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Face Lift (Rhytidectomy)

A face lift, or rhytidectomy, is a surgical procedure used to reduce facial wrinkles, eliminate telltale signs of aging, and improve the overall appearance of the face and jaw area. Face lift surgery can help reverse the harmful effects of time, stress, and the elements. Face lift prices may dissuade some people from even considering the surgery; however, many excellent financing options exist to help rhytidectomy patients manage the cost of plastic surgery.

Face Lift Candidates

Rhytidectomy can be an effective way to improve appearance and boost self-confidence, but it is not for everyone. Patients whose skin is still relatively supple, and who are in good overall health, achieve the best results. Some patients might find that they can attain their goals with a less invasive procedure, such as a chemical peel or microdermabrasion. Others may be happier with their results if they combine face lift surgery with other procedures, such as a neck lift or forehead lift (also called “brow lift”). Patients who understand both the possibilities of a face lift and its limitations tend to be more pleased with their results. 

A face lift, or rhytidectomy, is a surgical procedure designed to remove wrinkles and decrease the visible signs of aging. Most face lift candidates share a desire to improve their facial appearance. They hope to remove wrinkles and excess skin in order to look younger and more attractive. Face lifts and other facial rejuvenation procedures can help many patients to achieve these goals. Because a face lift is a serious medical procedure, it is not for everyone.

Am I a Good Candidate for Face Lift Surgery?

The best face lift candidates will have realistic expectations and follow the advice of their plastic surgeons. There is no optimal age for having face lift surgery performed. In fact, skin condition and texture are more important factors than age. After meeting with a cosmetic surgeon, the patient will usually be advised as to whether he or she is a good candidate for face lift surgery, or whether an alternate procedure might be preferable.

The best candidates for face lifts share certain important traits. The following is a list of factors that can affect whether or not an individual is a good candidate for face lift surgery:

  • Skin elasticity- An optimal face lift candidate will have skin that retains some flexibility. This is important because facelifts stretch the facial skin to remove wrinkles. Successful healing with maximum results depends on having skin that is still fairly supple.
  • Strong bone structure- An optimal face lift candidate will have a well-defined underlying bone structure to provide support and contribute to satisfying results. Patients with weak features may benefit from facial implants as an alternative or an addition to a face lift.
  • Realistic expectations- An optimal face lift candidate will understand not only what face lifts can accomplish, but also the limitations of facial plastic surgery procedures. Consulting with a qualified plastic surgeon can help a patient attain the information needed to make the right decision about face lift surgery.
  • Good overall health- An optimal face lift candidate will be generally healthy and will inform his or her surgeon of any preexisting medical conditions well in advance. A face lift is an invasive surgical procedure that requires significant healing and recovery, so it is essential that the patient be physically prepared for surgery.
  • Loose skin on the face or neck –An optimal face lift candidate often wants to remove excess skin from the face or neck, tightening skin and removing wrinkles simultaneously. The surgeon trims the loose skin during the procedure.

Are there Current Age Limitations for Face Lifts?

Age is not the most important factor in determining who will be the best face lift candidate. Most patients who undergo rhytidectomy are between the ages of 40 and 70 years old. However, people older than 70 can benefit from the surgery as well. A qualified plastic surgeon can further evaluate each patient's skin texture and condition to make individual judgments and recommendations regarding candidacy.

Face Lifts for Seniors

More people over the age of 50 are turning to cosmetic surgery to improve their appearance, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Seniors are lining up for face lifts, laser skin resurfacing, BOTOX® treatment, and blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery). The doctor will take into account each person's particular circumstances, including age, before approving cosmetic surgery. Seniors undergoing surgery should understand that they will not look 20 years younger, although they will certainly look more youthful.

Face Lift Prices — Average Cost and Financing

Face lift prices can vary depending on the doctor and even the region. Nationally, the average face lift cost is about $6,000, not including anesthesia, prescriptions, or preparatory tests. Comprehensive face lift prices will include these costs in addition to the surgical fees. If you are considering a rhytidectomy, discuss all costs with your surgeon.

Many surgeons offer excellent face lift surgery financing options to cover the cost of face lift surgery, including surgical fees. Capital One® Healthcare Finance and CareCredit® are two of the companies that help patients deal with the face lift cost not covered by insurance.

