Facelift: What to expect and possible complications (2023)

A facelift, or rhytidectomy, is a procedure in cosmetic surgery that aims to give a more youthful appearance to the face.

It reshapes the lower half of the face by removing excess facial skin.

Rhytidectomy can tighten loose, hanging skin around the jaw line, also known as “jowls.” It can also remove deep creases around the mouth and nose, and excess, hanging skin and fat under the chin and in the neck.

The procedure can also tighten the underlying tissues, and it may be combined with surgery to enhance the forehead, cheeks, brows, and eyelids.

In the United States, 107,261 women and 13,702 men had surgery for a facelift in 2016. Among men, it was the fifth most common type of aesthetic surgery.

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Facelift surgery is usually done as an outpatient procedure. It may involve a local anesthetics and sedatives or general anesthesia.

The procedure can take from 2 to 5 hours, and the person can normally go home on the same day after surgery.

In a traditional facelift, the surgeon makes an incision in front of the ear, extending up into the hair or hairline as well as behind the ear into the hair-bearing scalp.

The surgeon lifts the skin off the deeper facial muscles and fat, gently pulls the skin in an upward and posterior direction, and removes the excess skin. They may tighten the deeper tissues of the face.

(Video) Facelift: What to expect and possible complications - Medical News Today

A small incision, or cut, may be made under the chin to tighten the skin and deeper tissue of the neck. This is known as a neck lift.

The incisions are then closed with sutures and possibly staples. A drain may be placed under the skin behind the ear for one or two days, to remove any excess blood and fluids. Bandages are applied.

Before surgery, the plastic surgeon will review the patient’s medical history.

They will look at:

  • blood pressure
  • blood clotting
  • medications
  • cigarette smoking
  • drug use
  • allergies
  • scarring
  • skin condition

The doctor and patient will discuss what the surgery will involve, where it will take place, the type of anesthesia used, the recovery, and potential complications that may develop.

They should also examine the goals and expectations of the surgery, according to the skin type and bone structure.

New surgical techniques

New methods are continually being developed to improve cosmetic procedures. Many of these procedures claim to make recovery faster and easier, but they are often modifications of a traditional facelift.

Lasers are sometimes used for a neck-lift procedure called laser neck and jaw liposculpture and resurfacing.

The work is often carried out under a local anesthetic, through a one-inch incision under the chin. The laser is used to melt some of the fat under the chin and to tighten the skin while it heals in a more lifted manner.

Endoscopy may be used in face and brow lifts. Using small cameras allows for smaller incisions. This means less trauma to tissues and a faster recovery time.

(Video) The 10 Most Common Complaints during Facelift Recovery

Forehead skin can be raised through small incisions in the frontal hairline. It is then lifted and secured to the deeper tissues to prevent further sagging or drooping.

Liposuction can remove focal deposits of fat in the face, usually between the chin and the neck. It can be done as part of a facelift, or as a separate procedure.

A mini-facelift is a less invasive procedure that also aims to lift the wrinkles and sagging skin in the lower part of the face. Because it involves a smaller, s-shaped incision around the ear, it cannot address neck sagging or excess skin.

Scarring and recovery time may be shorter than in a traditional facelift.

People often combine a facelift with eyelid surgery and other facial procedures.

A facelift aims to create a smoother, more youthful appearance.

The procedure:

  • removes and tightens sagging skin
  • reduces the droop of the cheeks around the jaw line
  • lifts the corners of the mouth
  • reduces the creases between the cheeks and the lips

The incisions in front of and behind the ear are usually not noticeable.

However, there can be some disadvantages.

A facelift does not last forever.

(Video) FACELIFT - Avoiding facelift complications - FacialAestheticSurgery.com

Research suggests that five and a half years after surgery, 21 percent of facelifts relapse, but that 76 percent of people still look younger than they did before the operation.

In men, it can be harder to achieve a natural appearance after surgery, because they have hair in front of their ears, or sideburns. If the sideburns are pulled backward and upward, this can look odd.

In both men and women, a facelift can lead to distorted earlobes.

If too much skin is removed, the face can look pulled-back or startled.

For the best results, a person may need additional procedures, such as a neck lift, eyelid surgery, liposuction, fat injection, removal of cheek fat, forehead lift, brow lift, chemical or laser peel, and cheek or chin implants.

A facelift is expensive. The average cost for a facelift in the U.S. in 2016 was $7,503. It is not normally covered by insurance.

