Face lift surgery, also known as rhytidectomy, is one of the most coveted plastic surgery operations in the world. It is performed to improve the physical signs of aging, which occurs as a natural process.
As humans age and lose their youthful appearance, the toll of time shows on their faces. The fine expression marks on the forehead, for instance, gradually evolve into marked creases and then ultimately deeper folds. The once tight jawline becomes softer and sags, which gives people what is colloquially referred to as a ‘turkey neck’ or double chin.
There is no escaping the factors that contribute to the natural process of facial aging. These include a genetic predisposition that combines with elements such as gravity’s pull, solar exposure, and personal habits, to determine how gracefully or not we will age.
Face lift surgery is done to reverse the marks of time. However, it cannot entirely stop the process of aging and the surgery itself will not alter one’s fundamental appearance. Surgery is the only route to achieve desired results, but may be complemented with non-surgical treatments to rejuvenate the face.
The procedure and types of facelifts
Before a facelift can be done, there are several factors that must be taken into consideration. First and foremost, patients must be suitable candidates for the operation. This means that a patient should have good overall health, well-defined facial bones, supple and flexible skin, as well as realistic expectations.
Skin elasticity is important, because it is tightened during the procedure to minimize wrinkling. An underlying bone structure that is well-defined is necessary for satisfactory results. Most importantly, candidates for the operation should fully understand the limitations involved so that they do not have impractical expectations.
In planning the procedure, the surgeon determines what type of anesthesia will be used in addition to the locations where incisions will be made. If the patient smokes, cessation is strongly advised at least a week or two prior to the surgery and a week or two thereafter.
Together with the patient, surgeons determine the type of facelift that will be used. Traditional face lifts typically offer results that are the most comprehensive and target a larger area of the face and neck. The incisions are thus longer and are popular in patients in their fifth and sixth decades of life.
In contrast to traditional full facelifts, mid facelifts are done to target tissues around the cheeks and eyes with deeper incisions to reach muscles that are not touched during a traditional lift. Moreover, mid facelifts are more suitable for younger patients seeking simple rejuvenation, because they do not address all of the typical signs of aging.
Mini- or weekend facelifts target very small areas, which are mostly the neck, lower cheeks, or jaw, and are more popular among younger patients. Lower facelifts are done on the lower third of the face, while thread facelifts are minimally invasive alternatives to full facelifts. Thread facelifts involves very small incisions to lift underlying facial muscles.
There are many different techniques that may be employed to achieve the various types of facelifts. Endoscopic approaches may be used for all types of facelifts, especially those which involve smaller areas. Endoscopic facelifts require the use of small incisions with the help of a camera and operating tools.
Cutaneous facelifts are another type of technique, which is among the oldest techniques, and are done primarily to correct sagging and the removal of excess skin. Cutaneous techniques have been largely replaced by superficial musculoaponeurotic system (SMAS) facelifts, which are more comprehensive and with more natural-looking results.
Another type of facelift technique is the S-lift, whereby an incision in the form of an S is made near the ear. Results are not as great as other techniques, but the costs for this one are lower and the recovery time is quicker.
It is done mostly for facelifts of the lower face and the jaw. A deep plane facelift is yet another technique done to reach layers that the SMAS technique will not and needs to performed by highly equipped and qualified surgeons, since there is greater risk of nerve damage. Even deeper tissues are reached with subperiosteal facelifts, even though the primary goal remains treating sagging and the removal of excess skin.
After the surgery
Following the surgery there is some pain, which is usually minimal, as well as some bruising and swelling. Keeping the head elevated, together with the application of cold compresses, will reduce the swelling. There are very few complications with regards to facelift surgery, but there are risks, as with any surgery.
Sutures are usually removed within a week, but recovery time may take up to three weeks. Scars are hardly noticeable with the passage of time. If done masterfully, the facelift will result in an appearance which is as naturally beautiful as possible without any signs of the surgery.
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Last Updated: Aug 23, 2018
Dr. Damien Jonas Wilson
Dr. Damien Jonas Wilson is a medical doctor from St. Martin in the Carribean. He was awarded his Medical Degree (MD) from the University of Zagreb Teaching Hospital. His training in general medicine and surgery compliments his degree in biomolecular engineering (BASc.Eng.) from Utrecht, the Netherlands. During this degree, he completed a dissertation in the field of oncology at the Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Wilson currently works in the UK as a medical practitioner.
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