Not so long ago, face lifts were associated with results that looked a bit too obvious and ‘tightly pulled.’ Surgical techniques have come a long way in recent years, and now both men and women are opting to have face lifts performed at a much younger age – as early as 40-something – since they can expect better results while the skin still has some elasticity. The face lift remains the single-most effective procedure for making that mid-life ‘comeback.’
A face lift, also called a rhytidectomy, is the ultimate in facial rejuvenation because it corrects skin that’s lost elasticity. It fixes marionette lines, jowls and a double chin through the removal of excess skin, then repositions and tightens underlying tissues, pulling it taut and closing it with sutures. Behold smoother, more defined contours. The results go beyond any filler, laser or topical treatment.
The traditional face lift, in which the surgeon makes incisions in the hairline at the temples and around the front of the ears, remains the most comprehensive and sophisticated surgical approach for tightening loose or sagging skin on the face and neck. The scars are virtually invisible: narrow, flat and hidden in the natural folds and creases behind the ear, so you can still wear ponytails and those short hairstyles.
Of late, the face lift has spawned a number of more minimally invasive, ‘limited-incision’ surgeries, such as the so-called ‘mini-face lift,’ weekend face lift’ and ‘lunchtime lift,’ all of which aim to correct sagging skin on the lower third of the face and restore definition to the chin. These methods involve making tiny incisions around the ears or in the lower eyelids, temporal area or even underneath the upper lip.
A face lift may be the answer if:
• Your face is tired-looking and drawn, and it no longer reflects how energized you feel on the inside
• Gravity, sun exposure and heredity have begun to take their toll and you’d like to turn back the clock about 10-15 years
What To Expect
Popularity is rising among ‘mini-face lifts’ that are less invasive than traditional face lifts. In fact, there’s a tendency among patients to want to believe they can achieve a better, more natural result from a mini-lift – and with fewer scars. Contrary to whatever you’ve heard, mini-face lifts can actually result in a more unnatural look than traditional face lifts. They cut the skin, but they don’t lift or redistribute the deeper tissue, which can create underlying tension resulting in wide scars and pulled-looking skin. That being said, we’re long-time fans of the traditional face lift for its effectiveness.
You’ll be asked to stop smoking six weeks before your surgery to promote healthy wound healing and to minimize both scarring and complications. You can’t take aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (Advil, Motrin, Aleve), nor should you take any vitamins or homeopathic pills, which can cause bleeding. And if you color your hair like most of the population, you should do it just before surgery or you’ll have to wait a month. If your face lift is an outpatient procedure, you’ll need to make plans for someone to drive you home post-op and stay with you for the first 48 hours, unless you prefer to make other postoperative recovery options. Under no circumstances will you be permitted to go home alone. Decide what you’ll wear for the first few days making sure to pick items that open in front and do not have to be pulled over your head. The same kind of clothing should be worn on the day of surgery. Wear slip-on shoes. Plan where you will recuperate. If you have a recliner chair, this will come in very handy for elevating the feet, knees and head. If you do not have a recliner, be sure to have lots of pillows available to prop up your head and knees. If possible, keep your phone and remote control for the T.V. by your bed.
A face lift can take several hours to complete and more comprehensive procedures that also combine a neck lift or eye lift may take longer. Very effective measures will be taken to numb any pain. Local and general anesthesia are commonly combined during face lift surgery to keep you comfortably asleep for the procedure. Monitors will be used to keep watchful eye over your heart, blood pressure, pulse, and the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood while the skin undergoing surgery. Incisions are concealed around the ears and in the hair, and the skin is carefully elevated. The underlying tissues are then repositioned and secured to create a more youthful contour of the face. Excess skin is then removed, and the incisions are closed with sutures.
Post surgery, you’ll be wheeled into a recovery area where our medical staff will hover over you like helicopters to make sure you’re doing okay. Bulky compression bandages will cover your cheeks and neck, providing gentle pressure to minimize the inevitable swelling and bruising. You can expect a moderate amount of pain that decreases in about 48 hours and can be managed with medication. Additionally, a very small tube may run under your skin just behind your ears to help drain some of the excess blood or fluid. You’ll need to keep your head elevated and keep the wrap in place for 24 hours and remove it only as directed for cleansing incisions or showering. It’s important that you stay upright (sitting, standing and walking without bending over) as much as possible after you return home to help relieve facial swelling. Don’t worry, during your initial post-op visit, the bandages and drains will be removed in lieu of a supportive elastic face garment. Be prepared to wait at least six months for your face lift to completely heal inside and out. You’ll require plenty of rest and plan on not doing any housework, heavy lifting, or exercise for at least a few weeks. Avoid hot showers, hot tubs and saunas for two to three weeks.
Things To Consider
• A face lift will not create a ‘new’ you in the way that a nose job might, but it will help you look younger than you really are. You must also understand that a face lift won’t stop the aging process or change the quality or texture of the skin.
• Once you opt for a face lift, you may also desire a neck lift, because changes in the face due to aging also have accompanying changes in the neck. Doing so will tighten the tissue along the jawline or under the chin (this will require an additional incision under the chin). A face lift does very little to correct the forehead or eye area, so you may also need a brow lift or eye lift.
• You can expect to experience some numbness around your ear lobes, face, and neck for several weeks after surgery. A feeling of tightness in your neck is not unusual for a few weeks after surgery.
• Even cosmetically enhanced skin is at the mercy of aging, so once you’ve had a face lift you’ll need to take proper care to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Smoking and sunbathing should be permanently crossed off your to-do list.
Q. Will it hurt?
A. Surprisingly, many patients don’t report a lot of pain. Any discomfort can be relieved with medication.
Q. What is the youngest age I can undergo a face lift?
A. Around 40 or 45, in which case treatment is usually referred to as a ‘maintenance’ lift. For some younger patients, liposuction and neck sculpting alone may provide the results they are looking to achieve. Face lift surgery can benefit patients who are in their 70s but the longer you wait, the less elastic your skin will be. Remember, your skin quality will be similar to what it was before your face lift.
Q. Will my hairline change after a face lift?
A. If there’s a large amount of skin removed during your face lift, the hairline behind your ears may shift slightly, but your original hairline will likely remain intact.
Q. What kind of downtime should I expect?
A. You can return to your normal exercise routine in about a month and be back at work in as little as two weeks.
Q. Will my head be shaved?
A. No. In fact, you may even end up growing your hair longer than it is right now to hide any potential scars.
Q. Are results permanent?
A. A good face lift will last about ten years with proper care. Results are never permanent and you should still be prepared to wage your war against the effects of aging with a good skincare routine and healthy lifestyle.