A facelift, or rhytidectomy, is one the most popular
and satisfying cosmetic surgery procedures. This procedure
smoothes loose skin on your face and neck by removing
excess fat, tightening underlying muscles and re-draping
the skin. Although it cannot stop the aging process,
a facelift can minimize the appearance of deep cheek
folds and loose sagging skin on the face and neck. As
a result your face will appear younger and fresher.
A facelift can be performed by itself or in conjunction
with other procedures such as a forehead lift, eyelid
lift, or nose surgery.
How is a facelift performed?
There are many variations to the facelift procedure.
The incision typically begins in the hair near the temple
and continues in front of the ear, around the ear lobe
into the crease behind the ear, then into or along the
lower scalp. Muscles and sagging tissue are tightened,
excess skin or underlying fat is removed, or suctioned
and the remaining skin is repositioned or tightened
to create a more youthful look. Your surgeon will then
apply sutures (stitches) or metal clips on the scalp
to secure the layers of underlying tissue and close
the incision. If the neck needs lifting, a small incision
may be made under the chin as well. Your surgeon may
apply small drainage tubes behind the ear to drain away
fluids that might accumulate. In addition your head
may also be wrapped in bandages to reduce any swelling.
How long does a facelift take?
Facelift surgery generally requires two hours to perform,
depending upon the complexity of the procedure and your
What type of anesthesia is used?
A facelift may be performed under local anesthesia
with either light or deep sedation, or general anesthesia.
The longer the procedure is expected to take, the more
likely that general anesthesia will be recommended.
You can discuss and determine your particular needs
for anesthesia with your surgeon.
Where is the procedure performed?
A facelift may be performed in a surgeon's office-based
surgical suite, an outpatient surgery center, or a hospital.
When can I return home and resume
Patients usually return home the same day, although,
may hospitalize patients for a day when using general
anesthesia. Most people return to work and their usual
activity within ten days.
How do I prepare for a facelift?
During your initial consultation, your surgeon will
discuss the changes that you would like to make to your
appearance. Since the appearance of your face and neck
is a matter of personal perception and preference, you
will need to discuss your concerns in detail so your
surgeon can determine the appropriate alternatives.
You also should make arrangements ahead of time for
someone to drive you to and from your procedure and
to assist you with your daily activities during your
Prior to your surgical procedure, the surgeon will
perform a complete health history and physical. Knowledge
of your allergies, medications and previous surgeries
should be brought to your surgeon's attention at this
time. Smoking cessation is advised for at least one
week prior to your surgery. Smoking inhibits blood flow
to your skin and may delay the healing process of your
incision areas. Specific instructions to assist you
in preparing for this procedure will be given to you
after the health history and physical is complete. Depending
on your individual health status, the instructions may
include guidelines regarding your diet, alcohol intake,
smoking and which medications to take or avoid. Your
experience will be much smoother if you remain compliant
with your surgeon's instructions.
What precautions are necessary during
You will have a bandage for the first night. The tiny
surgical drains placed in the hair behind your ears
will be painlessly removed along with your bandages
on the following morning. After an eyelid procedure,
ice compresses are applied for 24 hours, but the eyes
are not bandaged and lubricating ointment/drops used
may cause blurred vision for one to two hours. Immediately
after the facelift, you may notice a tight sensation
in the neck and under the chin. This feeling may last
several weeks and is a normal part of recovery.
You are encouraged to shampoo your hair daily after
your procedure with a mild shampoo. A light cover-up
may be applied to the eyelids starting four days after
your procedure. Eyelid makeup including mascara, eye
shadow, eyeliner and artificial eyelashes may also be
applied four days after your procedure. However, it
is important to remove all makeup thoroughly at the
end of the day using an upward motion. You may use oiled
eye pads for removal of eye makeup. All stitches (sutures)
will be removed within seven to ten days; eyelid stitches
(sutures) are to be removed in four days.
What are the possible complications
after a facelift?
Facelifts rarely produce serious complications. The
most common complication after a facelift is a collection
of blood under the skin (hematoma). In less than two
percent of facelift operations, this collection of blood
must be removed in the operating room immediately post-procedure.
Occasionally, small hematomas are removed several days
after the procedure. Complications such as infection,
eye irritation, delayed healing or excessive scarring
Small sensory nerves near the surface of the skin are
interrupted during a facelift and portions of your scalp,
cheeks, and neck may feel numb. Sensation usually returns
over several months, but some numbness may last indefinitely.
Facial nerve damage could occur, but is extremely rare.
With a facelift, the scars are placed either within
the hair or in natural creases and lines of the face
so that they are inconspicuous or easily hidden by makeup
or hair styling. Your scars fade with time and are usually
not noticeable. It is always important to be informed
about the possible complications before any surgery.
Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your
What results can I expect after a
Some swelling and discoloration is expected following
your facelift, but usually subsides within 10-14 days.
Your surgeon will want to examine you several times
during the week or two following your facelift. Your
stitches will be removed in stages, usually between
the third and tenth postoperative days. Your hair around
your temples may be thin at first and your skin may
feel dry for several months. You will feel happier with
your facelift if you realize that the final results
may not be immediately apparent.
Remember that a facelift cannot stop the aging process.
Although excess skin is removed and wrinkles are diminished,
your skin continues to age. In time you may feel the
need to have a second procedure. As you grow older the
skin of the upper lids becomes looser and may create
additional folds in which case an upper lid "touch-up"
can be done. While additional procedures are done for
some, most have only one facelift and remain pleased
with their appearance.
Choosing the right surgeon
To obtain further information regarding ear surgery,
we advise you to consult with a qualified and experienced
board-certified plastic surgeon. Regardless of the type
of procedure you are considering, it is crucial to choose
the right surgeon for your individual goals. To receive
a complimentary consultation with a specialist in your
area, simply fill out our Online
Referral Form or call Toll