The first parts of your body that usually get noticed are your face and your neck. They can often be the difference between feeling good or being unsatisfied about the way you look.
There are many things that can cause the skin around your face and neck to age — from sun exposure, to how frequently you smile, to a family history of early or late aging. It’s no wonder facelifts have become the third most popular facial plastic surgery procedure.
Since your skin is regularly exposed to sun, wind, and other elements, it doesn’t matter how many face creams and spa treatments you invest in — your skin will inevitably age.
Your skin may loosen over the face and neck, and you may develop crow’s feet or forehead lines.
The result can make you unhappy with your appearance, but there may be a solution. A facelift, also known as a rhytidectomy, can tighten the skin and get you back to looking how you want.
If it’s not your face that you’re unhappy with, but just the skin around your neck, the solution is not that different. A neck lift — or a lower rhytidectomy — is similar to a facelift, but specifically for the neck.
Facelifts and neck lifts can’t change the structure of your face, and they can’t stop you from continuing to age. But they can create a noticeable change in the tightness of the skin around your face and neck, helping you gain back some of the youthful contours you may have lost with age.
Interested in a facelift or neck lift? Here’s what you should know about what these procedures entail, the possible risks, and the recovery process.
It’s Personal: Is a Facelift or Neck Lift Right For You?
Making the decision to undergo any plastic surgery procedure — including a facelift or neck lift — is a highly individual one.
If you’re considering a facelift or neck lift, make sure you meet these criteria:
- You’re unhappy with the way the skin on your face or neck looks
- You’re generally healthy and prepared for the recovery that comes with the surgery
- You have a positive outlook on life and realistic expectations regarding the outcomes of the procedure
- You’re committed to proper follow-up care during the healing process
If you can confidently say yes to all of these, you may be a good candidate for a facelift or neck lift.
If you’re not sure how to answer these questions, a plastic surgeon or your primary care physician can help determine your eligibility.
Preparing for a Safe, Effective Procedure
Proper preparation can help the procedure go as planned and allow a quick recovery. Make sure to ask any questions prior to the procedure to ensure you understand required preoperative instructions, what the procedure involves, what your expected outcomes are, and what aftercare will look like.
Before the procedure, you may be asked to:
- Get a complete medical exam to ensure you are healthy enough for surgery and the recovery process.
- Stop taking blood thinners, as these can cause increased bleeding during the surgery. Do not make any changes to your medication regimen unless instructed by your physician.
- Take certain medications or apply certain facial products to the skin to prepare the body and skin. Your physician will provide you with these instructions.
- Stop smoking, as this can increase your risk of complications during surgery.
The Breakdown: What Happens During a Facelift or Neck Lift?
The basics of a facelift and a neck lift are generally the same, though the incision locations can be different. Here is what you can expect during the procedure:
- You will be given anesthesia — medication that makes you fall asleep so you don’t feel pain during the procedure.
- Your physician will make incisions, which will depend on the type of facelift or neck lift you are getting.
- Your physician will sculpt the fat and redistribute it from the face, jowls, and neck areas, and they may reposition underlying tissue. They’ll also lift muscles at this time.
- Once this is all complete, your physician will re-drape the skin over the new contours and remove any excess skin.
- Your physician will close any cuts with sutures or skin glue. Once healed, the cuts from a facelift or a neck lift are usually concealed by your hairline and the natural contours of your face.
5 Steps of a Facelift or Neck Lift
A limited facelift or neck lift — sometimes called “mini-lifts” — requires shorter incisions. They are for patients with less loose skin because the results aren’t as prominent as a full facelift or neck lift.
Because you will be receiving anesthesia, you’ll need to have someone drive you home from the procedure.
What are the Risks of a Facelift or Neck Lift?
Any surgical procedure comes with risks, and facelifts and neck lifts are no exception. Knowing the risks ahead of time can help you not only in making the decision to undergo these procedures, but also in knowing what to look out for during recovery.
Risks of a facelift or neck lift include:
- Anesthesia and general surgery-related complications, such as bleeding, blood clots, infections, and breathing problems
- Formation of a hematoma — a pocket of blood under the skin that needs to be drained surgically
- Damage to nerves that control facial muscles
- Persistent pain or numbness
- Unpleasant scarring
- Skin discoloration
You should contact your physician with any questions or concerns regarding your recovery.
Recovery at a Glance
After a facelift or neck lift, a bandage may be placed around your face or neck to minimize swelling and bruising. Your physician may also place small tubes around the incisions to collect excess blood or fluid. The drainage tubes will be removed in 1 to 2 days, and the bandages will be removed within 1 to 5 days. Any swelling and bruising should subside within a month.
After a neck lift, it’s important to keep your head above your heart in order to reduce swelling. Having pillows to prop you up while you sleep will help you maintain the proper body position through the night. You’ll also need to avoid moving your head too much, causing your neck to twist or bend. Do not apply ice to the neck as it’s healing because this can impact blood flow and can cause permanent damage to your skin tissue.
Generally, patients don’t experience much pain or discomfort after the procedure. Your physician may prescribe medication to ease pain. It’s also normal to experience a little numbness in the skin, but that will go away within a few weeks or months.
You will receive instructions on how to care for the incisions and take post-op medications. You will most likely need to refrain from vigorous activity, such as exercising, for up to 3 weeks. Many patients are able to return to work within 2 weeks.
It’s also important to follow up with your physician to make sure that everything is healing as it should.
Improvements to your skin will be more noticeable once swelling and bruising subside. When healing is complete, you should not only look rejuvenated and more youthful — you may also feel more confident in your appearance.
Why Choose Stormont
Located in Topeka, Kansas, Stormont Vail Health is a community-driven organization. It offers close to home care and with limited travel requirements, it will be easier for you to get the care you need in a community you trust.
In 2018, Stormont Vail achieved Magnet designation for a third time. Magnet designation is one of the highest awards in nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. Only 9% of US hospitals have earned this recognition. The Joint Commission — with more than 50 years of accrediting hospitals in high quality standards — has also accredited Stormont Vail Hospital.
With several plastic surgeons and a nursing team that’s been recognized for excellence with the prestigious Magnet designation, Stormont Vail Health has an experienced and skilled medical team to help you explore whether a facelift or necklift is right for you.