Complications of facelift surgery are infrequent, and cosmetic procedures are generally safe, as long as they are carried out by a qualified and experienced professional.

However, any surgery comes with some risk.

The risks and complications of facelift surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Complications of anesthesia
  • Damage to the facial nerves controlling muscles, usually temporary
  • Hematoma
  • Infection
  • Loss of hair around the incision site, but this is uncommon
  • Numbness, which can improve within days or weeks
  • Scarring
  • Skin necrosis, or tissue death
  • Unevenness between two sides of the face
  • Widening or thickening of scar

If the patient notices inflammation, pain, redness or swelling in the days following surgery, they should seek medical help. This could be a sign of hematoma. If there is a fever, they may have an infection.

(Video) 10 Most Common Concerns After a Facelift | I Just Had a Facelift and It Looks Scary! |


However, the following points should be discussed and considered before going ahead:

  • Facelift surgery is not recommended for anyone with serious medical problems, and the candidate should be in good mental and physical health.
  • Patients with high blood pressure and diabetes have a higher risk of complications.
  • Cigarette smoking and tobacco use increase the risk of complications after surgery. It can interfere with wound healing. A person who is considering a facelift should completely stop smoking or using nicotine products.
  • It is important to have reasonable expectations and to remember that a facelift will not stop the overall aging process.
  • Good skin elasticity and bone structure will give the best results.
  • Patients should not use taking aspirin or other blood thinners for at least a week before surgery.

It is important to have realistic expectations when undergoing cosmetic surgery. The results are often permanent.

Most patients experience some discomfort, but medication can relieve tenderness.

Bruising and swelling will be at their worst after 2 days, and they can persist for a few days.

Recovery normally takes around 2 weeks, and vigorous activity can resume after 4 weeks.

Sutures are removed about 5 to 10 days after surgery.

Incisions and bandages must be kept dry, and the patient should follow the specific instructions about bathing and washing.

It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions, as this will speed the healing process and allow for the best possible result.

Numbness and muscle stiffness is normal for some time. Scars can take nearly a year to fade and tone down.

It is worth remembering that while genetics play a role, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and sufficient exercise can also help to maintain the appearance of the skin.

(Video) YOU will probably have a facelift complication...

Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake, stress, sun exposure, and contact with pollutants can all help extend the youthful appearance of skin.

The same habits can help maintain the effects of facelift surgery.


What can I expect from a facelift? ›

During a face-lift, facial soft tissues are lifted, excess skin is removed and skin is draped back over the newly repositioned contours. Incisions can be made in the hairline starting at the temples, continuing down and around the front of the ears, and ending behind the ears in the lower scalp.

What are the complications of a face lift? ›

Possible complications associated with facelifts may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Nerve injury. Facial nerve injury or weakness may occur along with numbness or changes in skin sensation. ...
  • Infection and anesthesia reaction. ...
  • Hematoma. ...
  • Slower healing process (for some people). ...
  • Scarring.

How long does it take to feel normal after a facelift? ›

You may have some itching or shooting pain as the feeling returns. It may take several months for the numbness to go away. Most people recover in 4 to 6 weeks. But it probably will take 6 months or more to see the final result from the surgery.

Will my face ever feel normal after facelift? ›

Facelift recovery time

You should look and feel normal after 2 – 4 weeks. Keep in mind that facelift surgery cannot stop natural aging, so we encourage patients to continue to take care of their skin and make healthy lifestyle choices.

What is the most painful day after a facelift? ›

The first day following your surgery is the day when you may need the most pain medication. Usually, on the second day following your surgery, you will have a follow up visit with your cosmetic surgeon who will check your incisions and evaluate your swelling.

How painful is facelift recovery? ›

There is usually very little actual pain following a facelift, but you may experience a deep bruised sensation as a result of the swelling, and your face may seem heavy. The bandage you will wear the first night may seem quite snug under your chin. Rather than make you feel restricted, we hope it makes you feel secure.

How long will my face be swollen after a facelift? ›

Swelling and inflammation are normal during facelift recovery. Swelling may occur around the mouth, chin, or jawline, depending on the extent of your facelift procedure and where it was performed. Most patients can expect the majority of their swelling to dissipate after 3 – 4 weeks.

How long do ears hurt after facelift? ›

How long do ears hurt after facelift? Some patients may experience pain or numbness in the ears after their facelift, which can persist for 1-3 months.