Face Lift Benefits

Face lift surgery’s benefits continue to grow as the procedure becomes more comprehensive and complex. Today, the procedure’s ability to restore a youthful look is unparalleled, as surgeons tighten the underlying structures of the face that, along with skin, slacken with age.

Face Lift Benefits — Turning Back the Clock

When properly performed, face lift surgery turns back the clock, firming up muscle tone, smoothing the skin, and restoring an attractive facial contour. Face lift surgery is not designed to make a person look like someone else, but to make that person look and feel years younger.

Repairing Loose, Sagging Skin

Face lift surgery is best-known for tightening loose, sagging skin — sometimes too ambitiously (leading to a pulled or wind-tunnel appearance). Though tightening lax, aging skin and carefully trimming away the excess skin remains an important component of face lift surgery, surgeons have realized that this tightening works best (and looks more natural) when the face’s underlying structures are also restored to a youthful configuration.

Tightening Facial Muscles

Unlike older, less sophisticated face lift techniques, which only tightened facial skin, today’s techniques address the underlying structures of the face — the Sub-Muscular Aponeurotic System (SMAS) — as well. Cheek fat and other structures of the face sag downward with age, as skin loses elasticity and becomes lax. Today’s surgeons first rearrange these underlying structures into a more youthful configuration before addressing the superficial layer of the face. Doing so puts less tension on the skin and helps the face lift last longer. Therefore, one of the benefits of contemporary face lift procedures is the restoration of a youthful configuration to your face’s muscles, fat, and connective tissue as well as skin.

Improving Facial Contour

One of face lift surgery’s most marked benefits is restored facial contour. A mid face lift restores a smooth, youthful look to the lower eyelids and cheeks; a lower face lift restores an attractive jawline contour, eliminates jowls, and smoothes the neck. In addition, face lift can be combined with facial liposuction to further address jowls, a fleshy neck, and other areas that can sag with age.

Today’s surgeons precisely rearrange the underlying structures of the face to restore a lasting and attractive facial contour. Gone are the days of an unnatural, pulled facial contour after face lift surgery; today’s surgeons accomplish a natural look through careful tightening of the structures that tend to weaken as the face ages.

Face Lift Risks and Side Effects

Face lift is a common and typically successful procedure, but, like any surgery, it is not without its risks. Before making an informed decision about whether to undergo rhytidectomy, you must weigh the benefits of face lift surgery against its risks and potential side effects. While face lift surgery can turn back the clock, correct sagging skin, tighten facial muscles, and improve your facial contour, it can also cause nerve damage, visible scarring, swelling, bruising, and pain.

Types of Face Lift Surgery

Mini face lift, lower face lift, mid face lift … with so many options, choosing the right type of face lift surgery depends on more than just your wallet. It is important to consider the specific areas that you want to target for improvement, how long you want to spend recovering from treatment, and what your expectations are for your post- face lift appearance.

Preparing for Face Lift Surgery

Adequately preparing for face lift surgery can keep you relaxed and healthy before, during, and after the procedure. Preparation begins at your pre-surgery consultation. Two weeks before surgery is a key time to stop smoking, stop taking certain medications, and start following your surgeon’s pre-surgery instructions. Getting ready for recovery — by mentally preparing for the downtime and making arrangements for transportation and after-care — is also essential to a successful rhytidectomy.

The Face Lift Procedure

During face lift surgery, the plastic surgeon begins by making an incision (usually above the hairline) and separating the facial skin from the underlying tissue. Excess fat and skin are removed, and the surrounding muscles are tightened to improve the contours and appearance of the patient’s face. The skin is then repositioned with stitches or staples, and the treated area is wrapped in bandages. The removal of accumulated fat and excess skin generally results in a noticeable reduction of sagging and age lines in the face. Combined with the tightening of facial muscles, such face lift surgery procedures can give patients a refreshed, younger-looking, and more vibrant appearance.

Following face lift surgery, the healing process will last several weeks. During this time, pain medication is usually prescribed, and physical and social activity may be limited initially. Because incisions are made above the hairline whenever possible, virtually any scarring will be obscured by the patient’s hair. For older patients seeking substantial alterations to their appearance, face lift surgery is likely to be more invasive than for patients in their 30s and 40s, who often require relatively slight adjustments to counteract moderate signs of aging. For detailed information about the recovery associated with various face lift surgery procedures, see the DocShop section on face lift recovery.

