A face-lift (rhytidectomy) is a cosmetic surgical procedure to create a younger appearance in your face. The procedure can reduce the sagging or folds of skin on the cheeks and jawline and other changes in the shape of your face that occur with age.
During a face-lift, a flap of skin on each side of the face is pulled back, and tissues below the skin are surgically altered to return the contour of the face to a more youthful shape. Before the flap is sutured closed, excess skin is removed.
A neck lift (platysmaplasty) is often done as part of a face-lift to reduce fat deposits and sagging skin on the neck.
A face-lift won't decrease fine creases or wrinkles in your skin or damage from sun exposure. Other cosmetic procedures can address the appearance or quality of the skin itself.
Why it's done
As you get older, the appearance and shape of your face is altered because of normal age-related changes. Your skin becomes less elastic and looser, and fat deposits decrease in some areas of your face and increase in others. Age-related changes in your face that may be reduced with a face-lift include the following:
- Sagging appearance of your cheeks
- Excess skin at your lower jawline (jowls)
- Deepening of the fold of skin from the side of your nose to the corner of your mouth
- Sagging skin and excess fat in the neck (if the procedure includes a neck lift)
A face-lift isn't a treatment for superficial wrinkles, sun damage, creases around the nose and upper lip, or irregularities in skin color.
How you prepare
Initially, you'll talk to a plastic surgeon about a face-lift. The visit will likely include:
- Medical history and exam. Prepare to answer questions about past and current medical conditions, previous surgeries, previous plastic surgeries, complications from previous surgeries, history of smoking, and drug or alcohol use. Your surgeon will do a physical exam, may request recent records from your doctor or order a consultation with a specialist if there are any concerns about your ability to undergo surgery.
- Medication review. Provide the name and dosages of all medications you regularly take, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, herbal medications, vitamins and other dietary supplements.
- Facial exam. Your plastic surgeon will take photos of your face from different angles and close-up photos of some features. The surgeon will also examine your bone structure, shape of your face, fat distribution and quality of your skin to determine your best options for face-lift surgery.
- Expectations. Your surgeon will ask questions about your expectations for the outcomes of a face-lift. He or she will help you understand how a face-lift will likely change your appearance and what a face-lift doesn't address, such as fine wrinkles or naturally occurring asymmetry in your face.
Before a face-lift:
- Follow medication directions. You'll receive instructions about what medications to stop taking and when to stop. For example, you'll likely be asked to discontinue any blood-thinning medication or supplement at least two weeks before surgery. Talk to your doctor about what medications are safe to take or whether the dosage should be adjusted.
- Wash your face and hair. You'll likely be asked to wash your hair and face with a germicidal soap the morning of the surgery.
- Avoid eating.You'll be asked to avoid eating anything after midnight the night before your face-lift. You will be able to drink water and take medications that have been approved by your surgeon.
- Arrange for help during recovery. If your face-lift is done as an outpatient procedure, make plans for someone to drive you home after surgery and stay with you the first night after surgery.