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Facial Cosmetic Surgery

Facelifts (Rhytidectomy)

A facelift (rhytidectomy) is a facial cosmetic surgery procedure that tightens facial skin to provide a patient with a more youthful appearance. Patients looking to tighten jowls or sagging skin may consider a mini facelift, which uses smaller incisions (typically along the hairline).

Facelift or Mini Facelift Surgery Consultation

Every surgical procedure should begin with a consultation that discusses the goals of the surgery, medical conditions, potential risks and other factors to ensure the surgeon and patient have a mutual understanding.

During a consultation for facelift or mini facelift surgery, patients should be prepared to discuss:

  • The patient’s goals for the surgery (e.g., to tighten sagging skin or jowls, rejuvenated appearance).
  • Medical conditions, including drug allergies and any previous relevant treatments.
  • General health, particularly any pre-existing conditions or risk factors for the procedure.

It is important for an honest discussion of expectations to occur during a consultation. A patient’s age, health, skin texture, bone structure and other factors can affect the results of facelift or mini facelift surgery.

A consultation also is the ideal time to ask essential questions about the procedure, such as:

  • What is expected of the patient to achieve the best results?
  • What type(s) of anesthesia will be used?
  • How long will recovery be?
  • What are the risks and complications of facelift or mini facelift surgery?

Facelift Procedure

During a facelift, the surgeon elevates the skin to tighten underlying muscles and tissue and may sculpt, redistribute or remove fat. The facial skin is then repositioned over the newly contoured face and excess skin is removed, resulting in a more youthful appearance.

In a traditional facelift, the incision begins at the temples in the hairline and continues down in the natural skin creases, tracing around the ear and ending in the lower scalp. Sometimes an incision is made under the chin to improve the appearance of the patient’s neck. Liposuction (fat removal) also can be performed if indicated. Due to the sculpting of the face and tightening of the skin, it is possible for a surgeon to achieve a wide range of esthetic goals for a patient – these should be discussed in detail during one or more consultations.

Mini Facelift Procedure

Patients who wish to have a younger appearance don’t necessarily need a full facelift. The mini facelift procedure – also called a limited incision facelift – features a shorter incision beginning in the hairline just above the ear and down in the natural skin creases in front of the ear (and may go around the ear).

This is a less-invasive technique that allows the surgeon to tighten facial skin or lift and tighten structural tissues in the cheeks. The result is a refined jawline and a rejuvenated appearance. While full facelifts are quite transformative, mini facelifts are a more conservative treatment that can help a patient address unwelcome signs of aging before they become pronounced.

Facelift Recovery

Facelift surgery can take two to four hours, though it is common to plan other facial cosmetic procedures with the facelift. If multiple procedures are scheduled, the patient should expect surgery to take longer. General anesthesia is typically used during a facelift, although mini facelifts can be performed with IV sedation and local anesthesia.

Initial recovery will depend on whether the patient underwent the surgery in a hospital or as an outpatient procedure. Patients should make plans for someone to drive them home and stay with them during the day and the first night after surgery.

Patients can expect:

  • Pain (mild to moderate)
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Facial numbness
  • Draining from incisions

In the first days after the surgery, patients should follow the pain medication regimen prescribed by their surgeon and rest with the head elevated. The use of cosmetics and direct sun exposure should be avoided. Swelling and pain can be managed by applying cool packs to the face. In the months after surgery, patients will have several follow-up appointments, including a switch from bandages to a facial sling, removal of stitches and general monitoring of progress.

Find an OMS near You

As experts in face, mouth and jaw surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained in facial cosmetic procedures, including facelifts and mini facelifts. Patients considering a facelift should be aware of other options – such as eyelid surgery, neck liposuction and mini facelifts – that could achieve their goals. Find an OMS trained in cosmetic facial procedures to discuss your facial surgery goals and schedule a consultation.

While surgery may refine, rejuvenate or enhance existing features, the decision to have a facelift or other facial cosmetic procedures should not be made lightly. Please talk with your OMS to understand expectations.

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Last updated March 2020

The information provided here is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is provided to help you communicate effectively when you seek the advice of your oral and maxillofacial surgeon.