What is a facelift?

A facelift is a surgical procedure that is done on either the face, neck, or both. It involves:

  • Removing or repositioning excess facial fat

  • Tightening facial muscles

  • Trimming or redraping facial skin for a smoother, firmer look

Depending on the part of the face or neck being treated, the surgeon will separate the skin from the underlying fat and muscle. The fat is then removed or repositioned. Stitches are used to raise (elevate) the supporting layers of the face and neck. Then the skin is pulled back into place with any excess removed.

Possible complications linked to facelifts

Possible complications linked to facelifts may include:

  • Nerve injury. Facial nerve injury or weakness may occur along with numbness or changes in skin sensation. This may be temporary or permanent. You may have pain that continues.

  • Infection and anesthesia reaction. As with any type of surgery, there is a risk of infection and an adverse reaction to the anesthesia.

  • Hematoma. This is when blood collects under the skin. A hematoma is generally removed by the healthcare provider. This is done to prevent pressure on the skin and possible injury.

  • Slower healing process (for some people). Smokers, in particular, may find that the healing process after a facelift is slower than normal. Smoking in the time leading up to surgery, or after surgery, can help lead to skin injury and permanent scarring. Your surgeon may decide to not do your surgery if you are currently smoking.

  • Scarring. The scars may not heal correctly. They may be more visible or thicker than desired. This may need more treatment or revision.

Who is a candidate for facelift?

The best candidates for a facelift are those whose face, neck, or both have begun to sag, but whose skin still has some elasticity. The procedure also works best on people whose bone structure is strong and well-defined.

About the procedure

Each procedure will vary. But in general, facelift surgeries follow this process:

Where the procedure may be done

  • Surgeon's office-based surgical facility

  • Outpatient surgery center

  • Hospital outpatient

  • Hospital inpatient

Anesthesia choices

  • General anesthesia

  • Local anesthesia combined with IV sedation. This lets you stay awake but relaxed.

How long will it take?

  • Several hours or longer, if more than 1 procedure is being done.

Some possible short-term side effects of surgery

  • There may be some pain after surgery. But it can generally be controlled with medicine. 

  • Temporary skin numbness

Online Medical Reviewer: David Lickstein MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.