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Putting Your Best Face Forward

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Graceful aging means exploring your options

Whether we like it or not, graceful aging requires maintenance. While some folks are genetically predisposed to great skin that doesn’t seem to sag or wrinkle, and others have carefully avoided the sun, let’s face it (pun intended), most of us will eventually wonder why those expensive creams and ointments are not doing what they claim to do. Though we’ve religiously applied and massaged and Botoxed our way through our 20s, 30s, 40s, by the time we hit our 50s, the reflection we see in the mirror seems to sag, crease, fold and pull in ways we never imagined. What in the world is happening, and what in the world can we do about it now?

If this scenario seems familiar, then perhaps it is time for you to at least begin exploring options beyond your drug store counter or your aesthetician’s needle. Perhaps it is time to consider how a rhytidectomy, or face-lift as it is commonly called, could im­prove your looks and self-confidence. What you find may lift not only your face, but more importantly, your spirits. Additionally, you’ll understand why this procedure has become the third most desired plastic surgery in the United States.

Is a face-lift right for you?

As with all plastic surgery, good physical and psychological health and realistic expectations are prerequisites. There are limitations and there is no ideal in a face-lift. Rather, the goal is to improve the overall facial appearance.

As we age, our facial skin loosens and wrinkles along with the muscles of the neck. Sun exposure, weight fluctuations and heredity play a big part in this process. A face-lift can address these problems by firming and tightening the skin of the face and neck all in one-step and is most effective for the lower face (jowls and neck).

However, the texture of the skin will not be changed by a face-lift. Acne scars, age spots, fine lines and smo­ker’s creases will soon return to their original texture no matter how tight the skin is pulled. A face-lift will not give you beautiful skin, unless you already had beautiful skin to begin with. Neither will a face-lift stop aging.

What a face-lift can do is help your face look its best and give you a look of health and a more youthful appearance. Increased self-confidence is an additional bonus. Those whose skin is still relatively supple and who are in good overall health achieve the best results.

What is the procedure like?


Choosing a qualified plastic surgeon is of paramount importance when you are considering surgery to your face. During the preliminary consultation, the surgeon will most likely examine the structure of your face, skin texture, color and elasticity. Photographs will be taken so the surgeon can study your face more in depth. Individual risks will be examined, especially those related to medical situations such as high blood pressure, your tendency to scar, smoking and any deficiency in blood clotting. Your surgeon will take your medical history and assess your mental and emotional attitude. Realistic expectations will be discussed.

The Procedure

The surgeon begins the incision in the area of the temple hair, just above and in front of the ear, and then continues around the earlobe, circling the ear before returning to the point of
origin in the scalp. The skin is raised outward prior to the surgeon repositioning and tightening the underlying muscle and connective tissue. Fat may be removed along with excess skin. For men, the incision will be aligned to accommodate the natural beard lines. No matter the case, the incision will fall into a natural crease of the skin so it will be camouflaged.

After trimming any excess skin, the surgeon will close the incision with fine sutures and/or metal clips, which allow for surgery without shaving the patient’s hair from the incision site. The process can take anywhere from two to four hours. Because the procedure is performed with a combination of mild sedatives, local anesthesia and a mild intravenous anesthesia, the patient’s discomfort level is minimal. Some surgeons opt for general anesthesia for face-lifts. After surgery, the entire area will be dressed to protect the incisions.


More than likely and depending on the length of your surgery and what type of anesthesia was used, no hospital stay is required. You may be allowed to return home within a few hours of the surgery. Patients usually feel and look okay surprisingly quickly after a face-lift. Despite the fact that it is an invasive surgery, there is usually very little pain. Swelling disappears within a few days, and bruises are usually gone by two weeks. Any tightness and numbness should gradually subside within several weeks. Scars will remain pink for a few months before maturing to less visible white scars, and any scars that are not hidden within your hair or normal skin creases can easily be hidden with make-up.

Soon after recovery, you can expect a more rested and often youthful appearance. Although a face-lift can last for years, you will continue to age. Some patients believe that a face-lift helps prevent the skin from sagging again by holding it tighter to the face, but the results are different for each person. Though some people have only one face-lift in a lifetime, others have a second surgery seven to 15 years later.

What are the risks?

Like all surgeries, a face-lift comes with inherent risks. Bleeding from the cut tissues, leading to bruising and possible accumulations of blood under the skin, are unavoidable, but most surgeons can keep these to a minimum. Additionally, infection is a risk with any surgery, but again, this is uncommon.

Other uncommon risks to be aware of include:

• Unfavorable scarring

• Anesthesia risks

• Correctable hair loss at the incision site

• Facial nerve injury

• Facial asymmetry

• Skin loss

• Skin contour irregularities

• Skin discoloration, sensitivity or swelling

How much will it cost?

Since most plastic surgery is not covered by insurance, cost is always a consideration. Though prices can vary greatly, the national average is around $6,000. Many plastic surgeons offer patients financing plans, so be sure to ask.

Are there alternatives or other procedures to consider?

Alternatives to face-lifts can include skin resurfacing, laser skin tightening or facial fillers, which are non-invasive methods for improving skin’s youthful appearance. Other procedures are also sometimes recommended to be performed at the same time as the face-lift. These may include facial implants, brow lifts, eyelid surgery or soft tissue augmentation. Your plastic surgeon can provide you information on whether or not these procedures will be right for you.

With so many options and factors to consider, make sure to do your homework before embarking on this type of procedure. Make sure to fully interview any surgeon you are considering to find out his certification status and level of experience. Ask to see before and after photos, read testimonials and connect with other plastic surgery patients. Taking these steps will ensure a favorable outcome and assurance that you are putting your best face forward.

By Elizabeth Anthony