Maybe you’ve started noticing that your cheeks or chin are beginning to droop. Or you have distinct laugh lines — even when you’re not smiling. Or maybe you have an overall feeling of being older than you wish.
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If these changes in your appearance have you wondering “Should I get a facelift?” you should first know that getting a facelift (or rhytidectomy) is both common and can be highly successful, but is not a small commitment.
That’s why there are several things to consider before making the choice to alter your physical appearance permanently, according to plastic and reconstructive surgeon James Zins, MD.
1. Should I get a facelift?
If you’re like most people considering a facelift, you probably don’t want to look like a different person — just a younger and more rested version of yourself.
“Very often, patients come to me saying they don’t want a dramatic change,” Dr. Zins says. “As they’ve aged they look in the mirror and want to get back to the more youthful version of the face they’ve seen in the past.”
You may feel like a cosmetic procedure could make you more competitive. Or maybe you think when you look your best, you’ll feel your best. Or you may have a variety of other reasons — all of which are personal to you.
“Whatever your reason is, remember the key to being happy with a facelift is to do it for yourself, not because of pressure from a spouse, friend or feeling competitive with those around you,” Dr. Zins says. “Situations around may change in time, but your body will always be with you.”
2. What different types of procedures are available?
As you age, your skin becomes less elastic with fat deposits either increasing or decreasing in different parts of your face and neck.
During a traditional facelift, your doctor will make an incision — both in front of and behind your ear. The skin and muscular layer under the skin are then pulled and tightened. The tissues below the skin are altered to redefine the contour of your face to a more desired shape. Then, excess skin is removed before the incision is finally closed with sutures.
Other procedures are similar and focus on specific areas such as the neck, forehead, cheek or jowl.
3. Am I too old for a facelift?
You may start seeing facial changes in your 40s, 50s and 60s.
In all cases a facelift can help fuller jowls and the “marionette lines” between your nose and the mouth.
But you can also have plastic surgery even well into your 80s.
Facelifts, Dr. Zins says, are just as safe for older people as for those who are younger, provided that your doctor screens carefully to avoid potential complications.
4. Are there good and bad candidates for a facelift?
Most people will notice at least some change after a facelift, but some can expect better results. If you start with good bone structure — high cheekbones, a good jaw line and a strong chin — you will likely see more improvement after treatment.
If you have a lot of sun damage, skin that’s lost elasticity, extra skin from weight loss, or a weak chin, the procedure may be less successful.
5. What questions should I ask my doctor during a consultation?
Dr. Zins recommends asking these questions:
- What should I expect from the procedure?
- How much time will I need to take off from work and social engagements afterward?
- Can you show me “before” and “after” photos? The doctor should have a full portfolio of previous clients for your review.
- Can you tailor the operation to my specific needs?
6. How long do facelifts last?
The average facelift lasts about 10 years. After that, your face will start to age again and lose some elasticity and structure. You can follow-up with other procedures after that if you like.
7. What should I expect after surgery?
Your surgeon will remove your bandages just a few days after facelift surgery. Your doctor will then prescribe medication to help with any initial pain. It should only take about three days to feel better, but the swelling and bruising will probably keep you out of work and social situations for about two weeks. You may be asked to come back for a follow-up visit or two after your surgery to address any bruising, swelling and to remove the sutures.
“Because of the time and emotion invested in the procedure, your doctor will want to help you keep your skin in good condition,” Dr. Zins says. “He or she will recommend a skin care program, and you’ll definitely need to plan to minimize your sun exposure.”
If you’re experiencing any undesirable results, talk with your doctor or surgeon.