A mini facelift is a plastic surgery procedure that targets the lower part of the face. A traditional or “full” facelift addresses the midface, lower face and neck and typically includes a neck lift and liposuction on the neck. These procedures are designed for two different patient demographics.

Patients who choose the mini lift typically:

  • Are in their forties to mid-fifties
  • Have mild tissue laxity or excess skin in the mid/lower face, which creates jowls
  • Want a procedure without too much recovery time
  • Are OK with modest improvement in their appearance

Patients who are better candidates for a full facelift typically:

  • Are in their mid-fifties or older
  • Have substantial excess jowl tissue
  • Have drooping in the midface
  • Have significant skin looseness
  • Have banding on the neck from tissue laxity
  • Have excess fat in the lower face and neck

Benefits of the Mini Facelift

This procedure is shorter than a full lift (one to two hours) and is performed using oral sedation and local anesthesia. The main advantage of the mini lift is that it has a shorter recovery time. Some patients return to work and other non-strenuous activities within three to five days after the procedure. Discomfort is often minimal with some patients requiring only over-the-counter pain medication after the procedure. The scar is located in the area just in front of the ear and may extend behind the ear as well depending on the technique used. Some surgeons hide the scar inside the ear itself. There is no scar under the chin, which is typically seen after the neck lift portion of a traditional, full facelift. Finally, the surgeon’s fee for the mini facelift may be half as much as a traditional facelift, although costs depend on many factors.

Drawbacks of the Mini Facelift

One challenge in comparing a mini facelift to a full facelift is that there are so many different approaches. These vary widely in the degree of improvement provided and the longevity of results. This is why it is very important for patients to understand what method is being proposed for their facelift. Patients who do not understand the limitations of the procedure are likely to be disappointed with the results. Those who are unsure about whether a mini lift is right for them may wish to try less invasive procedures such as laser liposuction, Thermage, dermal fillers and other facial rejuvenation treatments and postpone surgery until they are ready for a full facelift.

How Do the Various Mini Facelift Techniques Stack Up?

A mini facelift that only removes excess skin will provide minor correction of drooping for a time. Some surgeons will tuck or fold underlying tissues and place permanent sutures to provide a little more correction. The results typically don’t last as long as a full facelift because the underlying tissue continues to sag, putting pressure on the skin. Patients who expected to look substantially younger and have long lasting results are likely to be disappointed.

A suture suspension mini facelift (Aptos thread lift, feather lift) is still considered experimental by many plastic surgeons. In this procedure, a set of barbed sutures are threaded under the skin and used to pull the tissue into a taut position. The results may be dramatic in the short term, but complications may occur. These include visible knots and dimpling of the skin. Removal of the threads may be difficult. This approach does not remove excess skin.

Some surgeons perform a mini lift that is substantially similar to the lower face portion of a traditional facelift. This approach “mobilizes” the muscle layer rather than just manipulating the skin. The surgeon lifts and repositions the superficial musculo-aponeurotic system (SMAS) into the desired position and sutures it in place. Excess skin is removed and liposuction may be done on the neck area for additional sculpting. This type of lift still only addresses mild drooping in the lower face, but the degree of improvement and the longevity of results for this area are likely to be most similar to a traditional facelift.