What's it like: To get a face-lift

A face-lift is a cosmetic surgery that can help restore a more youthful look. However, it does not change your fundamental appearance or stop the aging process.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: April 20, 2013 at 12:39 am •  Published: April 21, 2013

Why get a face-lift?

A face-lift is a cosmetic surgery that can help restore a more youthful look. However, it does not change your fundamental appearance or stop the aging process.

As a person ages, his or her skin loses strength and elasticity. This causes a person's face to show more of the aging process, including sagging in the midface, deep creases below the eyelids or fat that has fallen.

Face-lifts are more popular among women, but more men are becoming interested in the procedure. Some people might try other noninvasive procedures first, such as Botox injections, which work by blocking nerve signals to the muscles where it's injected, keeping the muscles from contracting. Ultimately, though, they might end up choosing a face-lift for more permanent results.

What happens when you get a face-lift?

A face-lift takes between three to five hours. Generally to begin the procedure, you will be placed under general anesthesia and go to sleep.

Each plastic surgeon has a different technique, so the exact details of the operation vary. Generally, your surgeon will start cutting at your hairline and come down in front of your ear. The incision will continue under your ear lobe, behind the ear and into the hairline again. Through that incision, your surgeon will dissect your skin off your face. This is done on both sides.

Once the skin is lifted off your face, your surgeon will work underneath to tighten your facial muscles. For example, if you have “jowls,” or sagging cheeks, your surgeon will remove the fat pads from the cheeks that have fallen with age. Some surgeons will take those fat pads out. Others might sew them near the ears under the cheek bones to hide them, which can cause less bleeding than removing them.

At the end of the surgery, your doctor will put your skin back up over your face, remove the excess skin and sew everything back down.

Does it hurt?

You shouldn't have much pain after your surgery. Your face likely will feel numb for a few days. This can make shaving difficult for men.

You'll want to rest your head on a few pillows for a couple of days after surgery to keep swelling down. Your doctor likely will prescribe a pain medication, but you cannot take any medications that would thin your blood.

What are the risk factors?

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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