When patients come to us for a facelift, they typically say things like:
- “Gravity has taken over my face, and now, jowls are forming.”
- “It’s like my cheeks have flattened out.”
- “My neck looks like it belongs to a much older person.”
If you want to restore your face to a smoother, tighter, more youthful appearance, a facelift (also called “rhytidectomy”) may be right for you.
The term “facelift” is misleading as it does not apply to the entire face. A facelift addresses the effects of gravity on the cheeks and neck area seen as jowls, turned down corners of the mouth, marionette lines, a double chin, neck bands, and overall loss of definition of the neck. These symptoms may be caused by accumulated fat tissue, excess neck skin, or both. Just by looking at yourself in the mirror and pulling back the cheek and neck skin, you can see how a facelift turns back the hands of time and makes you look eight to ten years younger. The goal is to make the end result appear natural and not “windswept” or fake.
A well done and aesthetically pleasing facelift is more than just pulling back facial skin and removing fat. Because the face shows aging in numerous ways it’s important for your plastic surgeon to address all facial rejuvenation techniques, including:
- Changes to the skin clarity, skin discoloration, and skin quality. Over time our skin quality changes due to sun damage over time and general loss of elasticity of the skin as we age. Skin care and laser therapy can greatly improve your skin before and after surgery.
- Excess skin in the face and neck that has lost its elasticity. An important part of any facelift is resuspension of any sagging facial tissues and removal of extra skin.
- Loss of volume and redistribution of fat. Older techniques of facelifting only removed skin and removed fat. This can work well in the neck but there is actually a loss of fat and facial volume in the jawline and cheeks. Resuspension of the sagging facial tissues and replenishing facial volume with fat grafts address this loss, reestablishing a more youthful appearance. It is also believed that the fat grafts contain “stem cells” that help rejuvenate the skin, improving its appearance and elasticity.
- Loss of bone of the facial skeleton. This is more pronounced as you age and can be addressed with facial implants to the chin and cheek or fat grafting to restore lost volume.
- Only a highly trained and experienced surgeon can assess and treat these multiple causes of facial aging. A combination of skillfully performed surgery, laser skin resurfacing, and skin care will restore a natural, more youthful appearance while delivering a more pleasant and balanced look. Dr. Coan located in Cary, NC is an expert in facial rejuvenation and will tailor your procedure to your individual needs.
Facelifts are performed with incisions that are hidden within the hairline behind the ear, within the natural creases of the ear, and sometimes underneath the chin. By placing incisions in these areas, plastic surgeons have found that the resulting scars are less noticeable. The facelift procedure is often combined with eyelid and forehead lift surgery for total facial rejuvenation. It is safe to combine all of these procedures in one surgery.
Recovery from a facelift requires one to two weeks off work. It is safe to be up and about after the first week but your bruising and swelling may limit your social interactions for the full two weeks. Within about a month, you will be able to resume vigorous exercise, sleeping on your stomach or sides, and lifting heavy objects. You can apply makeup after the first week, as long as you avoid the incision areas.
How painful is a facelift?
Contrary to patient expectations, facelifts tend to be far less painful than expected. Pain control begins before the operation starts with local anesthesia and careful attention to local sensory nerves. Post-operatively, patients find they feel a sense of tightness but are quite comfortable with regard to pain. Postoperative pain control is usually managed with an oral pain medication for approximately 2-5 days as needed.
When should you get a facelift?
People age at different rates, and both skin laxity and early jowling can occur as early as in the 40s. Some patients prefer to wait longer until the jowls are extremely bothersome, while other patients prefer to intervene sooner. With limited jowling, a less invasive procedure may be available to sharpen the jawline and improve the early signs of aging without a full facelift. However, as the jowl becomes more noticeable, usually in the mid-50s to mid-60s, a facelift will likely be the appropriate procedure. The sagging jowl is lifted and the jawline tightened. Most importantly, the facelift corrects the lower third of the face and the cheeks. Additional procedures can be performed concurrently to address aging in the eyes and neck.
What can I expect from a facelift?
Commonly misunderstood as a procedure to improve nasolabial folds, or the line between your lip and cheek, a facelift in fact is most useful in improving the jawline and correcting age-related jowls. Facelift procedures serve to address age-related changes primarily in the lower half of the face, such as jowling and other shape changes. This is the area where a patient can expect to see maximum improvement in their overall facial aesthetic from a facelift. The procedure can also, and is often, paired with other surgical procedures to address various aspects of the face. These procedures include a brow lift, neck lift, and more.
Does a facelift make you look younger?
Yes, a facelift can produce facial rejuvenation, providing an overall more youthful appearance. In aesthetics, there are three types of facial aging: skin texture changes, volume loss, and shape changes. Skin texture changes are best addressed with quality skincare regimens that incorporate both products and resurfacing treatments. Volume loss is targeted with dermal fillers, and shape changes are addressed with more invasive procedures such as surgery. Facelift procedures serve to correct age-related shape changes, specifically in the lower third of the face where jowling occurs. Contrarily, skin treatments correct the skin quality by addressing a multitude of concerns, including superficial wrinkles, age spots, pigmentation, sun damage, and more.