As the saying goes, you can’t turn back the hands of time. What if you could tick the minutes, hours, or even years away, though?
A facelift is one way to reverse the aging process, smoothing out and tightening your skin until you look a few years younger. In 2019, more than 123,000 people underwent a facelift to achieve a more youthful appearance, making the procedure fall within the top five performed cosmetic surgeries throughout the United States and Canada.
The nonprofit American Board of Cosmetic Surgery defines a facelift as: “Facelift surgery lifts and firms sagging facial tissues to restore a more naturally youthful facial appearance. By removing excess, sagging skin, smoothing deep folds, and lifting and tightening the deep facial tissues, a facelift surgery can help a patient look not just younger, but simply ‘better.’”
Before you decide to set up the surgery, it’s crucial you conduct some research and schedule a consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon so you can find out everything you need to know about it. Buglino Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery developed this guide to help you learn the essential basics of the procedure.
Types of Facelifts
There are two major types of facelifts, both of which can help you turn back the clock.
A mini facelift isn’t as invasive as the standard. It’s best for patients who experience mild jowling and skin sagging, but have not yet exhibited extensive signs of aging. This type utilizes shorter incisions along the hairline above or surrounding the ears. The surgeon will use these to adjust, lift, and tighten the tissues around the cheeks to add definition. Depending on your needs, the surgeon may utilize a local anesthetic with light sedation instead of general anesthesia for a mini facelift.
The traditional facelift is suggested for patients who exhibit moderate to extensive aging. This surgery is more comprehensive than the mini facelift, with incisions behind the hairline extending from the temples to around the front of the ears. Through the incisions, the surgeon will rearrange tissue and remove excess skin in the mid-face and neck areas. Because this surgery requires more repositioning to deep tissues and longer incision lines, the recovery time is longer.
Good Candidates for Facelifts
A facelift is one way to reverse the aging process, smoothing out and tightening your skin until you look a few years younger.
How do you know you’re a good candidate for a facelift? As you age, the appearance of your face is bound to change. Skin gets looser and less elastic, and you typically lose definition around your face.
First, you’ll want to check one or more of the following criteria:
- The skin on your cheeks sags.
- You experience jowling (excess skin) on your lower jawline, resulting in minimal definition.
- The folds that run from the side of your nose to the corner of your mouth have deepened.
- You notice additional sagging and excess fat on your neck.
In addition to these, you’ll want to be generally healthy, a nonsmoker, and have realistic expectations. Finally, you’ll want to consult with a plastic surgeon to discuss if you are a good candidate for a facelift, your goals, and how he or she would perform the surgery.
Before you set a date for surgery, you’ll need to schedule a consultation with the plastic surgeon. Your surgeon will ask you about your medical history and may ask you to undergo a physical exam with your primary care physician. They’ll review the medications you're taking and explain which you’ll need to avoid in the weeks prior. They’ll take photos of your face from several angles, both close up and from afar, to examine your facial structure. This helps them prepare the best options for surgery. They’ll ask what your desired results are and explain what they’ll be able to accomplish.
Once you’ve determined a facelift is the right procedure for you and have booked your surgery, you’ll need to prepare accordingly. Your surgeon will provide you with instructions on how to prep. Generally, this will include which medications you should cease using before the procedure. You’ll be instructed to wash your face and hair with germicidal soap on the day of surgery. Avoid eating several hours prior, and arrange to have a loved one drive you home from the appointment.
Facelifts are completed at an outpatient surgical center or hospital. Depending on your medical history and preference, your surgeon will administer either general anesthesia or sedation with local anesthesia.
The technique used by the surgeon depends on the type of facelift, your anatomy, and goals. The procedure begins with an incision. A standard facelift requires one that runs from your temples in the hairline to the front of your ears, ending behind them in your lower scalp. A second may be made under your chin to address the neck. For a mini facelift, the incision starts at the hairline above your ear and surrounds its front, ending before reaching the lower scalp.
Facelifts are completed at an outpatient surgical center or hospital.
Once the incisions are made, the skin is separated from underlying muscles and tissues, enabling the surgeon to reposition the tissues and remove excess skin and jowling. The skin is then laid back over the new tissue to create a youthful appearance.
The entire surgery takes approximately two to four hours.
Immediately after the surgery, you might experience light to moderate pain, drainage from incisions, bruising, swelling, or numbness. The incisions will be covered with bandages, providing pressure to minimize inflammation. In some cases, a tiny tube will be placed behind one or both of your ears to drain excess fluid.
Your surgeon will give you instructions for your recovery process. For the following first few days, you’ll want to take the medication prescribed by your doctor, rest with your head elevated, and apply cool compresses to your face. If you experience severe pain, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats, call your doctor immediately.
Your surgeon will schedule several follow-up appointments with you in the days and weeks following after. They’ll disconnect your drainage tubes, instruct you when to remove your bandages, take out any stitches, and assess your incision and healing.
Recovery takes several weeks. Most patients can return to work after one to two weeks.
The risks associated with a facelift can be greatly minimized by employing a board certified surgeon. He or she has undergone additional training and specializes in the field, to complete your procedure with precision. If you don’t hire an experienced surgeon, there’s risk of nerve injury, hair loss, skin loss, or hematoma. All facelifts leave scars. Expert plastic surgeons can ensure these heal, and are hidden by the hairline. They may also provide additional treatments or procedures to diminish any lasting scars.
According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, a facelift can range from $7,700 to $11,780. The total cost depends on a number of factors, including the surgeon’s fee, surgical facility cost, anesthesia charges, medical tests, post-surgery dressings, and the procedure itself.
If you’re worried about undergoing surgery, but want to add definition to your face and remove sagging skin, there are several alternative options available:
Ultherapy has been called the non-surgical facelift because of its ability to tighten and define skin on the face in a non-invasive manner. In addition, the treatment stimulates collagen and elastin production.
Injectables, Fillers & Implants
If you exhibit mild signs of aging and are interested in refining your jawline or perking up your cheeks, you can try injectables, fillers, or implants. To learn more about implants and fillers, check out our blog “Chin, Jaw & Cheeks: Implants or Fillers.”
Buglino Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery’s Dr. Anthony Buglino has years of experience performing facelifts for patients. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your options. Dr. Buglino will review your goals and walk you through the process, ensuring you feel positive about the procedure. If you’re interested in facelift alternatives, Dr. Buglino can also explain how to achieve your desired results through injectables, fillers, or implants.