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Face Lift Surgery Risks


Although face lift surgery is considered relatively safe, there are certain complications and risks inherent in any surgical procedure. Some scarring should be expected, but an experienced plastic surgeon can minimize and hide face lift scars. For this reason, it is important to choose a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon to perform your face lift surgery. Read the information below to learn more about the risks of face lift surgery.

Face Lift Side Effects

The potential side effects of a face lift procedure are more or less the same as they are for any surgical procedure. There are, however, a few complications that are unique to the face lift procedure. As with any other surgery, it is important to keep in mind that there are myriad factors that will affect your individual healing time. For example, it has been documented that smokers face a 1500 percent increase in complications following a face lift procedure. Learn more about what to expect after face lift surgery below:


Most patients report very minor pain following face lift surgery, though your surgeon may prescribe a pain medication to alleviate this minor discomfort. Severe or sudden pain should be reported to your physician immediately. Some numbness of the skin is perfectly normal, however, and should fade within several days.


You may be surprised at the amount of swelling that occurs immediately following your face lift surgery, but don’t be discouraged. Swelling is simply the body’s natural reaction to an injury, and it will subside as the body begins to heal itself. Swelling may begin to subside after just a few days, though you will probably still notice some swelling several weeks after your face lift surgery.


Just like swelling, bruising is completely natural following a face lift procedure as your body reacts to the changes. Bruising will be the most pronounced in the first few days of recovery after face lift surgery, and is usually particularly pronounced around the eyes. While most bruising will vanish in a couple of weeks, full healing may take months. However, you will notice marked improvement every day following your face lift procedure.


Scars will usually remain pink for several months before turning a less noticeable white. However, one of the benefits of standard facelift procedures is that much of the scarring left by face lift surgery is hidden above the hairline, and most people will not have major issues with scarring after a face lift.

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

Photo credit: Harrison H. Lee, MD, DMD, FACS

Potential Face Lift Risks

Following face lift surgery, complications sometimes occur. These often prove to be temporary, and may include blood or fluid retention under the skin, crusting of face lift scars, and numbness. The risk of nerve damage or infection after a face lift is low, but does exist. Neck lifts and brow lifts are less complicated procedures that usually involve less pain and lower risk than a complete face lift. The cosmetic surgeon should discuss all possible complications and risks of face lift surgery with the patient before the procedure is performed.

Common Postoperative Complications

Although face lift surgery is one of the safest cosmetic procedures available, any operation comes with the possibility of complications. Some of the most common postoperative face lift complications are:

  • Reaction to the anesthesia – some face lift patients experience nausea and general sickness after receiving anesthesia; this is a short-lasting side effect and usually diminishes completely after a few hours.
  • Hematoma – if bleeding occurs under the skin, a hematoma can develop, leaving the area painfully swollen; an operation is required to stop the flow and remove the blood.
  • Bleeding – although some light, postoperative bleeding is normal, uncontrolled bleeding is dangerous and can lead to painful hematomas.
  • Infection – typically occurring in a specific area, symptoms of infection are swelling, sensitivity, redness, and localized heat. Unless it is severe, an infection can be relieved with antibiotics.

Risks Specific to Face Lift Surgery

Aside from the risks inherent in any surgical procedure, risks specific to face lift surgery include:

  • Injury to the nerves that control facial muscles - this is usually temporary.
  • Problems with healing of the skin - this is common for patients who smoke.
  • Scarring - there will be some scarring, although the surgeon will always try to hide the face lift scars.
  • Crust on the incisions - this will be temporary.
  • Numbness or tingling around the incision areas - this should be temporary.
  • Skin or hair loss - this is rare.
  • Skin discoloration - this is a rare condition that can continue for several months.

In addition to the risks stated above, men may find they will need to shave behind the neck or ears on areas of beard-bearing skin that have been moved.

DocShop – Connecting Patients with Doctors

If you are worried about the complications and risks of face lift surgery, and want to know more about specific face lift procedures, get answers from a skilled doctor in your area. DocShop can help you get connected with the right cosmetic surgeon. Locate a plastic surgeon now through our national directory.

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