Facelift Types and Techniques: A Comprehensive Guide

A facelift, also known as a rhytidectomy, is a popular form of cosmetic surgery that can help men and women maintain a youthful and vibrant appearance. Thanks to medical science and technology advancements, more facelift options are available than ever. 

What is a Facelift?

A facelift is a procedure done to reduce the visible signs of aging in the face and neck. It rejuvenates the facial appearance by removing excess skin, tightening underlying tissues, and redraping facial skin. 

Importance of Choosing the Right Technique

Choosing the right technique influences recovery time, result duration, and patient satisfaction. Understanding the modern facelift techniques, both surgical and non-surgical, is important for optimal results that meet the patient’s aesthetic goals.

Understanding Facial Aging

Facial aging is a natural process influenced by several factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and health. It is characterized by skin laxity, volume loss, and changes in skin texture and tone.

Factors Contributing to Facial Aging

Lifestyle factors, such as prolonged sun exposure, smoking, and poor diet, can accelerate aging. Chronic health issues and some medications can also contribute to facial aging.

Signs of Facial Aging

Common signs of facial aging are sagging skin, wrinkles, and fine lines, volume loss causing hollowed cheeks and sunken eyes, loss of skin tone in the lower face, and loose skin and fatty deposits under the chin and jaw.

Types of Facelift Techniques

Several types of facelift procedures address different areas of the face and varying degrees of aging.

Traditional Facelift

Traditional facelift surgery is one of the most common facelift techniques and facial rejuvenation procedures. It is designed to address advanced signs of aging in the face and neck, including loose skin, deep wrinkles, and sagging facial tissues.

Procedure Overview

During a traditional facelift, the plastic surgeon makes an incision along the hairline, extending from the temples to the lower scalp. An additional incision is placed under the chin if the neck is also being lifted.

After, the skin is then lifted, and the underlying subcutaneous tissue and muscles are tightened. Excess skin is removed, and the remaining skin is redraped over the newly repositioned facial tissues, resulting in a more youthful appearance.

This facelift effectively treats the lower face, including jowls and neck, and can be combined with other procedures for a more comprehensive facial rejuvenation.

Candidates for Traditional Facelift

Ideal candidates for a traditional facelift are individuals with significant skin laxity and sagging in the lower face and neck, deep facial wrinkles, and jowls.

Recovery and Results

During the recovery period, most patients can expect to return to normal activities within two to three weeks after surgery, but results may vary. Choosing an experienced surgeon and following post-operative instructions is essential for achieving the best results. Patients look forward to their traditional facelift results, which often last up to 10 years or more.

Mini Facelift

Patients in their 40s and 50s often favor a mini facelift because it addresses mild to moderate aging signs around the lower face and jowls. This surgical technique is less invasive than traditional facelifts and is ideal for those noticing aging signs but don’t need a comprehensive surgical facelift.

Procedure Overview

During a mini facelift, the surgeon makes small incisions in the hairline and/or around the ears. The surgeon tightens the underlying muscles through these incisions and removes excess skin to restore a youthful facial contour.

Candidates for Mini Facelift

Mini facelift candidates are men and women with light to moderate aging in the lower face and neck without severe sagging or advanced aging signs.

Recovery and Results

The recovery process from a mini facelift is typically quicker than a traditional facelift, with most patients returning to normal activities within a week. The results of a mini facelift can also last up to 10 years.

Thread Lift

A thread lift, or a suture lift, is a less invasive alternative to traditional facelifts and uses temporary, medical-grade suture material to lift and tighten sagging skin.

Procedure Overview

During a thread lift, the plastic surgeon inserts thin threads into the face through tiny incisions made in the targeted area. Threads attached to skin tissue in a thread lift not only lift and smooth the face but also stimulate collagen production, enhancing skin elasticity and tone.

Candidates for Thread Lift

Thread lifts are best suited for younger patients, typically in their late 30s to early 50s, who have mild to moderate signs of facial sagging.

Recovery and Results

The recovery time for a thread lift is usually quite minimal, with most patients returning to normal activities within a week. Because the body gradually absorbs the threads, results are less sustainable than a traditional facelift, typically lasting 1 to 3 years.

