Despite the popularity of non-invasive treatments such as Botox and dermal fillers, facelifts still make up a sizeable portion of cosmetic practice. The longer-lasting results and improvement in neck tightening are only some of the reasons a facelift is still a more highly satisfactory procedure. If you are considering a facelift, or in the beginning stages of researching it, there are many questions that you may have. Below are answers to some of the more common questions to help you as you begin your decision-making process.
How long is the procedure and what is recovery like?
Facelifts come in many iterations. A “mini-lift” may only take 1½–2 hours to perform, yet a standard lower face and neck lift may take up to 3 hours or more. Additional time may be necessary if other procedures are added, such as blepharoplasty (eyelid lift) or forehead lift. Recovery usually takes about 10-14 days, although after that time you may still experience swelling in the facial and neck tissues and some redness around the incisions. I caution patients to avoid scheduling important family or business events within the first 6 weeks, especially if photographs are to be taken.
How do I know if I’m a good candidate for a facelift?
Many patients have the misconception that you are a candidate for a facelift based on age alone. This is far from the only criteria that may steer your cosmetic surgeon towards a recommendation for a facelift. If you have looseness in the jawline and neck areas, a favorable anatomy that would allow a significant improvement with tightening, and have no contraindications to a procedure under general anesthesia, your surgeon may recommend a facelift. There are other issues to take into account as well, such as skin texture and a history of poor scarring. A consultation with a board-certified cosmetic surgeon is important so that you can discuss all the factors involved in candidacy.
Can’t I just have a mini-facelift?
Mini-facelifts are appropriate for a small subset of facelift patients: mainly those who have little to no excess skin in the neck and only very early signs of looseness around the jawline. Because the surgery and recovery are not significantly different between a facelift and mini-facelift, the most important factor to consider is really what your anatomy dictates will give you the best result, not the length of the incision itself.
What if I want to lose weight? Should I do it before or after?
If you are planning on losing 10 or more pounds, it would be best to undergo your surgery after your weight loss. This is because looseness in the tissues can develop again after surgery if there is significant loss of weight. This can be disappointing to both patient and surgeon. You also do not want to gain significant weight after a facelift, so I advise patients to be at a stable weight regardless, prior to undergoing surgery.
What are the risks of a facelift?
Common expected side effects include bruising, swelling and stiffness in the neck and shoulders for a few days and up to a week. True risks include infection, bleeding under the skin of the cheek or neck, nerve damage (temporary or permanent), and poor scarring. These risks are rare, in most cases less than 2%, but they can occur. The best way to manage this is to feel comfortable with your surgeon prior to any procedure so you know they will stand by you in case there is a problem.
Will a facelift take the place of fillers?
The short answer is no. Dermal fillers are helpful for volume loss and deeper folds or lines in many cases. A facelift is helpful to reposition loose tissues in the neck and lower face. The two can be quite complementary. Just as fillers cannot take the place of facelifts, facelifts are not mutually exclusive of fillers. The combination can improve the contours of the face quite well using each technique’s individual areas of strength.
Ultimately, the decision to undergo any type of cosmetic elective facial surgery is a big one that requires homework and possibly multiple visits to multiple surgeons to find one that suits you best. A consultation that addresses your concerns, rather than your surgeon’s concerns, will likely leave you with the most information to make an educated decision.
If you are considering facelift surgery to rejuvenate and improve your appearance, come see one of the board-certified physicians of the Emory Aesthetic Center for a complimentary consultation. We can discuss your goals and determine what treatment is right for you.
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