Face-Lift (Rhytidectomy)

Face-Lift (Rhytidectomy)

Surgery Overview

A face-lift is surgery to firm and tighten the skin of the face and neck. It can make you look younger. It may remove many wrinkles, but it does not change the texture of your skin.

You will get medicine before surgery to make you sleep or feel relaxed. The doctor will make a cut along your jawline or in the temple area, near your ear. This cut is called an incision. The doctor will then tighten the skin and the tissue under it. Any excess skin will be removed. The doctor may make another incision under your chin to reposition the skin on your neck.

Sometimes more or fewer incisions are needed. How many you need will depend on your age, the number of wrinkles you have, and other factors. The incisions will be closed and will leave thin scars that will fade with time.

The surgery takes about 3 to 5 hours. After surgery, you may have a drain near the incisions to remove excess fluid. The drain will be taken out in 1 or 2 days. You will probably be able to go home 1 to 2 hours after surgery. But you may have to stay overnight in the hospital or surgery center.

What To Expect

Your face will be bandaged after the surgery. The dressings are usually removed 1 to 2 days later. If a drainage tube has been placed (usually behind the ear), it will also be removed 1 to 2 days after the surgery. Your doctor will remove your stitches in 5 to 10 days.

Your doctor may prescribe medicines to relieve pain after the surgery. Expect your face to be swollen and bruised. Cold compresses can help relieve these side effects. Your doctor may instruct you to keep your head elevated and still as much as possible.

It is important to avoid smoking and even secondhand smoke for 2 to 4 weeks before and after surgery. Tobacco smoke increases the risk for skin and tissue death. It will delay your face's healing process and make scarring worse.

Most people can return to their normal activities 2 to 3 weeks after a face-lift.

At first your face will feel stiff and will probably look and feel strange to you. This is normal, but it's important to be prepared for it.

Numbness of the skin may last for months after the surgery. Your skin may feel rough and dry for a few months. Men sometimes have to shave in new places because the skin has been rearranged. Laser hair removal or electrolysis can be used for beard hairs that have shifted to a new position.

Why It Is Done

Face-lifts are done to make an older face look younger by getting rid of wrinkles, lifting sagging muscles, and tightening the skin.

How Well It Works

Having a face-lift can make your face look younger and healthier. Your face will continue to age, but a face-lift does indeed "take years off" your face. For some people, this may increase self-confidence and reduce anxiety over growing older.

A face-lift can reduce signs of aging to a great extent. But it can't reverse sun damage to the skin or remove all facial wrinkles around the eyes, below the nose, and around the lips. For best results, you may want to have a face-lift and then treat any skin damage.

The effectiveness and safety of your face-lift surgery depends heavily on the skill of your surgeon.


Problems that may be caused by having a face-lift include:

  • Reactions to the anesthesia.
  • Bleeding under the skin.
  • Infection.
  • Damage to the nerves that supply the muscles of the face. This can cause paralysis or spasm in the face, but the effects are usually temporary.
  • Numbness (in areas of your face) that may last 6 months to a year.
  • Hair loss (alopecia).
  • Tissue loss.
  • Scarring.
  • Blood clots in large veins traveling up to the heart and lungs (pulmonary embolism). This is not common.

As with all cosmetic procedures, there is also the risk that the results will not be what you expected. But an experienced plastic surgeon can usually give you a very clear idea of what to expect after surgery.


Current as of: November 11, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Keith A. Denkler MD - Plastic Surgery

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