A face-lift also termed as a rhytidectomy is a cosmetic surgical procedure that can make your face have a younger appearance by tightening the facial tissues. This procedure reduces the sagging or folds of skin on the cheeks and jawline and any other such changes in your face that can occur with age.
A neck lift, termed as platysmaplasty, is usually done as part of this procedure, as it helps to reduce fat deposits as well as sagging skins on the neck.
It is to be noted that a face-lift will not decrease fine creases, damage from sun exposure or any kind of wrinkles in your skin.
As we get older, the appearance as well as the shape of our face is altered due to age-related changes. The skin eventually loses its elasticity and becomes loose. Fat deposits can decrease in some areas of the face and increase in others. A face-lift can help you reduce age-related changes in your face, which includes:
- Sagging appearance of your cheeks
- Deepening of the fold of the skin from the side of the nose to the corner of the mouth
- Excess skin at the lower jawline
- Sagging skin and excess fat in your neck (if a neck lift is included in your procedure).
Preparing for a facelift is similar to preparing for any kind of surgery. Before the surgery, your doctor may ask you for presurgical evaluation and might ask you to stop taking certain medications or adjust the dosage before your procedure.
Your doctor can ask also you to:
- Stop smoking.
- Discontinue using aspirin, any kind of anti-inflammatory pain relievers, as well as any herbal supplements which can reduce the risk of bleeding and bruising
- Apply specific products to your face before your procedure
Your plastic surgeon will also need to take photos of your face from multiple angles as well as close-up photos of some features. The surgeon will then examine your bone structure as well, the shape of your face, fat distribution and skin quality, as it will help him/her determine the best options for your face-lift. You will also need to talk to him/her regarding your expectations for the outcomes of the procedure.
The procedure can take place at a surgical center or at the hospital, and you will need someone to drive you to and from the center as it is likely that you will be under general anesthesia. It’s better if you can arrange for someone to stay with you for a night or two after the procedure as well.
Generally, a face-lift involves elevating the skin and tightening the underlying tissues and muscles. Fat located in your neck and face may be removed, sculpted or redistributed. Then the facial skin is re-draped over the newly repositioned contours of your face and any excess skin is removed, after which the wound is stitched or taped closed.
The incisions for the procedure will depend on the techniques that will be used as well as the patient’s preferences. Options include:
A traditional face-lift incision begins at your temples in the hairline and continues down and around the front of your ears and ends behind your ears in the lower scalp. An incision might be created under your chin as this can improve the appearance of your neck.
A limited incision is a shorter incision that starts in your hairline just above your ear and wraps around the front of your ear. However, it does not extend all the way into your lower scalp.
Neck lift incision begins in front of your earlobe and continues around your ear into the lower scalp. A small incision is created under the chin as well.
A face-lift should take between two to four hours. However, if other procedures are included, it should take longer.
After the procedure
After a face-lift, you can experience the following:
- Mild to moderate pain
- Drainage from the incisions
Contact your doctor soon if you have:
- Severe pain on one side of your face or neck after around 24 hours of surgery
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeats
- Chest pain
Your incisions might be covered with the help of bandages that can provide gentle pressure for minimizing bruising and swelling. A small tube may be placed under your skin behind one or both of your ears for draining any excess fluid or blood.
- Following your surgery, for a few days:
- You need to keep your head elevated after the surgery
- Take pain medication that your doctor recommends
- Apply a few cool packs to your face as it can ease pain and reduce swelling
You will have multiple follow-up appointments scheduled during the next two months after your surgery. They will include the following:
- The day after your surgery, your surgeon may need to remove your drainage tube and apply antibiotic ointment to your incisions as well as place new bandages on your face.
- Around two to three days after the face-lift, you might be able to switch from wearing bandages to wearing an elasticized facial sling.
- Around one week after your surgery, your doctor will be removing your stitches and assess the wound.
- Subsequent visits may be scheduled for monitoring your progress.
Self-care at home is important for the first three weeks after the face-lift as this will aid your recovery and minimize the risk of complications:
- Follow instructions related to wound care as directed by your surgeon
- Follow instructions regarding when you can start using shampoo, soaps and of what kind
- Do not pick at crusting scabs that might develop on your wound
- It is better to wear clothes that fasten in the front rather than clothes that require to be pulled over the head
- Avoid too much pressure or motion on and around your incisions
- Avoid sports or any kind of vigorous or aerobic activity
- Avoid using any makeup
- Avoid direct sun exposure to the incision for at least three weeks and use a sunscreen thereafter
- Avoid coloring and bleaching your hair for at least six weeks after the procedure
During your recovery period after the face-lift, you can style your hair to hide any remaining signs of the incision. You can choose to delay attending any major social events for a couple of months as well.
It is important to remember that the results of a face-lift are not permanent. With age, the facial skin can begin to droop again, though generally, a face-lift should last around ten years.
Like any other medical procedure, there are few risks to a facelift, which includes:
- blood clots
- anesthesia risks
- cardiac events
- pain or scarring
- hair loss at the incision sites
- problems with wound healing
- prolonged swelling