What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A face-lift can be done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility. Sometimes the procedure is done with sedation and local anesthesia, which numbs only part of your body. In other cases, general anesthesia — which renders you unconscious — is recommended.

During the procedure

Techniques used to remove facial skin and reposition facial and neck tissues vary depending on your desired results. The specific technique your plastic surgeon chooses will determine the location of the incisions and the resulting scars.

Your doctor might use one or more of the following techniques:

  • Traditional face-lift. Your doctor will make incisions in your hairline starting at your temples, continuing down and around the front of your ears and ending behind your ears in your lower scalp. An incision might be made under your chin to improve the appearance of your neck.
  • Limited-incision face-lift. Your doctor will make short incisions in your hairline starting at your temples and continuing down and around the front of your ears. Incisions might also be made in the lower eyelids or under the upper lip.
  • Neck lift. Your doctor will make incisions starting in front of your earlobes and continuing around behind your ears in your lower scalp.

After making the incisions, your doctor will sculpt or redistribute fat from your face, jowls or neck and redistribute the underlying tissues. He or she might also use a suction technique to remove fat (liposuction). In some cases fat suctioned from other areas of your body might need to be added to specific areas of your face.Your skin will then be draped over the new contours and excess skin will be removed. Stitches or tape will be used to close the incisions.

A face-lift generally takes two to four hours but might take longer if other cosmetic procedures are done at the same time.

After the procedure

After a face-lift, your incisions will likely be covered with bulky bandages that provide gentle pressure to minimize swelling and bruising. A small tube might be placed under the skin behind one or both of your ears to drain any excess blood or fluid.

In the first few days after a face-lift:

  • Rest with your head elevated and take pain medication as recommended by your doctor
  • Avoid exposing your incisions to excessive pressure or motion
  • Don't wear clothing that needs to be placed over your head

Avoid drinking alcohol — which can cause blood vessels to widen and lead to bleeding — for at least two weeks.

Ask your doctor when it's OK to resume daily activities, such as washing and drying your hair, bathing and other routine physical activities.

You'll probably see your doctor the day after your face-lift. The doctor will likely remove your drainage tube, apply antibiotic ointment to your incisions and place new bandages on your face. Two to three days after your face-lift, you'll likely be able to switch from wearing bandages to an elasticized facial sling.

Your doctor will likely remove your stitches during separate visits within five to 14 days after your face-lift. He or she will also carefully check your incisions for ingrown hairs, which need to be removed to prevent infection and inflammation.

Your incisions will crust as they begin to heal. Don't pick at the crusts.

You might prefer to remain home while you're recovering from a face-lift. A week after your face-lift, you can begin using makeup to the edge of your scars to conceal any redness or bruising. Avoid unprotected sun exposure until your scars are no longer pink.

After a face-lift, contact your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Pain on one side of your face or neck within 12 hours of surgery
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeats
Aug. 16, 2012