Facelift: What to expect and possible complications (2023)

A facelift, or rhytidectomy, is a procedure in cosmetic surgery that aims to give a more youthful appearance to the face.

It reshapes the lower half of the face by removing excess facial skin.

Rhytidectomy can tighten loose, hanging skin around the jaw line, also known as “jowls.” It can also remove deep creases around the mouth and nose, and excess, hanging skin and fat under the chin and in the neck.

The procedure can also tighten the underlying tissues, and it may be combined with surgery to enhance the forehead, cheeks, brows, and eyelids.

In the United States, 107,261 women and 13,702 men had surgery for a facelift in 2016. Among men, it was the fifth most common type of aesthetic surgery.

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Facelift surgery is usually done as an outpatient procedure. It may involve a local anesthetics and sedatives or general anesthesia.

The procedure can take from 2 to 5 hours, and the person can normally go home on the same day after surgery.

In a traditional facelift, the surgeon makes an incision in front of the ear, extending up into the hair or hairline as well as behind the ear into the hair-bearing scalp.

The surgeon lifts the skin off the deeper facial muscles and fat, gently pulls the skin in an upward and posterior direction, and removes the excess skin. They may tighten the deeper tissues of the face.

(Video) Facelift: What to expect and possible complications - Medical News Today

A small incision, or cut, may be made under the chin to tighten the skin and deeper tissue of the neck. This is known as a neck lift.

The incisions are then closed with sutures and possibly staples. A drain may be placed under the skin behind the ear for one or two days, to remove any excess blood and fluids. Bandages are applied.

Before surgery, the plastic surgeon will review the patient’s medical history.

They will look at:

  • blood pressure
  • blood clotting
  • medications
  • cigarette smoking
  • drug use
  • allergies
  • scarring
  • skin condition

The doctor and patient will discuss what the surgery will involve, where it will take place, the type of anesthesia used, the recovery, and potential complications that may develop.

They should also examine the goals and expectations of the surgery, according to the skin type and bone structure.

New surgical techniques

New methods are continually being developed to improve cosmetic procedures. Many of these procedures claim to make recovery faster and easier, but they are often modifications of a traditional facelift.

Lasers are sometimes used for a neck-lift procedure called laser neck and jaw liposculpture and resurfacing.

The work is often carried out under a local anesthetic, through a one-inch incision under the chin. The laser is used to melt some of the fat under the chin and to tighten the skin while it heals in a more lifted manner.

Endoscopy may be used in face and brow lifts. Using small cameras allows for smaller incisions. This means less trauma to tissues and a faster recovery time.

(Video) The 10 Most Common Complaints during Facelift Recovery

Forehead skin can be raised through small incisions in the frontal hairline. It is then lifted and secured to the deeper tissues to prevent further sagging or drooping.

Liposuction can remove focal deposits of fat in the face, usually between the chin and the neck. It can be done as part of a facelift, or as a separate procedure.

A mini-facelift is a less invasive procedure that also aims to lift the wrinkles and sagging skin in the lower part of the face. Because it involves a smaller, s-shaped incision around the ear, it cannot address neck sagging or excess skin.

Scarring and recovery time may be shorter than in a traditional facelift.

People often combine a facelift with eyelid surgery and other facial procedures.

A facelift aims to create a smoother, more youthful appearance.

The procedure:

  • removes and tightens sagging skin
  • reduces the droop of the cheeks around the jaw line
  • lifts the corners of the mouth
  • reduces the creases between the cheeks and the lips

The incisions in front of and behind the ear are usually not noticeable.

However, there can be some disadvantages.

A facelift does not last forever.

(Video) 10 Most Common Concerns After a Facelift | I Just Had a Facelift and It Looks Scary! |

Research suggests that five and a half years after surgery, 21 percent of facelifts relapse, but that 76 percent of people still look younger than they did before the operation.

In men, it can be harder to achieve a natural appearance after surgery, because they have hair in front of their ears, or sideburns. If the sideburns are pulled backward and upward, this can look odd.

In both men and women, a facelift can lead to distorted earlobes.

If too much skin is removed, the face can look pulled-back or startled.

For the best results, a person may need additional procedures, such as a neck lift, eyelid surgery, liposuction, fat injection, removal of cheek fat, forehead lift, brow lift, chemical or laser peel, and cheek or chin implants.

A facelift is expensive. The average cost for a facelift in the U.S. in 2016 was $7,503. It is not normally covered by insurance.

Complications of facelift surgery are infrequent, and cosmetic procedures are generally safe, as long as they are carried out by a qualified and experienced professional.

However, any surgery comes with some risk.