Liquid Facelift

A liquid facelift is a non-surgical procedure that uses injectable fillers and Botulinum toxin injections (Botox) to rejuvenate the face.

Procedure Overview

In a liquid facelift, dermal fillers and Botox are used to fill in wrinkles and lines, restore lost volume in fat compartments, and smooth the skin. This non-surgical procedure lifts and contours facial features for a youthful appearance. 

Candidates for Non-Surgical Facelift

Ideal candidates for a liquid facelift are individuals noticing moderate aging signs without severe sagging skin or advanced aging requiring complex procedures. It’s also a good choice for those who are not ready for a surgical facelift procedure or those who prefer outpatient procedures with minimal recovery time.

Recovery and Results

There is minimal downtime associated with a liquid facelift, and most patients can return to their normal activities immediately. Results are temporary and typically last six months to 2 years, depending on the injectables used.

SMAS Technique

The Superficial Musculo-Aponeurotic System (SMAS) technique is a modern facelift technique that targets the layer of tissue just beneath the skin, including the facial muscles and connective tissues.

Procedure Overview

In a SMAS facelift, the plastic surgeon accesses deeper facial tissues via a hairline incision. The surgeon then adjusts and tightens the exposed SMAS layer for a youthful lift, addressing the root of facial sagging.

Candidates for SMAS Technique

The SMAS technique is suitable for individuals with moderate to severe facial sagging and those who have previously had a facelift and need a touch-up procedure.

Recovery and Results

Recovery from an SMAS lift typically takes around two weeks. The results are long-lasting and can make a patient look 10 to 15 years younger.

Deep Plane Technique

The deep plane facelift is considered the gold standard in facelift surgery. This technique allows for the most comprehensive and natural-looking results.

Procedure Overview

During a deep plane facelift, the surgeon works with the deeper tissues of the face, repositioning the whole facial unit instead of just pulling the skin. This technique allows for a more natural-looking result, avoiding the unusually tight, “windswept look” that can sometimes occur with less advanced techniques.

Candidates for Deep Plane Technique

Ideal candidates for a deep plane facelift are those with severe sagging and drooping in the mid-face, neck, and jowl areas.

Recovery and Results

Recovery from a deep plane facelift can take up to a month, with most patients returning to normal activities within 2 to 3 weeks. Deep plane facelifts often last 10 to 15 years.

Choosing the Right Technique

When considering a facelift, it’s crucial to choose the right technique that will best address your specific signs of aging and meet your aesthetic goals.

Factors to Consider

Several things should be taken into account when deciding which type of facelift is best for you. These include:

Age and Skin Condition

Skin condition and age influence the ideal facelift type. Younger patients with minor sagging might benefit from less invasive procedures like mini facelifts or thread lifts, while older patients with severe facial aging signs may need more invasive techniques.

Desired Results

If you are looking for a subtle enhancement, non-surgical treatments or a mini facelift might be the best option. On the other hand, if you desire a dramatic transformation, a traditional facelift or a deep plane facelift would be more appropriate.

Downtime Tolerance

Recovery time differs with each facelift technique. Patients must consider their available downtime for healing, especially for more invasive procedures.

Consultation with a Plastic Surgeon

Before deciding on a facelift technique, it is important to have a detailed consultation with a qualified facial plastic surgeon. At this appointment, the surgeon will assess your facial anatomy, skin condition, and aesthetic goals to recommend the most appropriate facelift technique for you.

Risks and Complications

Like any procedure, facelifts come with potential risks and complications. It’s important to understand these so you can make an informed decision.

Common Risks

Risks associated with facelift surgery include bleeding, infection, poor wound healing, scarring, and changes in skin sensation. More severe signs, though rare, can include nerve damage, skin loss, and complications from anesthesia.

How to Minimize Risks

Facelift patients can minimize risks by choosing a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon to perform the procedure. Following all pre- and post-operative instructions provided by your surgeon can also significantly reduce the risk of complications.

Schedule a Facelift Consultation

To learn more about a facelift, schedule a consultation by calling Donath Facial Plastic Surgery at (513) 891- 5438 or filling out a short online form. Dr. Alexander S. Donath, a facelift expert and double board-certified facial plastic surgeon in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers a wide range of surgical and non-surgical facial cosmetic procedures.