- remove excess skin that’s causing sagging or “jowls”
- lift and tighten the facial skin
Michele Koo, MD, FACS, a double board certified plastic surgeon and founder of Private Practice Skincare, says there are several types of facelifts, including:
- Mini facelift. A modified version of the facelift, the mini facelift targets loose skin around the neck and jawline.
- Mid-facelift. Also known as a cheek lift, a mid-facelift focuses on rectifying sagging skin from the upper mouth to the eyes. The area includes the cheeks and nose.
- Nonsurgical facelift. A nonsurgical facelift procedure doesn’t require general anesthesia or large incisions, but it still targets signs of aging, including sagging skin, creases, and wrinkles. Vampire facelifts, liquid facelifts and thread lifts are examples of nonsurgical procedures that target skin on the face.
Stafford Broumand, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon with 740 Plastic Surgery, noted that these terms are vague, and surgeons may use other names.
Koo advises patients to communicate to their surgeon what area they’d like them to focus on, such as the lower face, rather than a specific term for their facelift.
The average cost of a facelift in 2017 was $7,448, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. That price doesn’t include:
- hospital or surgical center costs
- recovery costs
- other related expenses
The final cost may be significantly higher.
Your individual cost will vary depending on your desired results, the expertise of the surgeon, and your geographical location.
In 2017, a facelift cost around $7,500 on average, not including hospital fees.
Koo says facelift consultations usually take between 15 and 25 minutes, depending on how many questions the patient has. Broumand has had consultations last up to an hour.
During a consultation, Broumand says the doctor will go over:
- family and personal medical history
- possible contraindications, including smoking
- the patient’s surgical goals
- alternatives to facelifts if the patient is not a candidate for medical reasons (like if the patient has a condition that increases the risks of undergoing general anesthesia)
“The consultation process is always an open dialogue,” Broumand says. “I want to make sure every patient is comfortable with what will be happening and has a realistic idea of what their outcome will be.”
Then, Koo says the doctor will examine the skin in the areas a patient would like to target. The surgeon or a member of the staff will photograph the area.
Preparing for a facelift is similar to preparing for surgery of any other kind. Before the surgery, your doctor will ask for blood work or a presurgical evaluation.
They may ask you to stop taking certain medications or adjust the dosage before the procedure.
Your doctor might also ask you to:
- stop smoking
- discontinue use of aspirin, anti-inflammatory pain relievers, and any herbal supplements to reduce the risk of bleeding and bruising
- apply specific products to your face before the procedure
No matter if your procedure takes place at a surgical center or hospital, you’ll need someone to drive you to and from the surgery since you’ll likely be under general anesthesia. It’s a good idea to arrange for someone to stay with you for a night or two after the surgery as well.
Facelifts vary depending on your desired results.
Traditionally, an incision is made in the hairline near the temples. The incision goes in front of the ear, down in front of and hugging the earlobe, then back to the lower scalp behind the ears.
Fat and excess skin may be removed or redistributed from the face. The underlying muscle and connective tissue are redistributed and tightened. If there’s minimal skin sagging, a “mini” facelift may be done. This involves shorter incisions.
If a neck lift is also going to be performed, the excess skin and fat will be removed. The skin of the neck will be tightened and pulled up and back. This is often done through an incision just under the chin.
The incisions often have dissolvable sutures or skin glue. In some cases, you might need to return to the surgeon to have stitches removed. The incisions are made in such a way that they blend with your hairline and facial structure.
You’ll often have a surgical drainage tube after surgery as well as bandages wrapping your face.
There are risks to any medical procedure, including a facelift. Risks include:
- anesthesia risks
- cardiac events
- blood clots
- pain or scarring
- hair loss at the incision sites
- prolonged swelling
- problems with wound healing
Talk with your doctor about all the potential risks involved with a facelift to make sure the procedure is right for you.
After the surgery, your doctor will likely prescribe pain medication. It’s common to have some pain or discomfort, along with swelling and bruising.
Your doctor will give you instructions on when to remove any dressings or drains and when to make a follow-up appointment.
Once the swelling goes down, you’ll be able to see the difference in how you look. As far as your skin “feeling normal,” this usually takes several months.
Give yourself about 2 weeks before resuming your normal level of daily activity. For more strenuous activity, like exercise, wait about 4 weeks. Everyone is different, so ask your doctor when you can expect to be able to resume your usual activities.
You can do the following to help extend the results of your facelift:
- Moisturize your face daily.
- Protect your skin from the sun.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Eat a nutritionally dense, balanced diet.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Talk with your surgeon if any concerns arise.
The results of a facelift aren’t guaranteed. You might not get your desired results from one surgery. Sometimes, a subsequent surgery is necessary.
Talk with your doctor about what you can do to help ensure a successful facelift and what you can reasonably expect from the surgery.
If you have insurance, it likely won’t pay for a facelift, since facelifts are deemed a cosmetic procedure.
You’ll want to make sure your surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. This ensures that certain standards of education, expertise, and best practices are upheld.
If you’ve had friends or family members who have had facelifts, this may be a good place to start. Ask them if they were satisfied with their surgeon. Do your research. Be sure to choose a doctor you feel comfortable with.
You may want to meet with more than one plastic surgeon and get second and third opinions. An informed decision is a smart decision.
A facelift is a cosmetic procedure that involves removing excess skin, smoothing out folds or wrinkles, and tightening facial tissue.
There’s no medical need for a facelift, and there are risks involved. It’s important to keep essential preparation and recovery steps in mind.
If you want to explore your facelift options, talk with a board certified plastic surgeon to see if it’s right for you.