Published by Bupa’s Health Information Team, August 2011.
This factsheet is for people who are having a facelift operation, or who would like information about it.
Facelift surgery lifts up the facial skin and tissues and/or the underlying muscle, to make the face tighter and smoother.
You will meet the surgeon carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.
As you age, your facial muscles loosen and your skin becomes less elastic, creating folds and lines. A facelift operation can give you a more alert and youthful appearance by reducing saggy skin and wrinkles.
A facelift can lift your whole face (a full facelift) or just your brow area, lower face or neck. The effects of a facelift usually last for seven to 10 years. Your face will continue to age. You will get the best results if you maintain a stable body weight, don’t smoke, have skin with good levels of elasticity and good bone structure.
It’s important not to rush into the decision to have cosmetic surgery. Discuss your options with your GP, who may be able to recommend a reputable surgeon or advise you on how to choose a hospital to be treated in.
Before opting for a facelift, discuss with your surgeon what you're hoping to gain from the operation and the results you can realistically expect. A facelift will not affect the fine lines around your lips, for example.
Other treatments may be used either as an alternative, or in combination with, a facelift.
Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your operation. For example, if you smoke you will be asked to stop, as smoking increases your risk of getting a chest and wound infection, which can slow your recovery.
A facelift typically requires an overnight stay in hospital and is usually done under general anaesthesia. This means you will be asleep during the operation.
If you’re having a general anaesthetic, you will be asked to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking, typically for about six hours beforehand. However, it’s important to follow your anaesthetist’s or surgeon’s advice.
Your surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you may have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen, and you can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead, which you may be asked to do by signing a consent form.
Your surgeon will examine your face and may take photographs so that the results of surgery can be compared with your original appearance.
You may be asked to wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots forming in the veins in your legs.
The operation can take up to six hours, but it will depend on exactly what you're having done. The procedure may involve using several different facelift techniques. Your surgeon will explain the options available to you and the type of procedure advised.
A standard facelift helps to tighten the skin on your face and neck from your eyes and ears downwards. Your surgeon will make a surgical cut in your hairline, down past the front of your ears and then up into the hairline again behind your ears. Your surgeon may also make cuts under your chin if you want your jawline lifted.
Your skin is carefully separated from the underlying tissues. Your surgeon will then remove or reposition the excess fat, tighten the muscles or surrounding tissues in your face and then pull back the skin, trimming off any excess. With some techniques, your surgeon may leave permanent stitches under your skin that hold the deep tissues in the lifted position. These may reduce the tension on the skin when it is closed. Your skin is stitched back to the line where the cut was initially made.
A forehead lift helps to reduce frown lines on your forehead and the frown lines between the inner ends of your eyebrows. The procedure is usually done using a keyhole technique and involves making short surgical cuts behind your hairline. Excess fat and skin is removed and the cuts closed with stitches.
A deep facelift helps to tighten the skin in the upper half of your face and around your eyes. The procedure involves making short surgical cuts in your temple and in front of your ears. Excess fat and tissue are removed and the cuts closed with stitches.
You will need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off. You will usually need to stay in hospital overnight.
Your face will be wrapped in bandages. Depending on the exact procedure, these may run under your chin, around your ears and/or over your head. The bandages are sometimes taken off before you go home.
You may have fine tubes running out from the wound, usually behind your ears. These drain fluid into a bag and are usually removed before you go home.
You may also be wearing compression stockings on your legs to help maintain circulation. You will be encouraged to get out of bed and move around as this helps prevent chest infections and blood clots in your legs.
You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. Try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after your operation.
General anaesthesia temporarily affects your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for at least 24 hours afterwards. If you’re in any doubt about driving, contact your motor insurer so that you’re aware of their recommendations, and always follow your surgeon’s advice.
Your nurse will give you some advice about caring for your healing wounds and a date for a follow-up appointment before you go home.
The length of time dissolvable stitches will take to disappear depends on what type you have. However, for this procedure they should usually disappear in about six weeks. Non-dissolvable stitches are usually removed about a week after facelift surgery. Your surgeon will advise you what type of stitches have been used in your procedure.
It usually takes about two weeks to make a full recovery from facelift surgery, but this varies between individuals and also depends on the techniques used, so it’s important to follow your surgeon’s advice.
You may have some facial swelling. Keeping your head propped up when lying down can help to reduce this.
If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Your surgeon will usually advise you not to take any aspirin-containing compounds. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with facelift surgery. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.
Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure.
Side-effects of facelift surgery include:
Complications are when problems occur during or after the procedure.
The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding or developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, DVT).
Complications of facelift surgery can include:
It’s possible that you may not be completely happy with your appearance after facelift surgery. It can take six to nine months to see the full effects of facelift surgery.
For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see Common questions.
For sources and links to further information, see Resources.
A younger healthier looking you. Find out more about our range of non-surgical cosmetic treatments including microdermabrasion and laser hair removal (or call 0845 600 6034).
Call us on 0845 600 6034 for more information or to make a booking with one of our trained cosmetic treatment practitioners.
This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.
Publication date: August 2011
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