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What is a facelift?

A facelift, or rhytidectomy, involves the removal of excess facial fat, the tightening of facial muscles and the stretching of facial skin to create a smoother, firmer facial appearance. The procedure takes place on either the face, the neck or both.

Depending on the area of the face or neck where the “lift” is to take place, the surgeon will separate the skin from the fat and muscle. The fat is then removed and the skin is pulled back into place with any excess removed.

Each facelift procedure varies; however, the following are general guidelines for the surgery:

Location options

  • Outpatient surgery center
  • Hospital outpatient (23-hour stay)
  • Hospital inpatient

Anesthesia options

  • General anesthesia
  • Local anesthesia, combined with a sedative (allows the patient to remain awake but relaxed) for adults

Average length of procedure

Several hours or longer, if more than one procedure is being performed.

Possible short-term side effects

  • Significant discomfort after surgery is not unusual
  • Temporary numbness of the skin


Possible complications associated with facelifts may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Nerve Injury - Nerves that control the facial muscles could be damaged. This is usually a temporary post-operative condition.
  • Infection and Anesthesia Reaction - As with any type of surgery, there is a risk of infection and a reaction to the anesthesia.
  • Hematoma - A hematoma, blood that collects under the skin, could occur. They are generally removed by the physician.
  • Slower Healing Process (for some people) - Smokers, in particular, may find that the healing process following a facelift is slower than normal.

Who is a candidate for a facelift?

The best candidates for a facelift are those whose face and/or neck have begun to sag, but whose skin still has some elasticity. The procedure also works best on persons whose bone structure is strong and well-defined.