A face-lift poses various risks, including:

  • Scarring. Incision scars from a face-lift are permanent but typically concealed by the hairline and natural contours of the face and ear. If you have short hair, you might consider growing your hair before a face-lift to cover your incisions while they heal. Rarely, incisions can result in raised, red scars. Injections of a corticosteroid medication (Kenalog-10) or other treatments might be used to improve the appearance of scars.
  • Swelling and bruising. Expect swelling and bruising for several weeks. Swelling might distort your facial features or stiffen your facial movements. This is a normal part of recovery that typically goes away after several weeks. Keeping your head elevated and applying cold compresses can help.
  • Changes in skin sensation. During a face-lift, the repositioning of your facial and neck tissues can affect superficial sensory nerves. You'll likely feel some numbness in your cheeks, scalp and neck for a few months up to two years.
  • Hair loss. You might experience temporary or permanent hair loss near the incision sites. Areas affected by temporary hair loss will begin to recover in about three months. Permanent hair loss can be corrected by transplanting skin with hair follicles from your scalp to the area or by removing the bare area of skin. If the area of hair loss is large, a portion of your scalp with hair can be moved to the bare area.
  • Facial nerve injury. Rarely, a face-lift can damage the facial nerves. This can result in temporary or permanent weakness of facial muscles due to facial nerve paralysis.
  • Skin loss. Rarely, a face-lift can interrupt the blood supply to your facial tissues. This can result in skin sloughing. Smoking increases the risk of skin loss after a face-lift.

Like any other type of major surgery, a face-lift poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.

A face-lift isn't for everyone. Your doctor might caution against a face-lift if you:

  • Take blood thinners. Use of blood thinners (Coumadin, Plavix, others) can affect the blood's ability to clot and increase the risk of bleeding after a face-lift.
  • Have a medical condition. If you have a medical condition, such as an unusual tendency to bleeding, you won't be able to have a face-lift. If you have a condition that might interfere with your ability to heal after a face-lift, such as uncontrolled diabetes, your doctor might urge caution. If possible, your doctor will work with you to manage your condition in preparation for a face-lift.
  • Have a history of repeated weight gain and loss. Repeated stretching of the facial skin can cause your skin to prematurely become loose again after a face-lift.
  • Smoke. Smoking increases the risk that you'll experience skin loss after a face-lift. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend that you stop smoking before surgery and during recovery.
Aug. 16, 2012