Purpose of Facial Plastic Surgery

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A rhytidectomy (facelift), is a surgical procedure that is done to change some of the visible signs of aging in the face and neck. A facelift can involve removal of facial fat, tightening of facial muscles, and trimming or redraping of the facial skin to produce a smoother, firmer facial appearance.

A facelift procedure may include surgery on the face, neck, and/or around the ears. This type of surgery does not reduce fine lines and wrinkles or reverse sun damage.

Consulting with plastic surgeon about facial plastic surgery

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A facelift is considered an elective procedure that is done for cosmetic reasons. There are other types of facial plastic surgery that can be done to correct issues such as traumatic injuries and congenital deformities, but these do not involve a facelift.

Read more to learn about the purpose of a facelift surgery, inclusion and exclusion criteria, as well as preoperative preparation prior to the surgery.

Diagnosis Related to Facial Plastic Surgery

Facelifts are performed to reduce some signs of aging in the face and neck.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, the purpose of a facelift is to reduce:

  • Relaxation of the skin of the face that is causing sagging
  • Deepening of the fold lines between the nose and corner of the mouth
  • Fat that has fallen or has disappeared
  • Jowls developing in the cheeks and jaw
  • Loose skin and excess fat of the neck that can appear as a double chin or "turkey neck"


A facelift can only be beneficial if the appearance of the face can be surgically altered to achieve the goals that you are looking for. Sometimes, the desired appearance cannot be attained with a facelift. Certain criteria can help determine whether this surgery would be beneficial for you.

Criteria include:

  • Strong angular bony skeleton with a normal or high positioned hyoid complex (bones of the throat)
  • Minimal facial and submental fat and appropriate facial skin elasticity
  • Smooth non-sun-damaged skin without deep rhytids (skin wrinkles)
  • No substantial systemic disease
  • Psychologically realistic and well-motivated

Some conditions that could make you ineligible for this procedure include:

  • Being an active smoker
  • Going through a life-changing situation
  • Emotional instability
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Obesity
  • Major weight fluctuations or a plan to lose a substantial amount of weight after the surgery
  • Unable to tolerate deep sedation or general anesthesia
  • Not medically cleared for surgery for cardiac or other reasons
  • Active vasculitis or autoimmune diseases specifically related to the facial skin, such as facial scleroderma
  • Taking chemotherapy or a chemotherapeutic type medication
  • A history of full course radiation to the preauricular and infra-auricular neck skin (near the ear)
  • A low hyoid, producing a very obtuse cervicomental angle (the angle between your chin and your neck)
  • Very deep nasolabial grooves
  • Prominent cheek mounds and folds

Tests and Labs

Depending on the type of anesthesia you are having, any underlying medical conditions you have, and how recently you have had a physical examination and routine lab tests, you may need some preoperative testing. These may be ordered by your plastic surgeon or your primary care doctor.

Along with a routine physical, you may have one or more of the following:

Other preoperative diagnostic tests you might need include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This study measures the electrical activity of the heart and can detect abnormalities and arrhythmias or dysrhythmias.

If your preoperative screening indicates that you have a serious or untreated medical problem, that might result in postponing or canceling your procedure.

Pregnancy is a contraindication for facial plastic surgery. On the day of surgery, you may have a urine pregnancy test if there is any chance that you could be pregnant.

Because of the possible emotional and mental stress of having a facelift procedure, some surgeons will also recommend a psychological evaluation to ensure you are ready for the procedure and recovery.

A Word From Verywell

The possible visual and psychological benefits of facial plastic surgery can be life-changing—however, it is important to have realistic expectations.

Undergoing this type of surgery is an incredibly big decision, one that requires deep consideration and thought. This procedure changes your outward appearance and it is often impossible to "re-do" the surgery if you are unhappy with the results.

Fully understanding the purpose of a facelift, surgical risks, and potential complications, as well as all inclusion and exclusion criteria, can help you make an informed decision.

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2 Sources
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  1. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What is a facelift?

  2. McCollough EG, Perkins S, Thomas JR. Facelift: Panel discussion, controversies, and techniques. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2012 Aug;20(3):279-325. doi:10.1016/j.fsc.2012.02.001