A face-lift (rhytidectomy) is a cosmetic surgical procedure to create a younger appearance in your face. The procedure can reduce the sagging or folds of skin on the cheeks and jawline and other changes in the shape of your face that occur with age.
During a face-lift, a flap of skin on each side of the face is pulled back, and tissues below the skin are surgically altered to return the contour of the face to a more youthful shape. Before the flap is sutured closed, excess skin is removed.
A neck lift (platysmaplasty) is often done as part of a face-lift to reduce fat deposits and sagging skin on the neck.
A face-lift won’t decrease fine creases or wrinkles in your skin or damage from sun exposure. Other cosmetic procedures can address the appearance or quality of the skin itself.
Why it’s done
As you get older, the appearance and shape of your face is altered because of normal age-related changes. Your skin becomes less elastic and looser, and fat deposits decrease in some areas of your face and increase in others. Age-related changes in your face that may be reduced with a face-lift include the following:
- Sagging appearance of your cheeks
- Excess skin at your lower jawline (jowls)
- Deepening of the fold of skin from the side of your nose to the corner of your mouth
- Sagging skin and excess fat in the neck (if the procedure includes a neck lift)
A face-lift isn’t a treatment for superficial wrinkles, sun damage, creases around the nose and upper lip, or irregularities in skin color.
A face-lift surgery can cause complications. Some can be managed with appropriate care, medication or surgical correction. Long-term or permanent complications, while rare, can cause significant changes in appearance. The risks include:
- Hematoma. A collection of blood (hematoma) under the skin that causes swelling and pressure is the most common complication of face-lift surgery. Hematoma formation, which usually occurs with 24 hours of surgery, is treated promptly with surgery to prevent damage to skin and other tissues.
- Scarring. Incision scars from a face-lift are permanent but typically concealed by the hairline and natural contours of the face and ear. Rarely, incisions can result in raised, red scars. Injections of a corticosteroid medication or other treatments might be used to improve the appearance of scars.
- Nerve injury. Injury to nerves, while rare, can temporarily or permanently affect nerves that control sensation or muscles. Temporary paralysis of a select muscle, resulting in an uneven facial appearance or expression, or temporary loss of sensation can last a few months to a year. Surgical interventions may offer some improvement.
- Hair loss. You might experience temporary or permanent hair loss near the incision sites. Permanent hair loss can be addressed with surgery to transplant skin with hair follicles.
- Skin loss. Rarely, a face-lift can interrupt the blood supply to your facial tissues. This can result in skin loss (sloughing). Sloughing is treated with medications, appropriate wound care and, if necessary, a procedure to minimize scarring.
Like any other type of major surgery, a face-lift poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Certain medical conditions or lifestyle habits also can increase your risk of complications. The following factors may present a significant risk or result in unfavorable results, and your doctor may advise against a face-lift.
- Blood-thinning medications or supplements. Medications or supplements that thin the blood can affect your blood’s ability to clot and increase the risk of hematomas after surgery. These medications include blood thinners (Coumadin, Plavix, others), aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, fish oil and others.
- Medical conditions. If you have a medical condition that prevents blood clotting, you won’t be able to have a face-lift. Other conditions, such as poorly controlled diabetes or high blood pressure, increase the risk of poor wound healing, hematomas and heart complications.
- Smoking. Smoking significantly increases the risk of poor wound healing, hematomas and skin loss after a face-lift.
- Weight fluctuation. If you have a history of repeated weight gain and loss — factors that affect the shape of your face and condition of your skin — the outcome of the surgery may not be satisfactory or may be satisfactory for only a short time.
Is a facelift painful?
After facelift surgery you should expect some swelling and possibly some bruising, as well as some numbness on the cheeks where skin has been elevated. Facelift surgery is not generally too painful. Bandages are usually worn over the neck area and on the sides of the face where the skin has been sutured together.
Typically, the more invasive the technique, the longer the results will last. A full facelift, for example, provides the most dramatic results that can last for up to 15 years post procedure. Less invasive techniques, like mini facelifts or S-lifts, yield more moderate results that typically last from two to six years.
What can I expect after a face and neck lift?
Keep your head elevated for two to three days to minimize swelling and to speed recovery. … The bandage may feel tight at first because it is meant to apply an even pressure to your face, neck, and head to minimize bruising and swelling. The bandages are usually removed one day after surgery.