What Is a Facelift?

Also known as a rhytidectomy, a facelift is an operation performed to remove sagging skin and deep lines and wrinkles from the face and neck. Aging, gravity, and weight fluctuations all contribute to diminished skin tone and facial contour changes. Common changes include excess skin and fat at the neck and jawline, deep smile lines, and muscle banding within the neck. To reverse these changes and achieve a long-lasting result, our experienced plastic surgeons perform a multi-layer procedure. In addition to elevating and redraping loose skin, Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins also lift and reshape the deeper structures that provide far greater and more durable contour improvements. When needed, our doctors tighten neck muscles and often add liposuction to the procedure to remove fat deposits under the chin. Because a facelift is an entirely individualized procedure, the extent of the intervention, including scar length, is adjusted for each patient’s needs and desires. Our doctors often perform facelift surgery in conjunction with other facial procedures to provide complete harmony to a rejuvenated face.

What Can a Facelift Do?

Facelift surgery can be personalized to address the following aesthetic concerns:

  1. Facial skin laxity and sagging
  2. Moderate to deep wrinkles, such as nasolabial folds
  3. Displaced fat and/or facial volume loss
  4. Jowling
  5. Loose skin and extra fat in the under-chin and neck area

Despite its ability to effectively treat these cosmetic issues, it is important to understand that a facelift will not directly correct signs of aging around the eyes or throughout the forehead region. For patients who also wish to address these areas, our plastic surgeons often recommend combining facelift surgery with a brow lift and/or eyelid surgery.

Who Is a Good Candidate for a Facelift?

To determine if you are a good candidate for facelift surgery, your doctor will review your health history and perform an examination during your consultation. Good candidates have reached a stable weight, do not smoke, and do not have medical conditions that prohibit safe surgery and normal wound healing. Your doctor will carefully assess your skin laxity, underlying bone structure, fat deposits, and muscle actions that affect facial expressions. To help understand your goals, we recommend that you bring photographs of yourself from ten to fifteen years ago to the consultation. We will also take preoperative photos during your visit. During the consultation, your doctor will understand your goals and desires, and they will review available techniques and incision sites.

What Should I Expect During the Facelift Procedure?

“Provides patient with realistic expectations of plastic surgery. Trusting and comforting from the first visit to my pre-op to my final appointment.” -J.R.B.

Common incision sites usually begin above the hairline at the temples and extend inconspicuously around the ear. A neck incision is not always necessary and your doctor will make every effort to minimize scar length. Once incisions are made, underlying facial tissue and musculature will be meticulously tightened. The skin is then lifted and pulled tight, and any excess is carefully removed. Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins usually perform facelift surgery as an outpatient procedure under sedation or general anesthesia. Depending on each patient’s specific needs and goals, the entire operation can usually be completed in about three to four hours. If a complementary procedure is also being performed, treatment time may be extended.

What Happens During Recovery from Facelift Surgery?

We may use small temporary drains to reduce bruising, and there may be some mild swelling and discomfort for a few days following surgery. Patients are able to drive after 36–48 hours and can return to work once they discontinue narcotic pain medicine. Most patients feel they are presentable within 10–14 days.

Will I Have Facelift Scars?

Our plastic surgeons are careful to keep facelift incisions as minimal and hidden as possible. Most can be naturally camouflaged within the hairline or behind the ear. As you heal, it is important to take good care of your incision lines to prevent infection or irregular scarring from forming. Any visible scarring typically lightens and softens as healing progresses.

How Long Do Facelift Results Last?

While the results of facelift surgery last longer than results achieved with non-surgical methods, they are not considered permanent. After surgery, your face will continue to age, though most patients typically look younger 10–15 years down the road than they would have if they had not undergone the procedure.

How Much Does Facelift Cost?

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of facelift surgery in the United States is approximately $7,000—though this number is representative of the plastic surgeon’s fee alone. Additional factors that will further influence the total facelift price include the skill/experience of the surgeon, anesthesia and facility expenses, any necessary medications, and even the geographic location of the practice.

At The Aesthetic Institute of Chicago, every facelift is customized to the unique needs and cosmetic goals of the individual, which can cause the price of a facelift to vary from patient to patient. If you are interested in finding out how much your facelift would cost, your plastic surgeon can provide a comprehensive price quotation as a part of your consultation.

How to Choose the Right Facelift Surgeon

When selecting a plastic surgeon to perform your facelift surgery, you should ask the following questions:

  • Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
  • How many facelift procedures do you perform annually?
  • How will you customize treatment to meet my specific needs and goals?
  • What type of pre- and post-operative care do you provide?
  • Where will the procedure be performed? (If not in a hospital, make sure the facility is AAAASF-accredited)
  • Can I see before-and-after photos of previous patients?

Your prospective doctor should be completely open and forthcoming about all information regarding the facelift procedure. If you do not feel comfortable with the doctor’s answers to these questions (or any other questions you ask), do not hesitate to continue your search for the right facelift surgeon. In the end, you should feel completely confident in your decision before moving forward with treatment.

Can I Get a Facelift Without Surgery?

The degree to which facelift surgery rejuvenates the face cannot be matched by a non-surgical treatment. That said, some individuals who do not need and/or desire to undergo a surgical procedure may benefit from the combination of various injectable treatments designed to treat different signs of aging (known as a liquid facelift). Again, however, the enhancement achieved via this method will not typically match the quality that can be attained with facelift surgery. In addition, injectables may not be able to treat more notable concerns, and the results will only be temporary.