How many weeks does it take to recover from a facelift? ›

In general, you can expect to make a full recovery from your procedure in about two to three weeks. A traditional face and neck lift addresses a larger area and a greater degree of skin laxity than other procedures, so recovery will take longer than more minimally invasive procedures.

What is the fastest way to recover from a facelift? ›

“It's important to stay still your first two weeks because these actions put extra strain on your new incisions and may affect how your skin scars. Staying elevated at about a 30-degree angle is also essential during this time, so any fluid buildup from swelling can effectively drain and encourage faster healing.”

When can I bend over after a facelift? ›

AVOID BENDING OVER OR LIFTING heavy things for two weeks. Besides aggravating swelling, this may raise the blood pressure and start hemorrhage.

How long do I wear chin strap after facelift? ›

You must wear the chin strap continuously for the first two weeks after surgery except while eating and showering/cleaning incisions. The strap helps fight the forces of gravity immediately after surgery and helps improve any swelling.

How long do I need to sleep upright after facelift? ›

While the recovery timeline can vary from patient to patient, most people are generally able to resume front or side-sleeping after 2 – 4 weeks.

How long does it take for skin to reattach after facelift? ›

It will take more than two weeks for incisions to fully heal and all post-operative swelling to completely resolve. If you need to look your best for a special occasion or event, we recommend planning your procedure about three months ahead of time.

Does skin continue to tighten after facelift? ›

Answer: Skin will not usually tighten more after 10 weeks post Facelift. Typically facial and neck skin become softer and looser after recovery from Facelift and Neck Lift surgery.

What will I look like one week after facelift? ›

1 Week Post-Op

During the first week after your facelift, you can expect swelling and bruising around your lower face, ears and neck. Swelling may be uneven, so don't be alarmed if your results don't look perfectly symmetrical at this stage.

Can I drink coffee after facelift? ›

Avoid alcohol, smoking, nicotine, and caffeine, for these will dramatically slow down the healing process.

What happens if you don't wear compression garment after facelift? ›

Without compression, post-op swelling lasts considerably longer, meaning you won't be able to see final results as quickly. Improve overall results.

When can I wash my hair after a facelift? ›

In general, you may shower and wash your hair 48 hours after facelift surgery. Use a mild shampoo and be particularly careful around the surgical area. You can also blow dry your hair on a cool setting.

Why do facelifts fail? ›

Facelifts usually fail because of a surgeon's lack of expertise. 90% of facial plastic surgeons perform superficial facelifts, which tighten the skin and do not treat supportive musculature. Surgeons may also pull facial tissue too tight, which makes patients look startled and unnatural.

How long are you bruised after a facelift? ›

How Long Does Bruising Last After a Facelift? The most noticeable bruising after a facelift will typically last for about two weeks. By the end of two weeks, the bruising will start to fade and change color. The bruising will continue to fade in the weeks to follow.

When does facelift swelling peak? ›

Bruising and swelling usually reach their height around day 3 and 4, but both will likely be present for several additional weeks. Continue to take medication if you experience discomfort. Days 4-6.

Why is it hard to smile after a facelift? ›

The corner of the mouth/lower lip is pulled down by the depressor anguli oris muscle, which is innervated by the marginal mandibular nerve. This nerve is one of the branches most commonly weakened after a facelift. Usually movement will recover in 6 to 12 weeks, although complete recovery may take longer.

What foods help with swelling after surgery? ›

Vegetables and fruits. As with any diet, fruits and vegetables are recommended, especially dark leafy greens. Other good foods include red onions, broccoli, pineapples and apples, and capers to decrease swelling faster. These provide your body with essential vitamins to help you heal and fight infection.

What do ears look like after a facelift? ›

Answer: Do your ears look different after a facelift? In general, the ears do not look different after a facelift once you are healed. In the early stage of healing you may have swelling and distortion due to sutures. In the end result, your ears should look just fine.

Are ears removed during facelift? ›

Traditional facelift: A traditional facelift surgery involves incisions around your ears, hairline and below your chin.

How many days should you ice after facelift? ›

We encourage out patients to ice routinely at least for the first 3 days po and many of our facial aesthetic patients appreciate icing for the entire first week. Due to soft tissue swelling, your face will feel 'hard/firm' for a number of weeks.

Will people notice my facelift? ›

Most people will not notice even major changes to your appearance unless you explicitly tell them about it.

