Content provided by Cleveland Clinic.

Does your face look worn? Have your skin and soft tissue lost their elasticity? Do you look tired even when you’re not? Do you have deep lines around the corners of your mouth, jowls or neck laxity (looseness) that increase your aged and tired look?

The good news is that great strides have been made in modern facelift techniques. Whereas early facelift operations tightened only the skin, the modern facelift removes facial muscle looseness, excess skin and excess fat often found in the lower face and neck. The facelift procedure, also known as a rhytidectomy, can improve the contour of your lower jaw and jowls and soften deep lines from your nose to the corners of your mouth.

But a facelift is only one technique surgeons can use to restore youth and beauty. Once the loose skin, fat and muscle have been tightened, laser and other peeling techniques can improve the quality of the skin. Your surgeon can also perform a facelift with other procedures, including surgery on the forehead, eyelids or nose.

Who Is a Good Candidate For a Facelift?

The best candidates for facelift surgery are those patients who demonstrate the above signs of facial aging but still have some skin elasticity. Generally this includes patients who are in their forties to seventies, although occasionally older patients are candidates, as well.

It’s extremely important that you are in good overall physical and mental health, and it’s crucial that you have realistic expectations. A facelift is not meant to completely alter your appearance or make you look like someone else. It’s a way to turn back the hands of time and restore your once youthful appearance, but it is not a method to solve personal problems or psychological issues.

It’s also important to recognize that not every person needs or is willing to undergo a facelift operation. Younger patients may obtain significant benefit from smaller or more minimally invasive procedures. Older patients may choose a smaller procedure to address a particularly bothersome area of the lower face or neck. Liposuction, neck lifts and brow lifts are examples of such procedures.

What Can I Expect at My Consultation?

Your surgeon will examine your facial proportions and may suggest additional minor changes, such as enhancing the chin with an implant or elevating the eyebrows. Your surgeon can show you how you’ll look with these changes via computer imaging. The surgeon may also take photographs of you to assess your situation. During this time, your surgeon will discuss what type of procedures would be required.

How your facelift is performed is as unique as you are. Everyone ages differently. For instance, environmental factors such as sun exposure and certain facial characteristics such as a small chin, a low eyebrow position or overactive forehead muscles can make the face age faster.

Your surgeon will ask for a detailed medical history, including information on diseases that can cause complications, including blood pressure problems, Diabetes and liver or heart diseases. Your surgeon also will ask questions about your emotional and psychological outlook on the surgery. Your decision to have a facelift is deeply personal, but your surgeon will help you make it.

How Can I Improve My Skin Quality?

The facelift repositions muscle, skin and fat. Additional procedures such as laser skin resurfacing or chemical peels improve the quality of skin that has been aged by the sun. The severity of the skin’s aging or sun damage dictates what type of skin resurfacing agent might be suggested. These agents include glycolic acids, Retin-A, laser resurfacing or chemical peels.

What Should I Expect During Facelift Surgery?

You should wear loose, comfortable clothing on the day of your surgery. Ideally, you should wear a button-down blouse or shirt that does not need to be pulled over your face. You should plan to have someone with you who can drive you home after facelift surgery and stay with you the first 48 hours. If possible, you may consider hiring a nurse who can tend to you for the first 24 hours after you’ve arrived home.

If you are a smoker, follow your surgeon’s instructions on smoking cessation. Not smoking will promote healing and ensure proper recovery. If you take aspirin or certain vitamins, your surgeon may instruct you to stop taking these for a certain period of time before and after your facelift, as well.

Your surgeon will make the incisions in the area of natural creases. That is, at the temple in front of your ear, continuing around your ear and behind it. Your surgeon then accesses the muscle and connective tissue to make the appropriate manipulations. Depending on your personal circumstances, the facelift can take anywhere from two to six hours. Your surgeon may also remove excess fat or skin during this time.

Your surgeon will close the incision site with sutures and bandage your face. It’s extremely important to follow your surgeon’s instructions on how to care for and handle the bandages.

How Do I Need to Prepare My Home for My Recovery?

Before you undergo facelift surgery, make sure you take the time to establish a recovery area in your home that includes the following:

  • Ice
  • Freezer bags or bags of frozen vegetables
  • Gauze, clean towels and washcloths
  • Telephone within reaching distance of the area where you’ll be sitting
  • Ointments or creams as recommended by your doctor
  • Magazines or books
  • Supply of loose, comfortable shirts that button down
  • Thermometer to check for fever

What Should I Expect During Recovery From a Facelift?

You will experience bruising and swelling that usually lasts about two to three weeks. Some people will heal quicker than others. While you may not wish to go out in public during that time, you should begin to feel well in the first several days after surgery.

Your surgeon will remove your bandages just a few days after facelift surgery.Your doctor will want to see you several times during the following two to three weeks to assess your bruising and swelling and to remove sutures. Most people can return to work in two to three weeks, so it’s very important that you schedule time off from work accordingly.

Are There Complications and Side Effects from Facelift Surgery?

Tightness, numbness and subtle swelling can possibly last several months.

The effects of your new look will last for five to ten years, depending on how well you care for your face. You will continue to age after the facelift operation; however, your aging will not be as accelerated as some people may think and the procedure can be repeated five or ten years later.

You should contact your doctor immediately if:

  • You experience a fever of 100 degrees or higher
  • You experience abnormal discharge from incision site, including pus
  • You have extreme pain or tenderness
  • You have sutures that comes out before you’re due to have them removed

Is Facelift Surgery Covered by Insurance?

Most insurance carriers generally do not cover surgery that is cosmetic or elective, so you’re probably paying for this one out of pocket. Make sure you receive all of your surgeon’s costs in writing, and ask for detailed charges that you will incur for anesthesia, follow-up care, any required prescriptions, etc. It’s important to note that some insurance carriers will increase your premiums after you’ve undergone cosmetic surgery and a facelift may affect future coverage. Make sure you ask your insurance carrier about its policies and how they will affect you.

What Is a “Weekend Facelift”?

The increasingly popular “weekend facelift” is a minor surgical procedure that provides smaller improvements to drooping and sagging skin. And while the results are much less impressive than a “real” facelift, the recovery time is significantly faster. If you are interested in this procedure, you can discuss with your doctor whether it may be a suitable alternative to a regular facelift and whether it will provide your desired outcome.