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Nine Myths About Facelift Surgery

Today’s Facelifts Are All About Natural-Looking Results

Today there are more options than ever for treating the signs of facial aging. These options include Botox and facial fillers, laser skin treatments, and traditional surgery. Of all of these, however, facelift surgery is the gold standard for rejuvenating the face and restoring a youthful and natural appearance.

Since there are so many options other than surgery, there are some misperceptions and myths about facelifts. Our five board-certified plastic surgeons share their insights on the most common myths about the procedure.

Myth #1: You have to be older to have a facelift

There’s no ideal age for a facelift. The majority of facelift procedures are performed on patients between the ages of 40 to 54, but the surgeons at CAPS work with patients of all ages.

Some people experience early onset aging that may be a result of factors including excessive sun exposure, smoking, poor lifestyle habits and genetics. More importantly, everyone’s skin is different and this affects the severity of aging.

We tell our patients that the criteria for being ‘ready’ for a facelift are:
1) Anatomic evidence of facial aging that is reversible with a facelift, such as jowls, neck skin laxity, or neck bands
2) Realistic expectations about what a facelift can achieve
3) Good overall medical health and social support.

Myth #2: There’s only one type of facelift

Every individual has different facial anatomy and characteristics, facial aging patterns and goals for surgery. There are many facelift techniques, but the best method in most cases involves repositioning or tightening the layer under the skin called the SMAS (submuscular aponeurotic system) layer. In addition, restoring volume to the face must be considered for each patient. Many patients also benefit from browlift or eyelid surgery (known as blepharoplasty) in addition to a facelift.

Myth #3: Botox and facial fillers can achieve the same results as a surgical procedure

While injectable fillers and Botox have dramatically changed how we treat the aging face, they do not replace surgery.

Botox works by reducing the movement of certain facial muscle and thus reducing the severity of the associated wrinkles. Unlike a facelift, Botox doesn’t address volume loss, loose skin, lost muscle or fat displacement.

There is a trend toward fillers as an alternative to facelift surgery. Facial fillers like Juvederm help restore volume that declines with aging. Injectables can reduce the appearance of fine lines, shadows, and even add volume to certain areas including the cheeks and lips. These results, however, are temporary and for many patients do not adequately correct the jawline, jowls and loose neck skin. Fillers still have an important role – they are treatment options for patients who may not be ready for facelift surgery or those who only need minimal correction.

Myth #4: Noninvasive facelifts give the same results as a surgical facelift

At CAPS there are many different noninvasive treatments we offer to rejuvenate the face. None of the noninvasive treatments however, can achieve the results that a facelift offers. The best patients for these smaller, noninvasive treatments are generally those who have minimal signs of aging and may not need a facelift. The gold standard for treatment of jowls, neck skin laxity and banding continues to be facelift.

The goal of modern facelift surgery is to create a natural, rejuvenated look to patients so that they look like a younger version of themselves. The procedure typically involves repositioning of deep fat and muscle tissue and may involve volume replacement. For our patients who are not ready for a facelift, we offer several other excellent options, including minimally invasive procedures and injectables.

Myth #5: Facial aging is due to gravity and excess skin

Facial aging has long been thought to a result of excess skin sagging on the face. For a long time, the main way plastic surgeons treated this was tighten the skin with a skin-only facelifts. Since older facelift techniques focused on tightening the skin only, patients who had this type of facelift often had an unnatural, stretched appearance. In some cases, the eyebrows and forehead were also pulled upward, giving a startled appearance.

Two other things happen as you age and skin-only facelifts do not address them:

  • The deeper tissues of the face (fat and muscle) are loosening from their facial attachments and descending, and

  • The volume of the face is decreasing so treatments to correct the aging face should involve repositioning of these deeper structures, and adding volume, as required.

Modern day techniques focus on both lifting the soft tissue and muscle and restoring volume. Experienced surgeons strive to provide a balanced, natural, youthful look. For example, tightening of the layer beneath the skin call the SMAS layer can help re-suspend the cheeks and jowls and tightening of the platysma muscle on the neck and tighten the jawline and loose neck skin.

Fat transfer is a surgical method for restoring volume to the facial fat compartments. Using this alone or in combination with a facelift can give you optimal results. Your surgeon can help you understand if a facelift if right for you and, if so, what kind of surgery would help you achieve your aesthetic goals

Myth #6: Facelifts are only for women

Men and women equally experience signs of aging in the face and both genders can benefit from facelift surgery. Demand for male facelift surgery has increased more than 20% since 2000.

Myth #7: Surgical recovery is long and painful

Years ago, facelift recovery was painful and recovery would take many weeks. Today, however, the recovery is shorter (around two weeks). Recovery is influenced by how well the patient takes care of their skin after the operation and the natural healing ability of the individual. Our experience shows that many patients feel great after a facelift. Most do not even require pain medicine greater than over-the-counter Tylenol. The improvement in self-esteem after seeing themselves in the mirror soon suppresses any discomfort.

As with any surgery, there is an anticipated process for recovery. Depending on the extent of the facelift procedure and the patient’s medical problems, patients are usually back to their normal activities and work by two weeks. Pain after a facelift procedure is usually limited to the first couple of days after the procedure.

Myth #8: A well-performed facelift does not leave scars

All surgical procedures, including facelifts, involve incisions and leave scars. Incisions are typically hidden in natural skin creases and in the hair. When performed by an experienced and meticulous board-certified plastic surgeon, facelift incisions usually heal very well and are inconspicuous. In the majority of cases, patients and their friends and family find it difficult to locate the incision weeks after surgery. Scars continue to soften and improve over the course of a year, but never permanently disappear. Additionally, lasers or intense broadband light (BBL) may take away the redness of the scars earlier instead of waiting months.

Myth #9: A facelift is permanent

After a facelift, a patient will continue to look years younger than they would have if they’d not had the procedure. A facelift, however, cannot stop the aging process and the face will continue to age.

Results vary from patient to patient and most patients can expect their results to last for seven to 10 years. The longevity of a facelift results depends on many variables: history of sun exposure, skin quality, genetics, age, smoking history, and technique used. Smokers generally have poorer skin quality and elasticity. A patient that actively smokes is not a good candidate for a facelift. Older patients will have a quicker onset of postoperative skin laxity compared to younger patients.

Genetics also play an important role. If parents aged early, then it is likely the patient will as well. General health, diet, drastic weight changes, stressful lifestyle and skin type will all influence the outcome and longevity of the facelift.

If you’ve been thinking about addressing signs of facial aging, schedule a consultation with one of our five board-certified plastic surgeons. We’ll help you understand what options might be best for you to put your beauty in all CAPS.