Your face is your window to the world, and yet it bears the brunt of exposure to the elements. It is one of the first places to show the signs of aging. If you feel that your face doesn’t reflect your youthful spirit and you want to refresh your appearance, a facelift may be the right choice for you.
Also known as rhytidectomy, a facelift is a surgical procedure to reduce the signs of aging in the face and neck.
A facelift is a restorative surgery—it doesn’t change your fundamental appearance, and it won’t stop the aging process. Non-surgical procedures may help extend the results of your facelift, however, and the results should offer a more rested, youthful appearance that reflects the way you feel.
It Begins with a Consultation
If you are considering a facelift, Dr. Lee will first meet with you for a consultation. He’ll take the time to talk to you about why you want to undergo the procedure and what you hope to achieve. He will take a full medical history: Be prepared to discuss current medications, allergies and medical treatments.
Dr. Lee also will examine your facial bone structure, the underlying skin structure, skin thickness, texture and elasticity, as well as the extent of facial wrinkles and folds. He will take photos for your record and discuss your options to achieve the best results with the least risk.
Before Your Facelift Surgery
Knowing what to do and what to expect before your surgery will make for the best possible outcome.
In preparing for your facelift, you may be asked to undergo lab testing or a medical evaluation; take certain medications; or adjust your medications. If you smoke, you will need to stop well before your surgery; you will also have to avoid aspirin,
anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements—they can increase bleeding.
You will not be able to undergo any chemical treatments of your hair for the first month after your facelift, so be sure to arrange a visit to the salon before your surgery if necessary. You may decide to grow out your hair before surgery to help hide your incisions.
Your surgery will be performed at the fully accredited Southwest Surgical Suites. Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and to stay with you at least the first night following surgery.
You likely will receive general anesthesia—Dr. Lee will recommend the choice best for you. Someone will need to drive you to and from surgery and stay with you for at least the first night after your facelift.
Your Facelift Procedure
Over the years, facelift procedures have evolved to allow for more complex and precise lifting. The process usually involves incisions in front of and behind the ear, possibly extending into the scalp. Various degrees of undermining of the skin are performed, and the deeper layers of the face are lifted. Your muscles may be tightened; your neck and jowls may be liposuctioned; and excess skin will be removed or repositioned.
A traditional facelift incision often begins in the hairline at the temples, continues around the ear and ends in the lower scalp. Fat may be sculpted or redistributed from the face, jowls and neck. Underlying tissue is repositioned, and often the deeper layers of the face and the muscles are also lifted. Skin is draped over the uplifted contours, and excess skin is trimmed away. A second incision under the chin may be necessary to further improve an aging neck. The incisions are closed with sutures or skin adhesions.
You may be a candidate for a limited incision facelift, which uses shorter incisions at the temples, continuing around the ear and possibly within the lower eyelids or under the upper lip.
Sagging jowls, loose neck skin and fat accumulation under the chin may be corrected with a neck lift. The neck lift incision often begins in front of the ear lobe and wraps around behind the ear, ending in the lower scalp.
Whatever the type of facelift, the incisions are hidden in the hair and along the contours of the ear and face.
After Your Facelift Surgery
When your facelift is complete, you will be taken to a recovery area and closely monitored. Your face will be bandaged, and you may have some small tubes in your skin to drain away fluid. Most patients experience little discomfort after a facelift. After reviewing your post-operative instructions, you should be able to go home in just a few hours.
You will be required to keep your head elevated after surgery, and you may be asked to use ice packs to control swelling. You will need to avoid aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, as well as smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. Avoid clothing that has to go over your head, and treat your incision areas with care.
You will notice puffiness and discoloration after your bandages are removed. Though mild swelling may persist for several months, any unevenness in swelling will resolve itself in the first 24 to 48 hours, and bruising should subside within two weeks. You may notice some facial numbness as well, but this typically disappears within several months.
Stitches are typically removed within a week of surgery; you likely will be permitted to wear concealer makeup at this time. You should avoid straining, bending and lifting during this time because of the potential for bleeding.
If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains or an unusual heart rhythm, seek medical attention immediately.
You will follow up with Dr. Lee so that he can monitor your healing process. After about six months, your incision scars should be largely faded. Avoid sun exposure and cigarettes to maintain the results of your facelift and improve your recovery.
Understanding the Risks
Every year, thousands of people undergo successful facelifts and are pleased with the results. And Dr. Lee is a board-certified plastic surgeon with decades of experience. But surgery always comes with risks. Some of the risks specific to a facelift include:
- Unattractive scarring
- Poor wound healing
- Anesthesia risks
- Correctable hair loss at the incisions
- Facial nerve injury with weakness
- Facial asymmetry
- Skin loss
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Fluid accumulation
- Pain, which may persist
- Skin contour irregularities
- Skin discoloration, sensitivity or swelling
- Sutures may spontaneously surface through the skin, become visible or produce irritation and require removal
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
Dr. Lee will discuss these risks with you during your consultation. Please be sure to ask him about any questions or concerns that you might have.
The Results of Your Facelift Surgery
Changes to your appearance after surgery may be subtle or dramatic, depending on where you started and how you hoped to end up. It will take several weeks for your face to heal and your new look to be fully evident.
In the end, however, you can look forward to the possibility of a newer, fresher appearance that reflects the vitality and energy that you feel inside.
Dr. Lee can help you maintain your results. He and his team offer non-surgical procedures and skin care products that will protect and rejuvenate your face. With sun protection, a healthy lifestyle and a partnership with Aspire, you can put your best face forward for years to come.
Sources: The American Society of Plastic Surgeons; The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
See examples of Facelifts in our photo galleries.