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What Is Facelift (Rhytidectomy)?

By December 22, 2021June 20th, 2022Uncategorized

Definition, Benefits, and Risks

Facelift is one of the most common cosmetic surgeries that aim to improve the visible aging signs in the face and neck. Several types of facelift surgeries are available. Therefore, it is important to collect all the information you can and talk to your doctor to decide what is the best option for you.

What Is a Facelift (Rhytidectomy)?

Facelift, also known as Rhytidectomy describes the surgery that aims to improve the aging signs in the face and/or neck. The procedure is done by either removing or repositioning tissues including skin, fat, and/or muscle that make the aging signs visible in the first place. (1)

A facelift can restore many aging signs including:

  • Sagging, relaxed skin on the face.
  • Folds and creases between the corners of the mouth and the nose.
  • Facial fat problems such as lacking fat.
  • Jowls, which refers to the excessive skin on the cheeks.
  • Double chin, which refers to loose skin and additional fat in the neck.

Facelifts are one of the best restorative surgical procedures, yet they will not change how you look completely or prevent the aging process. Besides, they are not recommended for superficial wrinkles, skin damage from sun exposure, or any kind of skin color irregularities. (2)

Each facelift procedure is customized to the person’s needs and desired goals. Therefore, you need to talk to your doctor to see if you are suitable for this procedure or not.

What Happens During Facelift Surgeries?

Facelift surgeries include many steps (3). Here is each step in detail.

  • Anesthesia

Facelift surgeries are performed under general anesthesia, which means that you will be completely asleep or via IV sedation. Your doctor will recommend the best option for you according to the type of facelift procedure you are going to undergo.

  • The Incision

The site of the incision depends on the type of facelift surgery you will get. Depending on the type, the site of the incision can be one of these:

  • Around the Ears.
  • At the Lower Part of the Scalp.
  • Under the Chin.
  • Inside the Mouth.
  • In the Hairline at the Temples.

Also, depending on the type of the facelift procedure, the size of the incision will vary.  You should talk with your surgeon about all these details before the procedure.

  • The Procedure

Facelift procedures depend on removing and/or relocating facial fat and/or skin. After that, your surgeon will tighten your facial muscles.

Based on the type of facelift procedure you are undergoing, your surgeon will determine the details of the procedure. In most cases, not all the previous actions are performed but in some, all the actions are done. Before the procedure, ask your surgeon about what will happen during the procedure.

  • Closing the Incisions

After finishing the procedure, the incisions will be closed using either dissolvable stitches, skin glue, or stitches that need to be removed after a few days.

What Happens after Facelift Procedures?

Immediately after the procedure, you will be taken to an observation toll for a while until you completely wake up. Once everything is fine and you are 100% stable, you can leave the hospital. This process usually takes a couple of hours. (4)

A bandage may be placed around your face for several hours to prevent any swelling or bruising. Also, in some cases, small drainage tubes may be used.

Before leaving the hospital, your doctor will provide you with a list of instructions that you should follow typically such as how to take care of the incision site or sites and drains. Also, you must schedule an appointment to check the results and make sure that the procedure has achieved what you want. If there is any pain, your surgeon can prescribe a painkiller for you to have your pain under control.

Figure 1 – The preoperative design of the face lift. The temporal incision is placed within the hairline, perpendicular to the vector of the vertical lift of the face. The incision line around the ear is placed parallel to the helix, drawing a W pattern at the margins of the tragus, and inferiorly following the margins of the earlobe. The postauricular incision is placed 5 mm above the conchal groove and is extended into the occipital area

What Are the Benefits of Facelift Surgeries?

After the procedure, the signs of aging should disappear and your appearance should be more youthful. Most people need this procedure to boost their confidence and increase their self-esteem about their appearances. (5)

Figure 2 – Preoperative analysis for the individualized component facelift. Anteroposterior view is used to determine midface width, height, and overall facial shape and soft-tissue distribution. Reprinted with permission from Plast Reconstr Surg. 2009;123:1050–1063.

What Are the Risks and Complications of Facelift Surgeries?  

All cosmetic surgeries have the same risks, complications, and side effects. Most of them are rare, but they might happen. The facelift procedure has the following risks. (6)

  • Anesthesia problems.
  • Infections, especially surgical site infections.
  • Blood accumulation in the surgical site, which is also known as a hematoma.
  • Numbness and skin desensitization.
  • Facial nerve injury.
  • Hair loss at the sites of the incision. It can be permanent or temporary.
  • Swelling.
  • Scars.
  • Skin color and tone problems.

Besides, there are some points that you need to keep in mind.

  • The aging process will never stop. However, the facelift surgery effects will last up to 10 years.
  • No matter how great the facelift procedure was, it will not change your appearance fundamentally.
  • Facelift procedures are not recommended for superficial wrinkles, skin color changes, or sun damage.

Facelift Recovery and Outlook

After the facelift procedure, swelling and bruising are expected for about 2 to 3 weeks. Some people may take longer to heal.

In most cases, the bandages are removed after several days of the surgery. During the recovery time, you should visit your surgeon to check on the incision sites, assess the swelling and bruising, and remove the stitches.

The complete recovery after facelift procedures depends on many factors such as the type of surgery and your overall health. Your face may take 2 to 3 months before it heals completely.

How Much Does a Facelift Cost?

In the USA, facelift procedures may cost up to $8,000. This is for the surgery only and does not include many other expenses such as anesthesia and operating room. It is important to discuss the final fee with your surgeon before the procedure.

Furthermore, the surgeon’s expenses will be determined according to his/her level of experience, location, and type of procedure you will have.

Finally, health insurance policies do not usually cover these procedures because of the complications. However, your plastic surgeon can provide you with some good financing plans. Therefore, make sure to ask about any offers.

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Park DM. Total facelift: forehead lift, midface lift, and neck lift. Arch Plast Surg. 2015;42(2):111-125. doi:10.5999/aps.2015.42.2.111
Rohrich RJ, Sinno S, Vaca EE. Getting Better Results in Facelifting. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2019;7(6):e2270. Published 2019 Jun 27. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000002270
Raggio BS, Patel BC. Deep Plane Facelift. [Updated 2021 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:
Ilankovan V. Recent Advances in Face Lift to Achieve Facial Balance [published correction appears in J Maxillofac Oral Surg. 2017 Mar;16(1):134]. J Maxillofac Oral Surg. 2017;16(1):3-12. doi:10.1007/s12663-016-0981-8
Hashem AM, Couto RA, Duraes EFR, Çakmakoğlu Ç, Swanson M, Surek C, Zins JE. Facelift Part I: History, Anatomy, and Clinical Assessment. Aesthet Surg J. 2020 Jan 1;40(1):1-18. doi: 10.1093/asj/sjy326. PMID: 30843042.

Dr Khaled Mahmoud

A medical researcher with more than 5 years of professional academic and medical writing experience. My main goal is to provide readers with evidence-based, data-driven, detail-oriented content to help them make the best choices.