The risks and complications of facelift surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Complications of anesthesia
  • Damage to the facial nerves controlling muscles, usually temporary
  • Hematoma
  • Infection
  • Loss of hair around the incision site, but this is uncommon
  • Numbness, which can improve within days or weeks
  • Scarring
  • Skin necrosis, or tissue death
  • Unevenness between two sides of the face
  • Widening or thickening of scar

If the patient notices inflammation, pain, redness or swelling in the days following surgery, they should seek medical help. This could be a sign of hematoma. If there is a fever, they may have an infection.

(Video) Facelift & necklift complications


However, the following points should be discussed and considered before going ahead:

  • Facelift surgery is not recommended for anyone with serious medical problems, and the candidate should be in good mental and physical health.
  • Patients with high blood pressure and diabetes have a higher risk of complications.
  • Cigarette smoking and tobacco use increase the risk of complications after surgery. It can interfere with wound healing. A person who is considering a facelift should completely stop smoking or using nicotine products.
  • It is important to have reasonable expectations and to remember that a facelift will not stop the overall aging process.
  • Good skin elasticity and bone structure will give the best results.
  • Patients should not use taking aspirin or other blood thinners for at least a week before surgery.

It is important to have realistic expectations when undergoing cosmetic surgery. The results are often permanent.

Most patients experience some discomfort, but medication can relieve tenderness.

Bruising and swelling will be at their worst after 2 days, and they can persist for a few days.

Recovery normally takes around 2 weeks, and vigorous activity can resume after 4 weeks.

Sutures are removed about 5 to 10 days after surgery.

Incisions and bandages must be kept dry, and the patient should follow the specific instructions about bathing and washing.

It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions, as this will speed the healing process and allow for the best possible result.

Numbness and muscle stiffness is normal for some time. Scars can take nearly a year to fade and tone down.

It is worth remembering that while genetics play a role, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and sufficient exercise can also help to maintain the appearance of the skin.

(Video) YOU will probably have a facelift complication...

Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake, stress, sun exposure, and contact with pollutants can all help extend the youthful appearance of skin.

The same habits can help maintain the effects of facelift surgery.


How long does it take to feel normal after a facelift? ›

You may have some itching or shooting pain as the feeling returns. It may take several months for the numbness to go away. Most people recover in 4 to 6 weeks. But it probably will take 6 months or more to see the final result from the surgery.

What can you not do after a facelift? ›

AVOID BENDING OVER OR LIFTING heavy things for one week. Besides aggravating swelling, this may raise the blood pressure and start hemorrhage. AVOID HITTING OR BUMPING YOUR FACE, HEAD AND NECK. It is wise not to pick up small children and you should sleep alone for one week after your operation.

How long does it take for a facelift to look good? ›

In general, the results from your facelift will look very good after about 1-month and you'll look your best at 6 months. A facelift can produce long-lasting results for years to come. And while everyone has a unique aging process, many of my patients don't feel they need more work for 12-14 years.

How uncomfortable is a facelift? ›

There is usually very little actual pain following a facelift, but you may experience a deep bruised sensation as a result of the swelling, and your face may seem heavy. The bandage you will wear the first night may seem quite snug under your chin. Rather than make you feel restricted, we hope it makes you feel secure.

What is the most painful day after a facelift? ›

The first day following your surgery is the day when you may need the most pain medication. Usually, on the second day following your surgery, you will have a follow up visit with your cosmetic surgeon who will check your incisions and evaluate your swelling.

How long do I wear chin strap after facelift? ›

You must wear the chin strap continuously for the first two weeks after surgery except while eating and showering/cleaning incisions. The strap helps fight the forces of gravity immediately after surgery and helps improve any swelling.

How long do I need to sleep upright after facelift? ›

While the recovery timeline can vary from patient to patient, most people are generally able to resume front or side-sleeping after 2 – 4 weeks.

What happens years after a facelift? ›

Many patients develop aging after a facelift in the same way and areas that they developed facial aging initially. Lines will develop around the nose and mouth, the cheeks will lose some of their fullness, and the jawline will eventually soften.

Does a facelift change your eyes? ›

Answer: Facelift

If the facelift is performed correctly, there will be no change in your eyes. Procedures such as eyelid surgery or a browlift will alter the appearance of the eyes.

Does facelift have side effects? ›

Bleeding is the most common side effect of a facelift operation, including hematoma. Nerve injury may also occur sometimes, with both sensory and motor nerves of the face being affected either temporarily or even permanently. Skin necrosis can sometimes occur, the chance of which is greater in smokers.

What happens if you don't wear compression garment after facelift? ›

Without compression, post-op swelling lasts considerably longer, meaning you won't be able to see final results as quickly. Improve overall results.

