What’s a Facelift?
Aging and sun exposure can have dramatic effects on the skin of the face over time. Most people begin to experience wrinkles and sagging of the facial skin. A huge industry sells various types of face creams, some with very high price tags, which supposedly help, but the results are often disappointing. In order to regain their vibrant, youthful look, many people turn to modern medicine. For some, cosmetic dermatology is the best choice. Others choose a facelift, or rhytidectomy, which can address deeper wrinkles and sagging that cosmetic dermatology is unable to correct. The traditional facelift addresses sagging of the neck as well; if this is your main concern, you could choose a neck lift.
If you’re choosing a facelift, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that a facelift is right for you, then proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of having a facelift at Facelift: Risks and Benefits.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the surgeon who will perform your surgery if you decide to proceed.
How it’s done
The procedure is usually done under general anesthesia. After the anesthesia takes effect, the incision area is cleaned. The fluid used to clean the area may temporarily stain the skin yellow. Next, the incisions are made. Traditionally, the facelift incisions are within the hairline at the temples, continuing down around the front of the ear, and then behind the ear within the hairline. Depending on the results you’re seeking, you may be able to choose shorter incisions for your facelift; a “limited-incision facelift” uses shorter incisions near the temple. After making the incision, the surgeon can remove excess skin. Once the desired effect has been reached, the incisions are closed. They may be closed with fine suture, skin adhesive, or medical tape.
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your surgeon
When choosing a surgeon, you want a highly-trained professional with experience in this type of surgery. A member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has received at least six years of surgical training after medical school, with three of those specifically in plastic surgery. Look for the designation “ASPS” after the surgeon’s name. Also, choose a surgeon with whom you feel comfortable and safe, and who listens to you and tries to understand your goals. If you have friends who’ve had cosmetic surgery, and you like their results, ask for a referral. While cost may be a consideration, don’t allow this to override more important factors in your decision. Your safety and the quality of your results are worth a little extra spending.
For more help in your search for a plastic surgeon, visit our How to Find the Best Facial Plastic Surgeon page. At Doctor Review, you can also search providers for patient reviews to help you find the very best.
Getting ready for surgery
You will have at least one appointment with your surgeon before surgery. You’ll have the chance to discuss your goals with your surgeon in detail, to communicate what aesthetic result you’re aiming for. You may want to bring photos that show people with faces similar to what you want yours to look like.
The day before your surgery, you should eat and drink enough healthy food and water, and get enough sleep the night before. You will need to stop eating 8 to 12 hours before your surgery. If you smoke, you should stop for at least 24 hours before the surgery. If you take daily medications to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you will likely be asked to stop those for 24 to 48 hours before the surgery (proceed as directed by your doctor, and don’t stop any medication without talking to your doctor first).
You will stay at the surgical center in the recovery room for several hours following surgery, for the anesthesia to wear off. Then you’ll be discharged to your home, where you’ll need to plan on spending 24 to 48 hours resting and recovering from surgery. You may have a small tube, called a drain, if the surgeon finds this to be necessary to prevent the accumulation of excess fluid. The drains will be removed when your surgeon no longer feels that they’re necessary. You should take care of your incisions, keeping them clean and covered and watching for signs of infection. Your surgeon will see you for a postoperative appointment a few days after surgery. If sutures were used to close the skin, they’ll likely be removed at this appointment.
While you may return to normal activity within a few days of activity, as directed by your surgeon, you should expect some swelling and soreness for 4 to 6 weeks. The incisions will gradually fade and will eventually become nearly invisible in most people, though this may take a year or even longer.