Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Face-Lift (Rhytidectomy)
A face-lift is the most extensive way to remove or reduce the
appearance of wrinkles and sagging of the face caused by age. In a traditional face-lift, the skin is
literally lifted off the face so that the skin and the tissues beneath can be
tightened and the skin can be repositioned smoothly over the face.
For the procedure, you are either given
general anesthesia or a sedative through an intravenous line and local anesthesia to numb your skin. Next, the surgeon makes an
incision that starts in the temple area and circles around the front of the ear. The skin is
raised, and the muscle and tissue underneath is tightened. The surgeon may
remove some fat and skin. The skin is then redraped over the face and the
incision is sutured. The incision usually falls along the hairline or in a
place where the skin would naturally crease so that it does not show after the
Some people are able to have a limited-incision face-lift. This surgery uses shorter incisions at the temple and close to the ear. Sometimes an incision is made within the lower eyelid or under the upper lip.
A neck lift can tighten sagging jowls and loose skin under the chin. The incision starts in front of the ear lobe and goes behind the ear to the lower scalp.
The surgery usually takes several hours. You may be able to go home
that day. But people sometimes spend one night in the hospital.
Your face will be bandaged after the surgery. The dressings are
usually removed 1 to 2 days later. If a drainage tube has been placed (usually
behind the ear), it will also be removed 1 to 2 days after the surgery. Your
doctor will remove your stitches in 5 to 10 days.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to relieve pain after the surgery. Expect to have swelling
and bruising of the face. Cold compresses can help relieve these
side effects. Your doctor may instruct you to keep your head elevated and still
as much as possible.
It is important to avoid smoking and even second-hand smoke for 2 to 4 weeks
before and after surgery. Tobacco smoke increases the risk for skin and tissue death
and will delay your face's healing process and make scarring worse.
Most people can return to their normal activities 2 to 3 weeks
after a face-lift.
At first your face will feel stiff and will probably look and feel
strange to you. This is normal, but it is important to be prepared for it.
Numbness of the skin may last for months after the
surgery. Your skin may feel rough and dry for a few months. Men sometimes have
to shave in new places because the skin has been rearranged, but laser hair removal or electrolysis
can be used for beard hairs that have shifted to a new position.
Face-lifts are done to make an older face look younger by
eliminating wrinkles, lifting sagging muscles, and tightening the skin.
Having a face-lift can make your face appear younger and healthier.
Your face will continue to age, but a face-lift does indeed "take years off"
your face. For some people, this may increase self-confidence and reduce
anxiety over growing older.
A face-lift can reduce signs of aging to a great extent. But it
cannot reverse sun damage to the skin or remove all facial wrinkles around the eyes, below the nose, and around the
lips. For best results, you may want to have a face-lift and then treat any skin damage.
The effectiveness and safety of your face-lift surgery depends
heavily on the skill of your surgeon.
Problems that may be caused by having a face-lift include:
As with all cosmetic procedures, there is also the risk that the
results will not be what you expected. But an experienced plastic surgeon
can usually give you a very clear idea of what to expect after surgery.
As with other cosmetic procedures, you are more likely to be happy
with the results of your face-lift if you have clear, realistic expectations
about what the surgery can achieve and if you share these with your plastic
Insurance companies do not cover the costs of face-lifts. It is
important to find out what the total costs of the procedure will be, including fees
for the operating facility, the anesthesiologist's and surgeon's fees,
medicines, office visits, and other services and materials.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKeith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
Current as ofFebruary 5, 2016
Current as of:
February 5, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Keith A. Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.