A facelift (rhytidectomy) cannot stop the ageing process, but it can help remove the most visible signs of ageing. By trimming or repositioning excess fat, tightening the underlying muscles, and re-draping the skin of your face and neck, a facelift can make you look younger and fresher. In the process, it may enhance your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Contrary to some misconceptions, a facelift cannot give you a totally different look and nor can it restore the health and vitality of your youth. Before you decide to proceed, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
A facelift operation is good for removing wrinkles, excess fat and excess skin from your lower face and neck area. It does not usually significantly address forehead lines or crow’s feet wrinkles, However an upper and lower facelift can be carried out in conjunction with other procedures such as forehead brow lift, blepharoplasty (eye lid surgery), malar fat lift, neck and lip rejuvenation and skin resurfacing.
Who is suitable for a facelift?
You may be suitable for a facelift if your face and neck have begun to sag but your skin still has some elasticity and your bone structure is strong and well defined. Most patients are in their forties to sixties, but facelifts can be successful with older or younger patients.
A number of facelift operations exist and some patients are better suited for one type of facelift while others may be better suited to a different operation. It is important to define your specific requirements and expectations prior to deciding what procedure to opt for with your plastic surgeon.
The first steps are to define your needs and gather information. Speak to people, read and find out what you can about the procedure. The better informed you are at the time of the consultation, the more meaningful that consultation will be.
What to expect at the initial consultation
At a first consultation, your surgeon will ask you to tell him in your own words what it is that you wish to change about the appearance of your face. It is important to be honest and forthright as surgery is tailored to your specific needs and expectations. Do bear in mind, however, that it is not possible to achieve unrealistic expectations.
In addition, your surgeon will take a full medical history including any previous surgery, cosmetic or non-cosmetic, previous hospitalisation, chronic medical problems, medication and allergies, whether you smoke or not, your personal circumstances, the reasons for wanting the procedure and your goals and aspirations.
The examination will concentrate on your facial features, but also assess your general fitness and suitability for surgery. Routine photographs will be taken.
Following the assessment, your surgeon will discuss all available options and formulate an operative plan, including type of surgery and anaesthesia to be used and cost. Any risks and possible complications will also be discussed with you.
It is important that you are clear what your surgery will entail. Well informed patients cope better with surgery and you have a right to ask any question you want and expect your surgeon to answer with honesty and without the use of jargon. Informed consent for surgery will also be required.
Where does the treatment take place?
You will be admitted as an inpatient to New Victoria Hospital.
A Consultant Anaesthetist will meet you prior to surgery. A facelift usually takes about three to six hours to perform. Liposuction may be used to remove excess fat or to aid skin retraction (shrinkage). Direct fat removal or repositioning may also be performed.
Normally patients spend one night in hospital following the surgery.
What can go wrong?
As your operation will be performed by a fully qualified and accredited Plastic Surgeon under appropriate conditions, a facelift is a safe procedure. In general, complications are rare. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are certain risks and complications, and these will be explained to you at your consultation.
Do I need to make any preparations?
You should cease smoking well before surgery and not start again until the wounds have fully healed, usually 3 weeks after the operation. Although nicotine replacement products such as spray, patch or gum are of great assistance, these products also adversely affect wound healing and should be avoided for the same period.
You will be unable to drive for a day or two following the procedure, so you should arrange for someone to collect you from the hospital.
If your hair is very short, you might want to let it grow before surgery, so that it is long enough to cover scars while they heal. Alternatively it is a good idea to bring a scarf to wear when you leave hospital.
How long does it take to recover?
Following the operation you should be pain free or experience only minimal pain. Painkillers will, nevertheless, be prescribed.
Because of the local anaesthesia injected, you will find that parts of your face will be temporarily weakened and numb following surgery. This should be a short-lived effect and normally pass by the following morning. Most of the scars will be hidden within your hairline and in the normal creases of your skin.
Bandages are removed the next day. If stitches/staples require removal, this will be done at an outpatient appointment one to three weeks later by one of our experienced Plastic Surgery Nurses.
Recovery periods vary between patients, depending on factors such as your general health and the complexity of the operation. In general, you should be up and about in a day or two, but plan on taking it easy for the first week after surgery. You will need to be especially gentle with your face and hair since your skin will be both tender and numb at first.
Each patient will differ, but in general strenuous activity, including sex and heavy housework, should be avoided for at least two weeks, although, walking and other very mild exercise is allowed. You should aim to get plenty of rest for at least two weeks after the procedure to allow your body to heal. You should be able to drive about a week after surgery but please check with your car insurer for your specific conditions of cover.
In the days immediately after surgery, your face may look and feel rather strange. Your features may be distorted from the swelling, your facial movements may be slightly stiff and you will probably be self-conscious about your scars and appearance. Some bruising may persist for 2 or 3 weeks and you may tire easily. By the third week, you will look and feel much better.
Most patients are back at work about 14 days after surgery. If necessary, special camouflage makeup can help to mask any bruising that remains.
How satisfied will I be with the results?
The vast majority of patients are delighted with their facelift - often with results exceeding expectations. However, you should remember that the results may not be immediately apparent. Even after the swelling and bruises are gone, your skin may be thin and might feel dry and rough for several months.
Having a facelift does leave scars, but these scars are usually well hidden in the natural creases of your face and ears. Scars go through various phases in their healing, but after about 6 -12 months they should be settling down to be thin, inconspicuous lines. If necessary, your hair can be styled to hide the scars. Men may find they have to shave in new places - behind the neck and ears - where areas of beard-growing skin have been repositioned.
Although having a facelift can turn back the clock, it cannot stop the clock. Your face will continue to age with time, but, the effects of facelift are lasting and you will continue to look younger and fresher for some years following treatment.
The information included here is provided for general guidance only. Your surgeon will discuss the exact nature of your treatment, including procedure details, recovery times and any possible side-effects at your consultation.