What is a facelift?

A facelift — also called rhytidectomy or facelift surgery — is a cosmetic procedure done by doctors who specialize in plastic surgery. At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, facelift surgery experts tighten wrinkled or sagging skin and muscles to help give you a more youthful appearance.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s board certified plastic surgeons offer a full array of facelift options. These range from nonsurgical skin rejuvenation to “mini facelifts” on just the lower face and neck, or more extensive full facelift surgery. During full facelift surgery, doctors may remove excess fat or perform other procedures, such as a neck lift, forehead lift or nose-reshaping surgery.

Why facelift surgery is done

Aging, exhaustion, sun exposure and daily living can cause deep wrinkles and creases on your face. Over time, these changes may affect how you feel about the way you look. During facelift surgery, our board certified plastic surgeons smooth out wrinkles and folds. This gives your facial features a more rested, refreshed and youthful appearance.

The best age to have a facelift varies, depending on health, personal goals and other factors. Facelift surgery is typically done when individuals are in their 40s, 50s or 60s, when skin is still somewhat elastic. Regardless of age, patients should have no other conditions that affect wound healing or increase the risk of complications.

A facelift may be right for you if your face has a “tired” appearance or changes such as: 

  • Loss of elasticity, tightness and fullness   
  • Sagging skin on your cheeks or other parts of your face 
  • Extra folds of skin or fatty deposits near your mouth and lower jawline (jowls) 
  • Deep wrinkles from the sides of your nose to the corners of your mouth 
  • Sagging skin, creases, folds and fat on your neck

Risks of facelift surgery

Facelift surgery carries some risks, including those associated with any surgical procedure. Examples include a reaction to anesthesia or complications, such as bleeding or infection. Complications are uncommon, and the risk is affected by a person’s medical condition, age, type of procedure and other factors. Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as poor nutrition, inactivity and smoking raise the risk of complications.

Your Ohio State Wexner Medical Center doctors will review and discuss your condition, health history and risk factors. You’ll learn about potential benefits, side effects and risks. Most complications are rare and manageable with the right care, including medical or surgical therapies, if needed.

Risks of facelift surgery include:

  • Hair loss near incision line – temporary or permanent  
  • Hematoma – blood may collect beneath skin within 24 hours of surgery, requiring prompt surgical treatment to protect skin 
  • Infection  
  • Nerve injury  
  • Numbness  
  • Results not as expected   
  • Scarring – permanent, but usually minimal and concealed   
  • Sloughing (skin loss) – a rare complication of interrupted blood flow to tissues, treated with wound care, medical therapy or surgery

Conditions or lifestyle habits that indicate that you are'nt a good candidate for facelift surgery include:

  • Heart and circulatory problems 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Poorly managed diabetes  
  • Repeated weight loss or gain
  • Substance abuse

Facelift surgery – what to expect

When you have a facelift at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, you’re cared for by nationally recognized leaders in the fields of surgery and medicine. Doctors use the most innovative and safe plastic surgery procedures. Whatever type of facelift you have, your care team will guide you through the process. Your surgeon is with you every step of the way — before, during and after your procedure.

How to prepare for your facelift

During your first visit to one of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s convenient locations in Columbus or nearby outpatient clinics, our surgeons meet with you and answer all your questions. Be prepared to talk about past or current health conditions, lifestyle habits and your personal goals, including “before and after” expectations.

Your first visit may include:

  • Review of health history and medical records   
  • Discussion of health and records, including previous plastic surgeries 
  • Questions about lifestyle habits, such as diet and current or past smoking   
  • Consultation about treatment options, goals and expectations
  • Review of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements
  • Physical examination
  • Testing, such as urine and blood samples
  • Information about what to expect, from facelift preparation to facelift recovery
  • Referral to specialists if indicated

Facial exam and photos

Your surgeon will take a number of photos from various angles, including several close-up photos. The doctor closely examines your skin condition, facial shape, bone structure and other things, such as the location and distribution of fat on your face and neck.

During your treatment

Facelift treatments vary depending on the procedure. Your plastic surgeon will discuss your facelift surgery during early office visits. Some procedures, such as skin rejuvenation or mini facelifts, are minor, same-day outpatient procedures. A mini facelift may require general anesthesia or local anesthesia, which numbs just your cheeks, chin and neck.

Doctors perform full facelifts under a general anesthetic in one of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Columbus locations or nearby outpatient clinics. Facelift surgery may take two to three hours. Once you’re moved to an operating room, an anesthesiologist will deliver oxygen and general anesthesia through a mask over your face. You’ll quickly fall into a sleep-like state and won’t feel anything during facelift surgery.

Depending on the procedure, your plastic surgeon may make an incision above your hairline at the temples. It may begin at the front side of your ear or the back of your earlobe. The surgeon lifts and separates skin, tightens muscles and removes excess skin. Doctors then smooth out remaining skin.

If your facelift surgery includes a neck lift, surgeons make an incision, usually beneath your chin. Doctors remove excess skin and fat, and tighten neck skin by pulling it up and back. Your surgeon may use surgical glue or sutures (thread-like fibers) that dissolve, or stitches that are removed at a later office visit.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center's plastic surgeons ensure that facelift incisions are minimal so that scarring is as limited and discreet as possible — often nearly invisible as they blend in with the hairline. 

Doctors apply bandages or dressings to support your face and protect wounds as you heal. They may leave a thin drainage tube to help drain excess fluids as you heal. The drainage tube is painless and will be removed during a routine office visit.

Facelift recovery

After facelift surgery, you can expect some bruising and swelling. Doctors prescribe medication for any pain or discomfort you have. Your care team will talk about proper care to ensure safe wound healing during your facelift recovery.

For a few days, you’ll need facial bandages, and you’ll have to keep your head elevated. You can rest in an upright position during the day. At night, you’ll need to support your head with pillows, so that your head stays a little higher than your chest.

Most people return to their normal daily activities in about 10 days. You’ll have to avoid strenuous activities for at least two weeks after treatment. Within a few weeks, you should begin to see the positive results of your facelift.

How long does a facelift last?

Before surgery, doctors will discuss your condition and how long you can expect your facelift to last. Some people need additional procedures to achieve their desired appearance.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s board certified, skilled plastic surgeons ensure that your facelift is done safely and carefully, which contributes to healthy, long-lasting outcomes. In addition to facelifts and facial rejuvenations, we provide individualized skin care, guided by our aesthetician (skin care specialist), to enhance and extend your results.

Stress, genetics, lifestyle and other factors will also affect your results. Over time, natural aging will still contribute to a loss of facial volume, and sagging or wrinkles after your facelift. To preserve and extend your new appearance, it’s important to take good care of your skin and health. Your care team will discuss proper care during and after facelift recovery.

Why choose Ohio State for facelift surgery?

At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, our experienced, board certified plastic surgeons focus exclusively on plastic surgery procedures and nothing else. You benefit from the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s commitment to delivering high-level care that includes:

  • Plastic surgeons who are recognized leaders in this field with advanced expertise in a wide range of innovative facelift techniques, from full facial rejuvenation to skin renewal for specific facial areas
  • Collaboration with advanced skin care specialists, including an aesthetician, to help you achieve and keep your best possible results
  • Access to care from a leading national health care center with a trusted reputation for academic research and medical leadership
  • Access to the newest, safest, science-supported advances in cosmetic surgery
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