As people age, the effects of gravity,
exposure to the sun, and the stresses of daily life can
be seen in their faces. Deep creases form between the
nose and mouth; the jawline grows slack and jowly; folds
and fat deposits appear around the neck.
A facelift (technically known as rhytidectomy) can't
stop this aging process. What it can do is "set back the
clock," improving the most visible signs of aging by
removing excess fat, tightening underlying muscles, and
redraping the skin of your face and neck. A facelift can
be done alone, or in conjunction with other procedures
such as a forehead lift, eyelid surgery, or nose
THE BEST CANDIDATES FOR A FACELIFT
The best candidate for a facelift is a man or woman
whose face and neck have begun to sag, but whose skin
still has some elasticity and whose bone structure is
strong and well-defined. Most patients are in their
forties to sixties, but facelifts can be done
successfully on people in their seventies or eighties as
A facelift can make you look younger and fresher, and it
may enhance your self- confidence in the process. But it
can't give you a totally different look, nor can it
restore the health and vitality of your youth. Before
you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your
expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
ALL SURGERY CARRIES SOME UNCERTAINTY AND RISK
When a facelift is performed by a qualified plastic
surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor.
Still, individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, their
physical reactions, and their healing abilities, and the
outcome is never completely predictable.
Complications that can occur include hematoma (a
collection of blood under the skin that must be removed
by the surgeon), injury to the nerves that control
facial muscles (usually temporary), infection, and
reactions to the anesthesia. Poor healing of the skin is
most likely to affect smokers.
You can reduce your risks by closely following your
surgeon's advice both before and after surgery.
PREPARING FOR YOUR SURGERY
Your surgeon will
give you specific instructions on how to prepare for
surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking,
smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins and
medications. Carefully following these instructions will
help your surgery go more smoothly. If you smoke, it's
especially important to stop at least a week or two
before and after surgery; smoking inhibits blood flow to
the skin, and can interfere with the healing of your
If your hair is very short, you might want to let it
grow out before surgery, so that it's long enough to
hide the scars while they heal.
Whether your facelift is being done on an outpatient or
inpatient basis, you should arrange for someone to drive
you home after your surgery, and to help you out for a
day or two if needed.
GETTING BACK TO NORMAL
You should be up and about in a day or two, but plan on
taking it easy for the first week after surgery. Be
especially gentle with your face and hair, since your
skin will be both tender and numb, and may not respond
normally at first.
Your surgeon will give more specific guidelines for
gradually resuming your normal activities. They're
likely to include these suggestions: Avoid strenuous
activity, including sex and heavy housework, for at
least two weeks (walking and mild stretching are fine);
avoid alcohol, steam baths, and saunas for several
months. Above all, get plenty of rest and allow your
body to spend its energy on healing.
At the beginning, your face may look and feel rather
strange. Your features may be distorted from the
swelling, your facial movements may be slightly stiff
and you'll probably be self-conscious about your scars.
Some bruising may persist for two or three weeks, and
you may tire easily. It's not surprising that some
patients are disappointed and depressed at first.
By the third week, you'll look and feel much better.
Most patients are back at work about ten days to two
weeks after surgery. If you need it, special camouflage
makeup can mask most bruising that remains.