What is a facelift?

As we age we lose collagen, the fibrous structural tissue beneath the skin's surface, and elastin, which gives our skin that “bounce back” quality. As a result our faces begin to sag, droop and wrinkle. A facelift (rhytidectomy) is a surgical procedure that involves tightening of the underlying muscles of the face and removing excess fat and tissue, then redraping the facial skin and pulling it taut to create a smoother, more lifted appearance. In most cases, it is considered a cosmetic procedure because it is not medically necessary but is designed to improve a person's appearance.

What to expect from a facelift

You will first have a consultation with your surgeon to discuss your reasons for wanting a facelift. Not everyone is a candidate for this type of surgery. Your surgeon will review your medical history and your expectations around having a facelift, and will take into consideration any existing health concerns. Once you and your surgeon have decided to proceed, your surgeon will provide you with details on what to expect before, during and after surgery.

Facelift procedures are done with local anesthesia (numbing of the area) and general anesthesia, meaning you'll be asleep throughout the procedure, or you may have a sedative that makes you very sleepy and relaxed. The surgeon will make incisions (cuts) along the hairline—to minimize the appearance of scarring—at the temple and down to the front of the ear. The skin is then lifted away from the face while the surgeon delicately removes fat and tightens muscle and tissue. The skin is then draped back over the face and stitched with sutures. 

After facelift surgery your face will be bandaged and you may need a drainage tube behind your ear to help remove fluids for the first few days. After a couple of days the bandages can come off. You will see swelling and bruising and may experience pain at first. Your doctor will recommend pain-relieving medication and compresses to help with the swelling. Depending on how quickly you're healing, your surgeon may remove the stitches after five to 10 days. Within a couple of weeks, you should be able to resume your normal activities.

At first, your skin may feel numb and tight. It may also be exceptionally dry. This should improve after a few months. A facelift can help you look more youthful and in many cases improves the way patients feel about themselves.

Nonetheless, there are risks associated with this type of surgery, such as infection and scarring. It's important to fully understand the risks and benefits—and to have realistic expectations about the outcome—before making your decision.



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