Traditional Face Lift Step-by-Step

Have you ever wondered how they do a facelift? Learn the exact steps involved in what is technically known as a rhytidectomy.


Anesthesia Is Administered

Woman ready for surgical face lift

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The first step in facelift surgery is anesthesia administration. Some procedures are done with general anesthesia, and sometimes a combination of local anesthetic, mild sedatives, and light intravenous sedation is sufficient for patient comfort.

Be sure to discuss your anesthesia options and concerns with your surgeon.


Surgeon Makes Incisions

The surgeon makes the incision behind the ear in the hairline following the natural contour of the ear lobe in the front of the ear and extended to the top of the ear and into the hair.

Most often the incision goes over the edge of the tarsus, the fly of skin and cartilage in front of the ear canal, rather than entirely in front of the ear. Care is taken to position the incision in a natural skin crease so it is camouflaged from view.

Usually, a small incision is also made on the crease beneath the chin to do liposuction and tighten the muscle bands there.


Muscle and Connective Tissue Are Repositioned and Tightened

The surgeon pulls the skin outward to gain access to the underlying muscle and connective tissue. Then they reposition and tighten the tissue, securing it in its new position with sutures and/or tissue glue. Some fat may also be removed or repositioned at this point.


Excess Skin Is Trimmed Away

After tightening of underlying tissues, the surgeon trims away excess skin. Care must be taken to cut precisely to avoid altering facial features or facial proportions, or to create an undesirable look, such as a "wind-blown" appearance.


Incisions Are Closed

The surgeon will use fine sutures, staples, and possibly more tissue glue to close the incisions and promote healing.


Healing Begins With the Application of Dressings

The patient's face will be wrapped in sterile surgical gauze, completely covering the incision sites. These bandages will remain in place for at least one to two days.

In some cases, a drainage tube may be inserted during surgery as well. The drains will usually be removed along with the bandages, a few days following the surgery.

Sutures are generally removed after one week, and the incisions usually visibly completely heal in two to three weeks.


After Care Instructions Are Given

Your surgeon will prescribe pain medication for you and instruct you to keep your head elevated when lying down and to avoid strenuous activity. You should expect some bruising and swelling. Cold compresses can help to minimize swelling. Recovery from face lift surgery usually takes about one to three weeks.