How long after a facelift can I bend over? ›

AVOID BENDING OVER OR LIFTING heavy things for two weeks. Besides aggravating swelling, this may raise the blood pressure and start hemorrhage.

How can I heal faster after a facelift? ›

Ways to help incisions heal and scars appear less noticeable after a facelift
  1. Keep your head elevated, even when sleeping.
  2. Take multivitamins.
  3. Stay hydrated and eat enough protein.
  4. Use all ointments we suggest.

What is the average age a woman gets a facelift? ›

Not surprisingly, the most common age for a facelift is around 58 or 59, with that age increasingly skewing younger.

Do facelifts ever look natural? ›

When performed correctly by the hands of a skilled surgeon, facelift results can be some of the most natural looking of any cosmetic procedure and can leave you with a rejuvenated and more youthful facial appearance.

Will people notice my facelift? ›

Most people will not notice even major changes to your appearance unless you explicitly tell them about it.

What should you not do before a facelift? ›

Take certain medications or adjust your current medications. Apply certain products to the facial skin preoperatively. Stop smoking. Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding and bruising.

When can I wash my hair after a facelift? ›

In general, you may shower and wash your hair 48 hours after facelift surgery. Use a mild shampoo and be particularly careful around the surgical area. You can also blow dry your hair on a cool setting.

What will I look like one week after facelift? ›

1 Week Post-Op

During the first week after your facelift, you can expect swelling and bruising around your lower face, ears and neck. Swelling may be uneven, so don't be alarmed if your results don't look perfectly symmetrical at this stage.

Why is my smile crooked after facelift? ›

Motor nerve damage affects the movement of the face. Damage to the nerve that moves the lower lip is most common and can lead to a crooked smile, though this only occurs in less than 1% of patients. Full facial movement usually returns within a few weeks.

Can I drink coffee after facelift? ›

Avoid alcohol, smoking, nicotine, and caffeine, for these will dramatically slow down the healing process.

Are ears removed during facelift? ›

Traditional facelift: A traditional facelift surgery involves incisions around your ears, hairline and below your chin.

Can I wear a ponytail after a facelift? ›

If all this is accomplished, it will be very hard for someone to see the scars from a facelift. Patients can wear a ponytail or short hair without the scar being apparent.

Do your ears change after a facelift? ›

While swelling after facelift surgery may initially cause a bit of distortion in your face that may make your ears appear to look “off,” the reality is that no, your ears will not look different.

How often should you shower after facelift? ›

Post-Plastic Surgery Showing Tips

While recovery is unique for each individual, it is generally recommended that showering be avoided for 48 hours after plastic surgery. This allows your incisions time to begin the healing process and helps prevent premature scab removal.

What to know before getting a facelift? ›

Curious About a Facelift? Ask These 7 Questions Before You Decide
  • Should I get a facelift? ...
  • What different types of procedures are available? ...
  • Am I too old for a facelift? ...
  • Are there good and bad candidates for a facelift? ...
  • What questions should I ask my doctor during a consultation? ...
  • How long do facelifts last?
17 Feb 2021

Why am I so tired after a facelift? ›

It is quite common to feel fatigued after surgery, regardless of whether it was a minor or major procedure. This is because your body expends a lot of energy afterward trying to heal.

Why do facelifts fail? ›

Facelifts usually fail because of a surgeon's lack of expertise. 90% of facial plastic surgeons perform superficial facelifts, which tighten the skin and do not treat supportive musculature. Surgeons may also pull facial tissue too tight, which makes patients look startled and unnatural.

What is the best age for a facelift? ›

In most cases, a facelift works best for people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s when signs of aging begin to become prevalent. Deep lines, wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin are the result of the aging process and can be best corrected through surgical techniques rather than non-surgical ones.

What happens to your face 10 years after a facelift? ›

In general, you should expect to look ten years younger and see dramatic, but natural-looking, anti-aging of the face and neck. Facelifts don't stop the aging process, but results are permanent. That means ten years down the line; you can still look a decade younger.

Why do my eyes look smaller after facelift? ›

Answer: Smaller eyes after a facelift surgery

Depending on the laxity of the skin of the lower eyelids it is not uncommon for a surgeon to perform a procedure called a canthoplasty or canthopexy, which can temporarily give the eyes a smaller appearance.

Does facelift lift eyelids? ›

Enhanced aesthetic results: You can see in before-and-after photos eyelid surgery patients that the combination of blepharoplasty and a facelift leads to especially dramatic results. On its own, a facelift doesn't address the upper eyelids or the areas below the eyes.

Can a facelift make you look worse? ›

Volume loss can make the skin sag. Think of the aging face as a gradually deflating balloon which becomes gradually more wrinkled as it loses air. When a facelift is performed on a patient with significant facial volume loss, the end result can be a pulled or unnatural looking face.

