How Facelift Surgery Is Done

Jul 14, 2023

Facelifts are among the most popular cosmetic, restorative surgeries that may help correct the aging process. While many might be familiar with the term or have seen facelift surgery results, when it comes to understanding how facelift surgery is done, a large part of the general public remains in the dark.

In this post, we will offer all-encompassing information about facelift surgery. Our main goal is to ensure that patients have a complete understanding of how the procedure works and become aware of all the benefits and risks involved. 

Facelift Surgical Procedures Explained

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How Facelift Surgery Is Done

Facelift surgery is a procedure that may help restore a youthful look to your face. Often, people refer to this operation as an attempt to turn back the clock. 

A facelift, medically known as a “rhytidectomy”, may help reduce sagging skin. During a facelift, excess skin from the face is removed, and a flap of skin on each side of the face is pulled back. A neck lift is also performed as part of the facelift surgery. This may help remove excess skin and fat from the neck area and achieve a balanced look.

The overall purpose of this cosmetic surgery is to reduce visible signs of aging. It may improve the undesirable features on your face. To learn more about the effects of facelift surgery, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Gerstle. 

Preoperative Preparation and Anesthesia

Performing a facelift entails much more than just the surgical part. Preparations and being aware of how anesthesia works are just as important. And just as with any other surgical procedure, a facelift also requires prior preparations. 

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the most common precautions include: 

  • Proper preoperative facial skincare
  • Undergoing all necessary medical and lab evaluations 
  • Abstinence from smoking 
  • Reporting prescriptions such as pain meds and antibiotics 

Additionally, if you are considering facelift surgery, you should try to follow a more healthy lifestyle. This means keeping alcohol intake to a minimum and following a balanced diet. The weeks prior to your surgery are very important. A virus or a simple lingering cold could mean that the surgery will be rescheduled. 

Staying nicotine-free is essential. Smoking four weeks prior to your facelift surgery is not allowed. Nicotine inhibits your ability to heal, meaning a nicotine patch or any nicotine-based products are off the table

Herbal supplements such as green tea extracts, estrogen, and garlic supplements may increase your risk of bleeding. You should also stay away from aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and ibuprofen.

How does facelift anesthesia work?

General anesthesia is usually the preferred option for this type of cosmetic surgery. This is because the process of performing a facelift is complex. An anesthesiologist will be present during your facelift operation, ensuring the airway is controlled. Under general anesthesia, you remain unconscious and fully asleep, which promises comfort during the surgery.

IV sedation is also an option popular among cosmetic surgeons. The main difference between general anesthesia and IV sedation is the way of administration. IV sedation is usually less associated with side effects of general anesthesia, such as nausea and vomiting. Additional factors will determine the decision of your plastic surgeon. For instance, alcohol dependence interferes with the effect of anesthesia

Local anesthesia is also an option in some cases. Still, this largely depends on how facelift surgery is done. Not all facelift corrections are the same. The facelift surgery is individualized based on the patient’s need. This means the type of anesthesia your surgeon chooses will depend on the facelift technique in question.

Incision Placement Options

Many surgeons will agree that what’s most important in incision placements is to create an individualized incision pattern based on the individual you are working with. There are some general guidelines based on the patient’s gender that can shape your idea of how incisions work. In general, we can identify three types of incisions: along the hairline in front of the ears, or behind the ears, in the lower scalp, or under the neck. 

Incisions in men 

For instance, for men, incisions are usually placed around the sideburn and along the headline behind the ear or in front of the ear at the beard line. This is especially important in men as placing the incisions improperly may cause the beard to look pulled onto the ear. 

Incisions in women 

Facelift incisions for women are typically placed in or along the sideburn or behind the ear, along the tragus of the front ear. Just as in men, when making incisions on female patients, it’s important not to put any tension on the ear lobe. Another detail surgeons must pay attention to is not to distort the size and the location of the sideburn. Doing so will give away that the patient has undergone facelift surgery. 

It is also worth noting that the type of incisions your surgeon chooses for the facelift will largely depend on the type of facelift and the issues you are seeking to resolve. 

Incision Placement Options

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Facelift Techniques 

Signs of aging and skin sagging differ from one patient to another. This is why surgeons have developed various techniques to meet those needs. Generally, facelift procedure options fall under three main categories.

Mini facelift 

Although among surgeons there is no consensus on what a mini facelift actually means, we will try to capture its scope. This method owes its name to the shorter incisions that the surgeon makes. Overall, this is a less invasive technique as the surgeon makes smaller incisions along the hairline, usually above the ears. 

