Procedures : Face Lift

When should you consider a Face Lift and what can you expect?


Aging face and neck as exemplified by appearance of

  • jowls
  • sagging neck
  • increased depth of nasolabial folds (smile lines)

Age range varies and is based on physiological aging rather than strict chronological aging. The average age is roughly 50 years with a typical range from 45-65, although the occasional patient may be even younger or older. Final assessment is determined at the time of consultation.

Goals: to rejuvenate the face in an effort to make a more youthful appearance.

It is critically important to avoid an operated look in this procedure. Many patients avoid face lifts for years because of the “wind-blown” or “surprised” look. What is not noticed is the many women and men who look naturally younger than their stated age who have had excellent face lifts.

What are the complications from this procedure?

A list of complications is available in printed form and will be discussed during consultation; however, the main complications specific to face lift procedures will be mentioned here.

  • Facial nerve injury – I have never had a permanent facial nerve injury to my knowledge, but it can happen in extremely rare instances. I personally mark the facial nerve in every case on the morning of surgery. Its course and protection are foremost in my planning. Temporary weakness is uncommon but may occur, resulting in a temporary asymmetrical smile. Partial weakness may occur due to simple pressure on the nerve with relatively insignificant trauma. Partial injury uniformly resolves within a few days or rarely as long as a few weeks.
  • Numbness – occurs temporarily on all dissected skin of the face and neck for several days to weeks in some patients. Injury to the greater auricular nerve can rarely occur causing temporary or even permanent numbness of the ear.

What should you expect during recovery?

All information below is based on an average patient including 2 standard deviations i.e. – 95% of all patients. Some patients fall outside these descriptions and have a better or worse recovery than the average patient for unexplained reasons.

Pain – not typically problematic in face lifts. Any pain is usually present for 24 hours and is not particularly severe in most instances. Any discomfort is usually behind both ears. There is always tightness across the neck under the chin from ear to ear. The perception of the severity of this tightness varies from patient to patient.

Drains – these are placed behind the ears in the scalp and are used to drain the neck area for 24 hours typically, but may be left in place for 48 hours.

Swelling – Steroid dose pack is given for 5 days and minimizes swelling in the first 48 hours. Maximal swelling typically occurs on the 4th to 5th post operative day as the dose pack is tapered and begins to decrease on day 5 to 7.

Bruising – usually maximizes on the 3rd to 5th day and resolves over 2-3 weeks.

Driving – You can resume driving when you can drive to the level you were able to drive at pre-operatively . . . this decision is is up to you. You must be able to brake and respond quickly. You must be able to quickly and easily turn to eliminate your blind spot. When these conditions are met you may resume driving, typically in the 2nd or 3rd week.

Social Return – Most patients feel comfortable socializing in foreign environments (places and locations they do not usually frequent) at 3 weeks to avoid seeing close friends and acquaintances. At three weeks, healing is still taking place and will still be visible. You should be aware that you will not yet look like yourself for about 6 weeks. I choose a surgical technique that optimizes result, but takes a while to recover. I do not know of shortcuts to success, and will not hide the facts of recovery.

Depression – It is not unusual for patients, no matter how stable and solid, to experience some depression in the postoperative period from about the 1st to the 3rd week. If depression is experienced it is not a sign of weakness, as it may occur with any surgical face change, even when the changes are very positive. We are all impatient and must be reassured. If there is a real problem you can be certain that it will be identified and addressed. An honest explanation of your progress will be given to you at each visit.

How long can I expect the results to last?

A return to social life is most comfortable at 6 weeks. I believe this can be judged when close friends are complimentary of the change. Casual acquaintances may not even be able to tell exactly what change has occurred, but rather proclaim that you look rested or may have even lost weight or changed hairstyles. The difference relates to how much change is needed depending on the degree of aging at the time of face lifting. The more aging is noted at the time of operation, the more dramatic the change. The results can be very positive, but may be unavoidably noticeable. It is important to be honest with your support structure (significant others, husbands, wives, children, and family). I encourage you to bring spouses to the consult, as you will need their understanding and encouragement during the recovery process. It is important for them to understand the recovery process as clearly as you do.

Although 6 weeks is the standard time to return to full social interaction, I tell patients that if I were to take a single photo to submit to some type of theoretical “Plastic Surgery Contest”, I would do so at 6 months as very subtle swelling and relaxation is complete by then. It is also important to realize that aging continues and that every year after that 6 month picture you will appear a year older. Surgery does not stop the aging process. However if you compare your photo with the pre-operative photo it should take 8-12 years to catch up, depending on which portions or aspects of the face you are looking at. Some aspects of the eyes and brows may never appear as aged again depending on the exact procedure chosen.

What are the costs?

We do not feel that it would be appropriate or ethical to post prices for procedures on the internet. We do, however, understand that cost is a factor you must consider. We would be happy to speak with you about this so that you may determine whether the procedure you are considering falls within your budget. Our pricing structure is based on the time, complexity, and surgical costs involved. Please feel free to call our office at 214-823-1978 and speak with Leah for more details.

Click here to see before and after photos of this procedure.