Written by Shawn Candela for Avima.com

The facelift is one of the most-popular cosmetic surgeries, typically undertaken by people hoping to regain a youthful appearance by decreasing age lines and sagging in the face and neck. Thanks to medical improvements over the years, there are now two types of facelifts available: traditional facelifts and mini-facelifts. The primary difference is that a mini-facelift requires smaller, limited incisions; however, it is only beneficial to patients experiencing a minimal amount of facial skin sagging.

Traditional facelift

A traditional facelift begins with the surgeon making an incision at the hairline, usually at a point near the temple. From there, he continues the incision along the front of the ear, below the earlobe, then behind the ear and to the back of the neck, also at the hairline.

In some cases, incisions are made elsewhere as well, in order to allow a more comprehensive adjustment of the skin. Common locations for additional incisions include below the chin and in the lower eyelids.
The surgeon will then use liposuction to remove excess fat in the face and neck through the incision locations. He will also lift and tighten the connective tissues and muscles to give a smoother appearance under the skin.

Once this work is complete, the surgeon will reshape the skin and trim excess skin if necessary to ensure a tight, smooth look.

At this point, the surgeon might insert drainage tubes to keep fluid and blood from building up under the skin. He will seal the incisions with skin glue or sutures. Often, patients are given supportive dressing around the face and neck to help maintain integrity and facilitate the healing process.

Mini-facelift

As with a traditional facelift, a mini-facelift requires an incision in the hairline at temple height, which continues around the ear. That is commonly the extent of the incision needs.

Because of the smaller incisions in a mini-facelift, the surgeon will be limited to removing excess fat and tightening the tissues around the cheeks and jawline.

While a traditional facelift can take three or more hours, a mini-facelift takes about half of that time, and recovery is quicker as well.

Recovery

Swelling, skin discoloration, and numbness are common side effects following a facelift operation. Doctors will typically prescribe pain medication, and patients will receive instructions regarding the proper care of any bandages and of the surgery site. They will be instructed to keep the site as dry as possible.

Patients will also be asked to keep their head elevated and relatively immobile for the first few day after the operation to allow the healing process to continue and reduce risk. If non-dissolvable stitches are used, patients will need to return to have them removed after about five days.

In most cases, it takes anywhere from one to several weeks for a facelift to fully heal.

Considerations

• Not everyone is a good candidate for a facelift. While age is a minor factor, more important criteria include the elasticity and condition of a potential patient’s skin.
• Ideal candidates for facelift surgery are those with good bone structure that will provide optimal support for changes to the face and neck. Those without a well-defined bone structure might benefit from facial implants, either without the facelift or as a support for it.
• Good health and habits are also important, both before and after a facelift. For example, smokers will need to quit the habit before the procedure and ideally will cease from smoking afterward as well.
• Facelift patients are usually instructed not to drink alcohol on the day before the procedure, to get a good night’s sleep, and even to wash their hair before the operation because it helps to limit the possibility of infection.