A facelift is a common type of cosmetic surgery that involves improving visual signs of aging in your face and neck. There are several types of facelift surgeries, so it’s important to talk to your surgeon about what will work best for you.

A facelift (also known as a rhytidectomy) is a general term for any surgical procedure that improves signs of aging in your face and/or neck by repositioning or removing skin, fat and/or muscle. Signs of aging that a facelift can restore include:

  • Relaxed, sagging skin on your face.
  • Deep fold or crease lines between your nose and the corners of your mouth.
  • Facial fat that has fallen or is lacking.
  • Drooping skin on your cheeks and/or jaw (known as jowls).
  • Loose skin and extra fat in your neck that looks like a “double chin.”

Facelifts are considered cosmetic restorative surgeries and cannot fundamentally change your appearance or stop the aging process. They also can’t treat superficial wrinkles, sun damage or irregularities in your skin color. Facelifts are very individualized surgeries that are unique to each person’s face and their result goals.

There are many kinds of facelift surgeries depending on which areas of the face and neck are targeted. Types of facelift surgeries include:

  • Traditional facelift: A traditional facelift surgery involves incisions around your ears, hairline and below your chin. A surgeon separates your skin from the underlying tissues and tightens the muscles and other supporting structures of your face and neck. The surgeon also removes excess fat in your neck and jowls as needed. The surgeon then re-positions your skin over your face in a natural way and removes any excess skin. This surgery is generally recommended for people who want optimal improvement of moderate to significant facial aging.
  • SMAS facelift (SMAS rhytidectomy): A SMAS (superficial musculoaponeurotic system, the muscular layer of your face) facelift targets the lower two-thirds of your face. In this surgical procedure, a surgeon tightens your muscle and trims excess skin and/or fat in your cheeks and lower face. A SMAS facelift is a variation of a traditional facelift.
  • Deep plane facelift: In a deep plane facelift surgery, a surgeon lifts the SMAS (the muscular layer of your face), fat and skin as a single unit. Deep plane lifts generally address multiple areas of your face at the same time.
  • Mid-facelift: A mid-facelift surgery treats the cheek area of your face. A surgeon repositions the fat in your cheek and tightens the skin in your cheek area.
  • Mini-facelift: Mini-facelift surgeries focus on lifting your lower face and neck area. It’s a quicker and less invasive surgery than other facelift surgeries. Surgeons usually recommend mini-facelifts to people who are younger and only have early signs of facial sagging.
  • Cutaneous (skin) facelift: Cutaneous facelifts involve your skin only and usually focus on your neck and lower face.

In many cases, people who get a facelift undergo other procedures at the same time as their facelift surgery, including:

  • Blepharoplasty (eyelid lift).
  • Rhinoplasty (nose job).
  • Facial implants.
  • Brow lift.
  • Liquid facelift with injectable dermal fillers.
  • Jawline rejuvenation.
  • Chemical peel.
  • Laser skin resurfacing.

In general, you’re a good candidate for facelift surgery if:

  • You’re physically healthy and don’t have a medical condition that affects your body’s ability to heal.
  • You don’t smoke.
  • You’re mentally healthy and have realistic expectations for facelift results.

The best candidates for facelift surgery are those patients who have signs of facial aging, but who still have some skin elasticity. Generally, this includes patients who are in their 40s to 60s, although people who are younger or older than that range can sometimes be candidates for surgery.

There are many steps involved in facelift surgery. Here’s an explanation of the steps.


Your surgeon will perform the surgery while you’re under general anesthesia (you'll go to sleep) or through IV sedation. Your surgeon will recommend the best option for you and your type of surgery.

The incision

Depending on the type of facelift you get, your surgeon could make incisions on these place during surgery:

  • In your hairline at your temples.
  • Around your ears.
  • At your lower scalp.
  • Under your chin.
  • In your mouth.

The size of the incisions will also vary based on the type of facelift you’re getting. Your surgeon will discuss all of this with you before the surgery.

The procedure

Facelifts generally involve repositioning and/or removing facial skin and/or fat and tightening facial muscles. Depending on the type of facelift you’re getting, your surgeon may just do one of these actions or all of them. You and your surgeon will discuss the process in detail before your surgery.

Closing the incisions

After the procedure, your surgeon will close the incision(s) with one of the following options:

  • Dissolvable stitches.
  • Stitches that will need to be removed after a few days.
  • Skin glue.

People usually get facelifts to improve signs of aging and have a more youthful appearance. This may help increase your confidence and self-esteem

As with any surgery, there are side effects, and you do risk certain complications. Risks for facelift surgery, while rare, include:

  • Anesthesia issues.
  • Infection.
  • Wound healing issues.
  • Hematoma (blood collection in the surgical area).
  • Changes in skin sensation or numbness.
  • Facial nerve injury.
  • Temporary or permanent hair loss at the incision sites.
  • Scarring.
  • Prolonged swelling.
  • Skin color irregularities.

Other important considerations include:

  • The results of facelift surgeries usually last around seven to 10 years, and you’ll continue to age after your surgery.
  • Facelift surgeries can’t dramatically change your fundamental appearance.
  • Facelifts can’t treat superficial wrinkles, sun damage or irregularities in your skin color.
  • If you decide to get a facelift, be sure to go to a board-certified surgeon.

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