Facelifts and a Guide to Facelift Surgery
A facelift (or a rhytidectomy*) is an aesthetic surgical procedure to address sagging and excess skin on the face. The procedure involves the removal of skin from the face, and the repositioning of muscles under facial skin. In some cases, fat is taken from other areas of the body and used to plump up sunken areas of the face.
Because having a facelift involves surgery, the procedures are always performed in a hospital under general anaesthetic. A local anaesthetic is occasionally also used. Although surgeons will sometimes perform other procedures on the face during surgery, a facelift itself is only performed on the jowls, jawline and cheeks, and takes around three to four hours.
The term Rhytidectomy is formed from Greek and Latin: rhytid means skin wrinkle, and ectomy means cutting out.
Before making an incision, the surgeon will draw a line along the temple hairline, round the front of the ear, and behind the earlobe. This is sometimes extended into the hair behind the ear.
The surgeon then makes his incision along this line. The skin is then separated from the underlying muscle, which is called the Superficial Muscular Aponeurotic System (SMAS). These muscles are repositioned and then stitched tightly to solid fibres around the ear. Fat may also be removed by liposuction at this point of the surgery.
The skin is then stretched back up, over the ear, and the surgeon cuts away the now excess segments of skin from the temple and behind the ear, which draws up the skin covering the neck. The incision is then stitched along the contours of the ear, minimising how much of a scar is visible after surgery.
Drainage tubes may be inserted at this stage. These remove serous fluid and blood. The serous fluid is released by the body as a reaction to having the skin separated from the SMAS. The blood is usually minimal from the surgery. These drains can be in place from a couple of days, and up to a few weeks.
Commonly an overnight stay in hospital is recommended after surgery. After discharge it takes at least two weeks to recover sufficiently to go back to work. However it takes four months before the full effects of the surgery are obvious, and it can take nine months before any numbness from the surgery has completely disappeared.
Click on the boxes below to learn more about the questions you should ask a cosmetic surgeon when deciding to undergo facelift surgery, the risks involved, and the full details on recovering from facelift surgery.