Anesthesia

Often face lift surgery procedures can be performed using local anesthesia. This gives patients the option of remaining relatively alert during their face lift, although general anesthesia is always an option. During more intensive procedures, general anesthesia may be required. In many cases, the length of a patient’s face lift surgery determines whether local or general anesthesia will be used. Since many of the complications associated with face lift procedures result from negative reactions to anesthesia, patients should discuss possible face lift risks with their cosmetic surgeon.

Location of Face Lift Incisions

In placing incisions during face lift surgery, cosmetic surgeons aim for the best combination of effectiveness and discretion. Incisions are commonly made above the hairline so that any scarring forming after the face lift will remain unseen. They may also follow natural facial creases (e.g., the line where the ear meets the side of the face), since these locations heal well and hide possible scarring better than other areas. In most face lift surgery procedures, the incision begins behind the hairline on the side of the head, somewhat above the temple. It then follows the hairline down to the ear, running along the crease between the ear and the cheek, wrapping around the earlobe, and continuing into the lower scalp under the hair.

Face Lift Results

Skin type and age influence face lift results, so individuals who are interested in face lift surgery should meet with a qualified cosmetic or plastic surgeon to discuss appropriate expectations. Skin will continue to age after the procedure. Patients should also realize that some face lift scarring is unavoidable following the procedure, although the surgeon will strive to make it as inconspicuous as possible.

Long-term Results

Though a face lift is not a permanent solution to aging — your new and improved appearance will age, just as your original one did — it can set back the clock by several years. Once the swelling has gone down and your face has finished healing, you will have a chance to fully appreciate your face lift results. The goal of face lift surgery is to rejuvenate the face and give it a fresher appearance.

Managing Expectations

Some patients may struggle with disappointment or depression immediately following face lift surgery, because the positive results often take several weeks to become noticeable. Bruising, puffiness, and other negative temporary side effects associated with face lift surgery may initially mask the effects of the procedure, and can make the recovery period very trying on the patient. After one or two weeks, makeup can be used to conceal skin discoloration. The worst swelling should subside within 12 to 14 days, but skin dryness may persist for several months. Scars will fade somewhat as time passes. Most patients will begin to notice the improvement in their appearance and see the face lift results after about three weeks.

Visit the DocShop gallery to view face lift before and after photos.

Photo credit: Robinson Facial Plastic Surgery

Additional Treatments

In some cases, an additional treatment may be advisable to augment or enhance face lift results. Cosmetic procedures commonly combined with face lift surgery include chemical peels, lip augmentation, laser skin resurfacing, and eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty). These extra enhancements can help get you the face lift results you desire.

Face Lift Alternatives

Alternatives to surgical face lift continue to proliferate. They include the laser face lift, microcurrent face lift, and natural products that firm and tone the skin. Reading about the benefits and limitations of these nonsurgical options will help you decide whether face lift surgery is right for you. A one-on-one consultation with your surgeon will also help determine whether one of these substitutes for face lift can help you achieve the look you desire, or if surgery is necessary.

Face Lift Surgery for Men

Face lift surgery isn’t just for women anymore! Men are now turning to rhytidectomy to erase the signs of aging and achieve a younger, rejuvenated look. Learn about face lift surgery for men, including who is a candidate, the approaches that best suit the male face, and the benefits and risks of the surgery.

Choosing a Face Lift Surgeon

With so many rhytidectomy surgeons out there, how do you choose a qualified face lift surgeon? Learn about what to look for in a face lift surgeon, the importance of board certification and training, and the difference between a general plastic surgeon and a facial plastic surgeon. Lastly, learn why viewing before-and-after photos, reading testimonials, and connecting with other plastic surgery patients can help you choose the surgeon and procedure that is best for you.

Locate a Face Lift Surgeon in Your Area

Let DocShop help you find the right face lift surgeon in your area with our national directory of cosmetic surgery specialists. Locate a facial plastic surgeon to learn more about face lift prices and find out if you are a candidate for rhytidectomy. Browse our website to learn more about other plastic surgery procedures, including breast augmentation and liposuction.

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