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What is a facelift?

Image: Women Looking at Face in Mirror

A facelift is the surgical correction and improvement of the signs of aging on the face and neck. Your face and neck are often the first places where signs of aging appear. Most people seek a facelift for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons. Your doctor may also recommend this procedure as part of a medically necessary facial reconstruction.

A facelift is a common but major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive cosmetic or treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your choices before having a facelift. 

Types of facelift

There are many facelift techniques. The basic types of facelift include:

  • Traditional facelift incisions start at your temple, run down in front and around your ear, and end in your lower scalp. This is usually one continuous cut. Your surgeon can redistribute fat, reposition deep tissues, lift muscles, and trim excess skin. He or she may also make an additional incision under your chin.
  • Limited incision facelift involves smaller cuts than a traditional facelift. The incisions may be located at your temple, around your ear, within the lower eyelids, and under your upper lip.
  • Neck lift incisions usually start in front of your ear lobe and continue behind your ear to end in your lower scalp. Neck lifts correct signs of aging in your lower face, chin and neck.

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to a facelift. These include:

  • Brow lift, also called a forehead lift, to tighten sagging skin in the forehead area
  • Eyelid surgery to improve the look of your upper eyelids, lower eyelids, or both
  • Facial implants to augment areas of your face such as your chin, cheekbones or jaw
  • Facial liposuction to remove fatty deposits in the face
  • Resurfacing to improve the texture and tone of your skin
  • Rhinoplasty to repair or reshape your nose
  • Soft tissue augmentation to recontour your facial structure
  • Wrinkle reduction with injections to smooth fine wrinkles
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 12, 2013

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Medical References

Clinical Policy Bulletin: Cosmetic Surgery. Aetna. http://www.aetna.com/cpb/medical/data/1_99/0031.html. Accessed May 4, 2013.
Facelift (Rhytidectomy). American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/head/facelift. Accessed May 4, 2013.
Facelift Surgery. American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. http://www.aafprs.org/patient/procedures/rhytidectomy.html. Accessed May 4, 2013.
Facelift Surgery: Rhytidectomy. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/facelift.html. Accessed May 4, 2013.
Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed May 4, 2013.
Rhytidectomy and/or Cervicoplasty With or Without Liposuction and/or Platysmaplasty. Independence Blue Cross. http://medpolicy.ibx.com/policies/mpi.nsf/e94faffabc7b0da68525695e0068df65/7D2401BBCF1C797B852578FE004BDDF6?OpenDocument. Accessed May 4, 2013.

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