The mini facelift is best suited for individuals with mild jowls and sagging. It may help reduce unwanted signs of aging before they become too prominent. It may also be helpful in postponing the need for more extensive surgery for years. 

With the incisions in the mini facelift being close to the ears, it is easier to reach the cheek area. The mini facelift may help correct the jawline and refine the jawline. However, it is most successful in potentially rejuvenating your appeal and redefining a “tired face”. 

Standard facelift 

The traditional facelift, which is also known as “the SMAS technique”, focuses on the lower two-thirds of the face and the neck. SMAS (superficial musculoaponeurotic system) is the layer that connects the face and neck muscles to the skin. This method is used to address moderate to advanced aging in the mid-face and neck regions.

Compared to the mini facelift, this operation requires greater recovery time. It can be used to address a variety of issues such as excess fat, double chin, loss of volume in the cheek area, jowls, and sagging skin. The incisions for this procedure are made just behind the hairline, around the front ear, and near the temples. 

According to some cosmetic surgeons, the results from the SMAS approach may last between 10 to 15 years. 

Deep facelift 

A deep plane facelift is a procedure that many surgeons find technically challenging and consider themselves incompetent to perform. Being the most complex approach, a deep facelift requires years of prior experience. In a nutshell, the deep plane facelift allows the surgeon to do more thorough lifting and achieve maximum results without tightly pulling the skin. 

This is done by removing parts of the SAMS ligaments both in the mid-face and neck area. This can sound a bit disturbing to some and cause you to wonder is facelift surgery dangerous. To learn more about the deep facelift procedure, you can watch this short mannequin deep facelift demonstration. 

The deep plane facelift is believed to offer longer-lasting results and create a more natural appearance. The areas that see the most improvements with this technique are the mid-face soft tissues, including the eyelids. 

Closure of Incisions and Recovery Process

Upon finishing the facelift procedure, the surgeon will close off your incisions using sutures that will either dissolve in a few days or will need to be removed. Closing the incision with skin glue is also a popular practice among surgeons. 

The incisions are most noticeable right after the surgery, and they may appear as dark and red. The sutures might cause them to appear slightly elevated over the skin. 

In the weeks after the surgery, the incisions will lose their reddish appearance and become pink. As healing occurs, you can expect their color to gradually fade away. They will also become flatter and smoother with time. 

The healing process may take several months. Patients that are bothered with their appearance during this period can use makeup as a means of coverup. 

Minimizing scarring after a facelift 

One of the most basic ways to ensure minimal scarring is by choosing an experienced surgeon such as Dr. Gerstle. A surgeon with plenty of client experience will know how to place the incisions to make them nearly invisible. But, the recovery results will also fall under your responsibility. Being aware of how facelift surgery is done is as important as understanding the post-care process. 

Here are the things you should pay the most attention to maximize the healing: 

Wearing sunscreen 

During the tissue healing period, scar tissue forms, and this tissue is especially sensitive to UV rays. Prolonged sun exposure may cause this tissue to darken and thicken. This might cause the scars to stand out against other skin on your face. 

Since keeping your face out of the sun is impossible, wearing sunscreen during your day-to-day activities is important. 

Staying hydrated 

To improve healing and minimize facelift scars, it is best to stay hydrated both inside and out. Using a gentle facial moisturizer may help your skin recover properly and more effectively. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is also important in minimizing the look of scars. 

Eating healthy 

A well-balanced diet rich in minerals and nutrients may ease your healing process. It is best to keep processed foods and sugar to a minimum and base your diet on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. 

Eating Healthy after Facelift

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the best technique for a facelift?

There is no universal facelift technique that offers the best results to all. This is why surgeons have developed various facelift methods. To ensure that you get the best results from your facelift operations, consult with an experienced surgeon who will advise you on the most suitable options available. 

How bad is the pain after a facelift? 

After learning how facelift is done, you should also know the pain levels you may experience if you decide in having one. 

So, you are bound to feel the most discomfort during the first two days after your facelift surgery. You will likely feel tired and experience mild pain. This type of facial surgery is not associated with any major pains. Most of the discomfort comes from the swelling and the bandage wrapped around your face. 

 How soon after the facelift can I walk? 

You can begin walking on day two or three after the surgery. Walking is recommended as it may help promote blood flow and reduce swelling. However, keep your walks short and easy during the first few weeks, and don’t engage in any form of regular exercise.