What Facelift Complications Could Occur?

Serious consequences from facelift surgery are unusual; however, all forms of surgery carry some risk. Some of the potential complications associated with facelift surgery include:

  • Unsatisfying cosmetic result
  • Infection
  • Changes in physical sensation
  • Scarring
  • Hematoma or seroma
    (the accumulation of blood or fluid beneath the skin)

The best way to reduce the possibility of these incidents occurring is to choose an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon to perform your procedure and to follow all pre- and post-operative instructions your doctor provides. Our medical team is dedicated to your comfort, safety, and results, and we will review all the information you need to know to have the best possible experience.

More Facelift FAQs

Our plastic surgeons have provided answers to some of the most commonly asked facelift questions to help you learn more about the procedure:

Am I ready for a facelift?

The best way to find out if facelift surgery is right for you is a facial rejuvenation consultation with one of our plastic surgeons. During the course of your appointment, you can learn about all of the surgical and non-surgical options available for achieving the results you desire.

What is a liquid facelift?

A liquid facelift is a non-surgical facial rejuvenation technique that uses cosmetic injectables and dermal fillers to reduce wrinkles, restore lost volume, and accentuate certain features of the face. This procedure is a popular option for women and men who are beginning to show signs of aging but are not yet ready for—or who do not desire—a surgical facelift. When performed by an experienced plastic surgeon, a liquid facelift can produce excellent, natural-looking results, though periodical retreatment will be necessary to maintain an optimal outcome.

Can I combine a facelift with other procedures and treatments?

Yes, it is possible to combine facelift surgery with other procedures and non-surgical treatments. Most commonly, patients opt to pair a facelift with a neck lift, brow lift, or eyelid lift to achieve a more comprehensive rejuvenation. Injectable treatments like BOTOX® Cosmetic and dermal fillers can also be used to further enhance the results of a facelift, if desired.

Can a facelift produce natural-looking results?

Absolutely. Our experienced plastic surgeons possess the advanced skill and artistry necessary to create facelift results that can help you look like a more youthful, refreshed version of yourself. Every surgical plan is carefully strategized to deliver the proper degree of correction where it is needed to avoid a result that looks overly done or unnatural. Your plastic surgeon will even consult a photograph of you from ten to fifteen years ago to aid in the treatment planning process.

What is the best age for a facelift?

The natural process of aging unfolds differently for each person, and as a result there is no specific age to perform a facelift that is considered ideal. Some patients benefit from facelift surgery in their early 50s while others may not experience significant skin laxity until they’re in their 60s or 70s. Our doctors will review your concerns and let you know if a facelift or another approach can provide the best outcome for your needs and goals.

What facelift recovery tips do you recommend?

To reduce swelling and improve your comfort, you should recline rather than lie down, keeping your head elevated when sitting or sleeping. Cool (not cold) compresses placed on the eyes can also help you feel more comfortable and minimize excessive swelling. We advise patients to remain upright as much as possible to aid the healing process. You may wash your hair after 24 hours, but do so carefully and gently. Do not use a hot blow dryer. Instead, use the cool setting and the cap-style attachment to avoid strong, direct air flow to your face. Try to avoid spending too much time in direct sunlight for the first several weeks. Wear sunscreen and accessories like hats and sunglasses to minimize UV exposure.

What Are Alternatives to Facelift Surgery?

If you are looking for alternatives to facelift surgery, you are in luck. There are various non-surgical options available such as cosmetic injectables, which can typically improve the appearance of your face by restoring lost volume, lessening the effects of wrinkles and amplifying facial contours. However, none can provide the same level of improvement as the surgical facelift. At The Aesthetic Institute of Chicago, our surgeons recommend those with more significant signs of facial aging to consider the impact of a facelift. Unlike non-surgical options, our facelift surgery is able to eliminate sagging, fat deposits, and excess skin near the jawline and lower sections of your face.

Does a Facelift Always Include a Neck Lift?

While many patients can achieve beautiful results with a facelift alone, the procedure often involves adjusting portions of the neck, as well, which is medically known as cervicofacial rhytidectomy. “Cervico” in the medical term for facelift refers to the neck’s involvement in the procedure. This type of facelift typically involves the reduction of excess skin in the face, jowls, neck and areas under the chin. Many of our patients choose to have both a facelift and a neck lift performed in conjunction with each other to maintain a consistent look. When both areas show signs of aging and only one procedure is performed, it can leave an unbalanced appearance. 

How Long Before I Can Exercise After Facelift Surgery?

Each facelift is different based on the individual patient, so the specifics of the recovery will vary too. Our surgeons typically like to have patients back to their normal life and regular activities as soon as it is safe to do so. Generally, patients who have received a facelift will be allowed to slowly ramp up exercise about five weeks after their procedure, if they are cleared by our team.

Is a Facelift Different for Men Versus Women?

Based on skin thickness, preexisting facial structures, and aesthetic preferences, the facelift procedures will differ for men and women. However, most facelift operations are different from individual to individual regardless of gender. At The Aesthetic Institute of Chicago, our surgeons design a treatment plan based solely on each patient’s specific and unique needs.

For more information about facelift surgery or to schedule a consultation at our Chicago plastic surgery practice, please contact us via email or call (312) 361-8108 today.