What is a facelift (rhytidectomy)?

If you are thinking about having a facelift, the good news is that great strides have been made in modern facelift techniques. While early facelift operations tightened only the skin, modern facelifts remove excess skin, laxity (looseness) of facial muscle, and excess fat often found in the lower face and neck. The facelift procedure, also known as a rhytidectomy, can improve the contour of your lower jaw or jowls and soften lines from your nose to the corners of your mouth.

A facelift is only one technique that surgeons can use to restore youth and beauty. Once the loose skin, fat, and muscle have been tightened, laser and other peeling techniques can improve the quality of the skin. Your surgeon may be able to perform a facelift with other procedures, including surgery on the forehead, eyelids, or nose. Fat grafting can also be incorporated with facelift surgery.

Who is a candidate for a facelift (rhytidectomy)?

The best candidates for facelift surgery are those patients who demonstrate the signs of facial aging mentioned above, but who still have some skin elasticity. Generally, this includes patients who are in their 40s to 70s, although older patients occasionally are candidates for surgery.

It is extremely important that you are in good general physical and mental health, and it is crucial that you have realistic expectations. A facelift is not meant to completely alter your appearance or make you look like someone else. It is a way to "turn back the hands of time" and restore your once-youthful appearance, but it is not a method to solve personal problems or psychological issues.

It also is important to recognize that not every person needs or is willing to undergo a facelift operation. Younger patients may obtain significant benefit from smaller or more minimally invasive procedures. A mini-facelift or neck lift are alternative options.

Older patients may choose a smaller procedure to address a particularly bothersome area of the lower face or neck. Liposuction (removal of fat using a suction device), neck lifts, and brow lifts are examples of such procedures.

Your consultation

At the consultation, your surgeon will examine your facial proportions and may suggest additional minor changes, such as enhancing the chin with an implant. He or she may also take photographs of you to assess your situation. During this time, your surgeon will discuss what type of procedures would be recommended.

How your facelift is performed is as unique as you are. Everyone ages differently. For instance, environmental factors (such as sun exposure) and certain facial characteristics can make the face age faster. Examples of specific facial characteristics include things like a small chin or overactive forehead muscles.

Your surgeon will ask for a detailed medical history that includes information on diseases that can cause complications. In addition, your surgeon also may ask questions about your emotional and psychological outlook regarding the surgery. Your decision to have a facelift is deeply personal and your surgeon will be there to assist you in the decision-making process.

Improving your skin quality

The facelift repositions muscle, skin, and fat. Additional procedures such as laser skin resurfacing or chemical peels can improve the quality of skin that has been aged by the sun. The severity of the skin's aging or sun damage dictates what type of skin resurfacing agent might be suggested. These agents include glycolic acids, Retin-A®, laser resurfacing, or chemical peels.

What is the best choice for you when considering a facelift (rhytidectomy)?

While a facelift is often an excellent procedure to reverse facial aging, additional procedures performed at the same time often enhance the result. In other instances, more minor, alternative procedures may be the best choice. A plastic surgeon can help you understand your options and determine what is right for you.

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