PlasticSurgery.com Staff Report © 2005-2009

The most visible signs of aging can be seen in our faces, giving rise to millions of men and women undergoing cosmetic surgery each year. From when you wake up to when you lie down, you should be happy with your appearance. As we age, the effects of gravity, sun damage, and years of stress can be seen in our faces. And while it is impossible to defy the nature of getting older, men and women seeking improvement can elect cosmetic surgery. Most commonly known as a facelift, “rhytidectomy” or “facioplasty” can remove excess fat, tighten underlying muscles, and re-drape the skin of your face and neck. A facelif will give you a more youthful and refreshed image all the while improving your self-confidence. There are a number of facelift techniques available today. You are not alone in considering the benefits of this procedure. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), over 150,000 facelift procedures were performed in 2004, with women making up more than 90 percent of patients. If you are considering a facelift it is important to know the benefits and complications.

Ideal Facelift Candidates

There is no doubt that patients with realistic expectations and clear goals are the best candidates for cosmetic surgery, especially a facelift. Men and women should know that although this procedure can make you look years younger, it will not restore the health and vitality of your youth. An ideal candidate for a facelift is an individual whose face and neck have begun to sag, but his or her skin still has some elasticity. Typically, most patients who opt for a facelift are between 40 and 60 years old, possessing strong and well-defined bone structures. Other contributing factors that make a good candidate are patients with sagging cheeks, heavy lines from nose to mouth (nasolabial lines), and jowls along the jaw line.

Choosing a Facelift Surgeon and Facility

Finding an experienced doctor contributes to the success of your results in getting a facelift. PlasticSurgery.com can help you search for the facelift surgeon that is right for you. Simply browse through our database of qualified doctors in your area.

The consultation visit is your chance to speak one-on-one with a doctor regarding all that a facelift entails. This is the perfect time to ask any questions you may have and discuss your concerns. The first step towards successful results is choosing the right facelift surgeon. PlasticSurgery.com has an in-depth database listing several qualified doctors in your area. It is important to know that while some doctors offer complementary consultation visits, other physicians charge a fee for this service. During your visit, be sure to inform the doctor of any vitamins and/or medication you are taking.

In choosing the right doctor and facility for your surgery, think of yourself as an interviewer. After all, your goal is to gather as much information as possible to make the best decisions regarding your experience with plastic surgery. This includes learning about where your surgery will be performed, the anesthetics involved, your aftercare options, and which type of facelift (such as the mini-facelift) will provide the results you’re looking for. Make sure you ask as many questions as it takes for you to feel comfortable and secure with going forward.

The Surgery

A traditional facelift, also known as a “skin lift” or “SMAS lift,” may take several hours or longer, depending if you’re having more than one procedure at the same time. Some surgeons may even split up your surgery into two sessions. With this type of facelift, the surgeon will separate the skin from the fat and muscle below, and then go onto trimming or suctioning fat from around the neck and chin to improve the contour. He or she will then tighten the underlying muscle and membrane, pulling the skin back, and removing its excess. Stitches will secure the layers of tissue and close the incisions; metal clips may be used on the scalp. Yet overall, the factors that play into exactly how your procedure will be performed depends on facial structure, the surgeon’s technique, and the type of facelift it is.

Men and women also tend to differ with incision placement, although the standard incision requires a continual incision that starts at the temple, then down in front of the ear, around and into the crease behind the ear. Instead of a full facelift, some patients opt for a procedural lift that focuses strictly on the brow area, lower face, or neck.

Possible Risks and Complications

When it comes to plastic surgery, nothing is for certain. The possible risks and complications of a facelift are usually infrequent and minor. Still, individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, their physical reactions, and their healing abilities. This is why the outcome is never fully predictable.

Smoking is a forbidden factor with undergoing any type of cosmetic or reconstructive surgery. Patients who smoke are required to quit at least two weeks before surgery, and at least two weeks afterward because the nicotine in your system will have an adverse effect on your surgery. It is known to restrict the blood vessels in your face that are important for healing. The most common complications, risks, and side effects associated with facelifts are:

  • Poor healing
  • Nerve injury
  • Infection
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Scarring
  • Bleeding and hematoma
  • Changes or damages to the skin
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Bruising
  • Tightness or numbness


Dressings should remain intact for the first 48 to 72 hours. The drains will be removed when the dressing is changed for the first time. Relaxation is extremely important following a facelift; you should rest or sleep the first two days after your surgery. During this time, patients may need to keep their heads elevated and immobile in order to minimize swelling.

Be sure to have someone help you after your surgery, whether a nurse or loved one. You will need assistance with rotating the cold compress, answer the phone, and prepare your meals. For the best results and speedy recovery, you must limit your physical activity. This can cause an increase in blood pressure, which may cause bleeding or the stretching of your stitches. All vigorous activity should be avoided for one full month after surgery. You will most likely be exceptionally tired after surgery.

Most patients can return to work in about two weeks. When the recovery process has run its course and your healing is complete, you will have a natural and youthful-looking appearance.


Even though a facelift has long-term results and benefits, we continue to age. Therefore, it is difficult to clearly define exactly how long it will be before a patient considers a second facelift. Some patients only need one facelift in their lifetime, while others may need to undergo further surgery five to ten years later. Your surgeon can provide before and after facelift photos, in order to give you a better idea of the end results.

More Than Just a Facelift

If you are considering a facelift you may want to consider other procedures that can help to give your face a total rejuvenated look. Your consultation visit is a good time to discuss the possibilities in having more than just one procedure. Often, if you are a good candidate for a facelift, you may also benefit from a neck lift, brow lift, or rhinoplasty. However, more than one cosmetic surgery procedure will prolong your recovery period. Other common procedures to have in addition to a facelift are cheek and chin implants, which can help to provide shape and reduce wrinkles. In order to increase fullness and reduce wrinkles and fine lines, facial fillers like collagen or Botox may also be used in conjunction with a facelift.