You may be surprised at just how early you start to notice those fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin, as the delicate skin of the face is highly susceptible to gravity, collagen loss and other factors that produce those changes much sooner than you like. If you are concerned about signs of aging in the face, rest assured you are not alone. Facial aging brings millions of people to the offices of plastic surgeons every year. With the face standing out as the most visible aspect of the appearance, it’s no wonder that you might start to wonder if facelift surgery is right for you.

When you begin to consider whether you might be a good candidate for a facelift, it’s time to learn more about the procedure and what to expect. This guide can help you understand the basics of facelift surgery so that you can make the right choices for your goals and needs. Once you have collected initial facts about the procedure, you will be ready to find a surgeon in your area to work with as you develop a specific surgical plan tailored to you. Surgeons that are a member of the California Society of Facial Plastic Surgery are always a good choice, as they have the necessary qualification to provide you with a safe and successful surgical experience.

 Am I a Candidate for Facelift Surgery?

Plastic surgeries like facelifts are time-tested, clinically approved, effective and safe. However, they are still invasive procedures from which your body will need to heal. As a facelift candidate, you must be in good health and must be prepared to dedicate appropriate time and resources to the procedure and your recovery. Certain factors such as smoking, obesity or preexisting health conditions may come with dangerously high risks for complications and might mean that surgery is not a safe choice at this time. Alternatively, those who cannot take time away from daily responsibilities for recovery will also be advised against seeking a surgical solution for their concerns. During your consultation, your surgeon will want to learn about your health history, daily routine and lifestyle to help determine whether a facelift is right for you.

A good candidate for a facelift surgery not only understands the commitment required for safe and satisfactory outcomes, but also has realistic expectations about the procedure and what it can do. A facelift is meant to subtly improve your natural facial features, lifting sagging skin and smoothing unwanted wrinkles. It cannot give you a new face or halt or reverse the aging process, but it can help you look and feel your best. Your surgeon will work closely with you to develop a surgical plan that works with your unique concerns and facial structure. Your skin type, bone structure, ethnicity and skin condition will all play into the way your surgeon performs your facelift procedure.

You may also consider other treatments and surgeries that can be performed alongside a facelift — such as neck liposuction, dermal fillers or eyelid surgery — that might further enhance your overall appearance. Be sure to discuss all areas of concern with your surgeon, since they will be able to recommend companion procedures that will give you more complete results. Often, combining treatments can save you time and money as you only need to undergo and recover from a single day of cosmetic work. Note that insurance does not usually cover cosmetic procedures except in cases of genetic defects or severe injuries. You should contact your insurance company to ask about the procedure or procedures you choose before scheduling your surgery.

Preparing for Your Surgery

Once you have chosen a surgeon for your facelift surgery, you can schedule a consultation to learn more about your options for this procedure. This preliminary meeting will consist of an in-depth examination and interview. Your surgeon will carefully evaluate your facial structure and skin and take photographs to assist with the planning of your surgery. You will discuss your medical record including any history of high blood pressure, severe scarring, excessive bleeding or blood clotting. Your surgeon will also want to know your reasons for wanting cosmetic surgery to ensure you are seeking a facelift for the right reasons and that you have realistic expectations about what the procedure will do for you.

If the surgeon believes you are a good candidate for a facelift and you feel comfortable with the doctor, you can discuss specific aspects of the procedure such as technique, recovery time, costs and risks. Then, you can decide on a timeline for your surgery and prepare to move forward with your facelift.

The Facelift Procedure

A standard facelift without added procedures takes between two and four hours to complete and is usually performed on an outpatient basis. You will be given local or general anesthesia to keep you comfortable throughout the surgery. You and your surgeon will discuss your options in anesthesia before your procedure, so you know what to expect.

The modern facelift technique uses incisions hidden in the natural folds of skin and hair around the ear. Your surgeon will start at the lower temple, follow along the front of your ear, curve slightly behind the earlobe and then end the incision in the hair between the earlobe and the base of the scalp. The skin is raised along the incision, giving your surgeon access to the underlying muscles and tissues in your forehead, around your eyes and in the cheeks. Any excess facial fat can be removed or repositioned, and muscles that cause wrinkling can be smoothed or adjusted as necessary. Then, excess skin is trimmed, and the remaining skin is laid flat and sutured into place along the original incision.

Following the surgery, your surgeon will apply a dressing to protect the entire area where the incisions have been made. You will spend some time in your surgeon’s recovery room while your anesthesia wears off, and then you will be able to return home with the help of a designated friend or family member.

Facelift Recovery

Most facelift patients feel comfortable returning to work about two weeks after their surgery and take about three weeks to feel back to normal. You should be sure to schedule at least a week of extra help around the house, particularly if you are usually responsible for items like cooking, errand-running or childcare. It’s best to avoid strenuous activities, including exercise, until your surgeon clears you to resume them — typically within six weeks.

You may need prescription pain medications for the first day or two after your procedure, and you will feel tired and swollen as your body continues to heal. You will need to rest as much as possible until your surgeon clears you for other activities. You may also want to use cold compresses, keep your head elevated or use topical treatments to reduce swelling and bruising as quickly as possible. Your surgeon can provide specific instructions and recommendations to keep you comfortable.

If your surgeon inserted a drainage tube at the incision sites, it will be removed one or two days after surgery along with any bandaging or dressing. You can expect to have sutures or staples removed between five and 10 days post-op. The remaining scar will fade over the next few months — it is typically not very noticeable even as it heals, as it is hidden by hair and natural folds of the skin. You can use makeup to hide any residual redness as the scar matures and flattens. You will continue to see your final results settle in as your facial tissues relax into their new natural position and as all swelling and sensitivity subsides.

A facelift surgery can be the right choice for you if you are unhappy with your appearance due to signs of aging. California Society of Facial Plastic Surgery can help you find a qualified surgeon in your area to help you start the process of rediscovering your confidence today.