When can I lay flat after facelift? ›

When can I sleep normally after a facelift? You should sleep on your back the first few weeks following your facelift procedure. You may resume back to your normal sleeping position around 4 weeks from your facial surgery.

How do you shower after a facelift? ›

Make sure to cover up the incision areas as directed, and to turn away from the shower stream while cleaning yourself. Shower with Lukewarm Water - Hot water and steam can do more harm than good as you heal. Make sure to use cool or lukewarm water when you shower for at least a week or so after surgery.

What should you not do after a facelift? ›

AVOID BENDING OVER OR LIFTING heavy things for one week. Besides aggravating swelling, this may raise the blood pressure and start hemorrhage. AVOID HITTING OR BUMPING YOUR FACE, HEAD AND NECK. It is wise not to pick up small children and you should sleep alone for one week after your operation.

Why is my smile crooked after facelift? ›

Motor nerve damage affects the movement of the face. Damage to the nerve that moves the lower lip is most common and can lead to a crooked smile, though this only occurs in less than 1% of patients. Full facial movement usually returns within a few weeks.

Can I wear a ponytail after a facelift? ›

If all this is accomplished, it will be very hard for someone to see the scars from a facelift. Patients can wear a ponytail or short hair without the scar being apparent.

How tight should compression garment be after facelift? ›

Your compression garment should be snug and comfortable, but excessive pressure can be detrimental to your healing process. You should feel some gentle pressure, but never so much that it is painful or causes a loss of circulation.

How tight should compression be after facelift? ›

Howland recommends that patients wear them for 6 weeks: 2 weeks “around the clock” and then 4 weeks for half the day. How tight should compression garments be? A compression garment should support the body with gentle (but not excessive) pressure. It should flatly lay smooth on the skin, not bunched-up or bulky.

How often should you shower after facelift? ›

Post-Plastic Surgery Showing Tips

While recovery is unique for each individual, it is generally recommended that showering be avoided for 48 hours after plastic surgery. This allows your incisions time to begin the healing process and helps prevent premature scab removal.

Can You Fly 2 weeks after facelift? ›

In general, most doctors would recommend that their patients wait a full month before resuming plane travel.

Does a facelift tighten the neck? ›

Modern facelifts tighten and smooth the jaw-line and neck by lifting the SMAS; then the skin can be lifted and smoothed, removing excess skin without tension, so no distortion is produced and scars can be hidden.

Does a facelift change your eyes? ›

Answer: Facelift

If the facelift is performed correctly, there will be no change in your eyes. Procedures such as eyelid surgery or a browlift will alter the appearance of the eyes.

When does neck tightness go away after facelift? ›

Once the swelling wanes, that tightness feeling should dissipate in time. Your skin will also start to slightly stretch as it adapts to the new shape. You can expect the face to feel tight for a few months following the facelift surgery. The tightness can last for about 2 – 3 months.

What is the most common age for a facelift? ›

Most people who have facelifts are in their 40s, 50s, and 60, which is when facial aging becomes more apparent. Deep wrinkles, lines, and sagging skin happen with aging as the skin's collagen production drops.

How long are you in bed after a facelift? ›

How long do I have to sleep on my back after facelift? On average, patients should plan to spend about 2 – 3 weeks sleeping with their head propped up after facelift surgery, though this can vary based on the nature and extent of the procedure.

How much younger do you look after a facelift? ›

According to a study in the February issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (the American Society of Plastic Surgeons). Patients who have undergone a facelift rate themselves as looking at an average of 12 years younger after facelift surgery.

Will people know I had a facelift? ›

No one needs to know

Unlike having a nose job or a breast enlargement, a facelift can be subtle enough that even your close friends and family members won't know you've had surgical intervention. The goal isn't to restructure your face, but to lift your appearance.

When does a facelift look its best? ›

In general, the results from your facelift will look very good after about 1-month and you'll look your best at 6 months. A facelift can produce long-lasting results for years to come. And while everyone has a unique aging process, many of my patients don't feel they need more work for 12-14 years.

How long wear chin strap after facelift? ›

You must wear the chin strap continuously for the first two weeks after surgery except while eating and showering/cleaning incisions. The strap helps fight the forces of gravity immediately after surgery and helps improve any swelling.

What is the average age a woman gets a facelift? ›

Not surprisingly, the most common age for a facelift is around 58 or 59, with that age increasingly skewing younger.


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