Can I smile after a facelift? ›

Normal Smiling Should Return After Two Weeks

Though most patients can usually smile as usual after one or two weeks, it takes others as many as six weeks. The full facelift impact will take a bit longer, from six months to a year.

Can I sleep without my compression garment for one night? ›

The compression garment must be worn 24/7 even when you sleep, you will be only allowed to take it off when you shower. It is recommended to have two garments, so you can have one for change. . Invest in a good quality garment as this influences the outcome of the surgery.

Can I take my compression garment off for one day? ›

Compression garments should be on your body much as possible in the first weeks, but it is safe to remove them for a short time (like during bathing).

Can I take my compression garment off for a few hours? ›

Yes. Wearing a compression garment is the best way to ensure you get your intended results and also prevent critical complications like fluid buildup or inflammation. You'll be able to take off your compression garment for short periods of time like while bathing, but you should wear it according to Dr.

Why is it hard to smile after a facelift? ›

The corner of the mouth/lower lip is pulled down by the depressor anguli oris muscle, which is innervated by the marginal mandibular nerve. This nerve is one of the branches most commonly weakened after a facelift. Usually movement will recover in 6 to 12 weeks, although complete recovery may take longer.

How do you shower after a facelift? ›

Make sure to cover up the incision areas as directed, and to turn away from the shower stream while cleaning yourself. Shower with Lukewarm Water - Hot water and steam can do more harm than good as you heal. Make sure to use cool or lukewarm water when you shower for at least a week or so after surgery.

How long does it take for internal stitches to dissolve after facelift? ›

Dissolvable sutures will disappear on their own within 5-to-7 days. Non dissolvable sutures should usually be removed within 1 week of surgery. Surgical staples used within the hairline, will be removed gradually over several visits.

How long does fatigue last after facelift? ›

Answer: Facelift recovery

Feeling tired five days after facelift surgery is not unusual. Our bodies spend more energy healing after surgery than people realize. Your energy level will return to normal but this can take several weeks.

What is the highest risk plastic surgery? ›

1. Body Lift. Because it is actually several procedures in one, the body lift is considered the most risky for patients. This surgery involves lifting the belly, buttocks, thighs and genitals at once in an effort to improve the overall shape of the body.

How common is nerve damage in facelift? ›

Any operation does at least a little damage to the peripheral sensory nerves. Facelifts are no exception. However, permanent damage to motor nerves should not happen. Return of sensation to the face is almost always complete although it may take months.

Can a botched facelift be fixed? ›

Most unhappy facelift patients can be improved significantly but it requires a surgical revision which they didn't plan for, costs money, and requires another recovery.

What happens to plastic surgery when you get old? ›

A large study examining the ages of plastic surgery patients in the U.S. determined that there was no substantial difference between the outcome of plastic surgeries for people over and under 65.

What age group gets the most plastic surgery? ›

Most Common and Practical Age Range for Plastic Surgery

Of course, we do treat many patients well under and over that age range, but 35-50 is typically the most common.

What is the number one plastic surgery in the world? ›

Breast augmentation

How long does it take for nerves to regenerate after facelift? ›

Facelift: It is normal to experience sensation changes around facelift incision sites for up to 12 to 18 months. Many patients start to get feeling back about three to six months after surgery, but don't worry if it takes additional time to return to normal sensation.

How long does facial paralysis last after facelift? ›

Despite being temporary in most cases, facial asymmetry typically lasts for 3 months. We present a treatment protocol for post-facelift facial nerve injuries using botulinum toxin type A (BTXA).

Why do people look weird after facelift? ›

Windblown Look: caused when the surgeon stretches the facial skin beyond a natural point, making the face look pulled back and unnatural. Visible Scars: poor technique could lead to visible scars near the hairline or the ear, which can be hard to cover with makeup.

Can facelift be done twice? ›

As the natural facial ageing process continues, soft-tissue ptosis, skin laxity and volume loss will reappear. A secondary facelift may be performed to maintain a refreshed appearance. Facelift surgery can be repeated successfully more than once, if required.


1. Risks of Facelift and How to Handle Them
(Austin-Weston, The Center for Cosmetic Surgery)
2. What are the possible complications from a facelift?
(Highgate Private Hospital)
3. What to Expect When Getting a Facelift: The Cosmetic Surgery Journey
(Austin-Weston, The Center for Cosmetic Surgery)
4. Plastic Surgery Complications (and how to avoid them)
(Guy Cappuccino MD)
6. Facelift & Neck Lift surgery - Dr. Julian De Silva - 3D medical animation
(Amerra Medical)
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