Cosmetic Surgery For The Face

Face Lift (Rhytidectomy)

Last modified: 
21/03/2012 - 12:56

A face lift is a procedure that is done to tighten the skin of the face and remove large creases and wrinkles that have formed around the nose and mouth. The face and neck are usually treated at the same time, and the procedure is sometimes called a face-and-neck lift.

The Procedure

A face lift is performed through an incision made in such a way that most of the scarring will occur on the scalp and along natural lines of the face. For men, the incision follows the natural beard line and can be camouflaged by sideburns. Only a thin line of hair will be trimmed along the incision line.

  • The incision begins in the hairline, continues down in front of the ear, around the earlobe, and ends in the hairline behind the ear.
  • After the incision has been made, the skin is gently freed and raised from the underlying fat and muscle.
  • Excess fat is trimmed or suctioned from the neck and chin.
  • If jowls and drooping neck skin are a problem, the fibrous tissue and muscle immediately under the skin (called the platysma) may be separated and made tighter.
  • Sometimes a small incision is also made in the shadow line under the chin to allow for trimming or suctioning of focal areas of fat along the jawline or under the chin.
  • The skin is then pulled tight and the excess is trimmed away.
  • The incisions are closed with fine sutures and staples.
  • In some cases, a small drainage tube is placed under the skin behind the ear to drain off any excess blood and fluids that may collect there. This tube will be removed within a day or two after the procedure.
  • Gauze dressings are placed along the incision lines and the head is wrapped in an elastic bandage. These bandages will be removed on the first or second day.

Face-lift surgery can last from two to five hours. It can be performed in an outpatient facility with local anesthetics, and sedatives may be given to relieve tension. Some surgeons, however, prefer a general anesthetic and a brief hospital stay.

Nice To Know:

Submental lipectomy, or liposuction, is a procedure for cutting away (lipectomy) or suctioning (liposuction) the fatty tissue that some people develop between the chin and the neck. The underlying muscles can also be tightened to produce a more defined chin and jaw. Although a submental lipectomy is sometimes done as a separate procedure, it is most often performed in conjunction with a face lift.

After The Surgery

The head should be kept elevated to reduce swelling. Sutures will be removed within five to ten days after the surgical procedure. Incisions and bandages must be kept dry. The surgeon will give specific instructions about bathing and washing the hair.

Medication will be prescribed for pain, although most patients experience little discomfort after a face lift.

Most people should allow two to three weeks for recovery from a face lift. This period allows time for bruising and swelling to heal.

  • During this time, vigorous activity should be avoided.
  • Use of cosmetics is allowed after sutures are removed.
  • Numbness and muscle stiffness should resolve during the recovery period, though complete return of sensation may take several months.
  • Use of hair tints and hair dryers may be restricted for some time.
  • Earrings should not be worn until sensation has returned to the earlobes.

Need To Know:

Scars can take nearly a year to fade and soften. However, most of the scars should be hidden by the hair. Other scarring can be camouflaged by makeup and jewelry.

How Effective Is A Face Lift?

  • Face lifts address only the face and may have to be done in combination with other lift procedures before the desired effect is achieved.
  • Face lifts correct deep wrinkling and sagging of the tissues. Fine wrinkling, such as that around the lips, must be corrected by a skin resurfacing technique such as a chemical peel or dermabrasion.
  • Face lifts do not stop the aging process, and signs of aging may reappear as time passes.

Need To Know:

The longevity of a face lift is influenced by lifestyle choices such as alcohol and tobacco use, by environmental factors such as sun exposure, and by heredity.

With a healthy lifestyle, the effects of a face lift may last for 10 years. In some cases, the improvements are permanent.

Nice To Know:

Disguising the scars soon after surgery

Bruising can last as long as three weeks after cosmetic surgery and scars can take several months to fade. Skillful use of cosmetics can disguise the bruises and scars and facilitate an early return to normal activities.

Cosmetics can often be applied to hide scar lines as soon as sutures are removed. The cosmetics must be hypoallergenic and fragrance free.

They should be bought fresh with fresh clean applicators. They should also be creamy enough that they won't pull against fragile skin. The recommended cosmetics are thicker and more opaque than regular foundation makeup.

Three kinds of cosmetics are recommended for disguising temporary effects of surgery:

  • Concealers are used to hide healed incision lines, scars, and bruises. They go on under the foundation.
  • Color correctors are used to disguise the yellow discoloration of bruises or the redness that follows facial resurfacing. These tints are also applied under the foundation.
  • Contouring colors are ordinary foundations or pressed powders bought in light and dark shades and applied to create the illusion of depth when tissue is swollen. Contouring can make cheekbones look higher and can minimize a swollen nose or chin.


Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

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Cosmetic Surgery For The Face

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.