by Michael Jubinville, MPH
A facelift is a cosmetic surgery to smooth and firm facial features. It includes the removal of excess fat, skin, and tightening of muscles in the face and neck.
In most cases, a facelift can be done in a doctor’s office or an outpatient facility.
Reasons for Procedure
A facelift is done to improve appearance by reducing signs of aging such as:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do a physical exam, imaging tests, or blood tests.
Before your procedure:
Avoid eating or drinking for 8-12 hours.
If you smoke, you will need to stop several weeks before your procedure. Smoking slows the healing process and increases the risk of scarring.
You may be given:
Description of Procedure
The exact procedure will depend on what your needs are. Incisions are often made along the hairline from the temple to the scalp under the ear lobe. The skin will be pulled back to expose the underlying tissue. Fat may be redistributed, removed, or sculpted. The underlying muscles are tightened.
The skin is draped over the reshaped structures. Excess skin will be trimmed away before it is stitched back into place.
How Long Will It Take?
A few hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will be given pain medication.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, you will be brought to a recovery room where the staff will monitor your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing. Recovery may also include:
You will need to keep your head and neck in a neutral and upright position, even for sleeping.
Be sure to follow all your doctor’s instructions about wound care to prevent infection.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons
Facelift. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/plastic_surgery/facelift_85,P01113. Accessed December 18, 2017.
Facelift. Smart Beauty Guide—The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website. Available at: https://www.smartbeautyguide.com/procedures/head-face/facelift. Accessed December 18, 2017.
Facelift surgery (rhytidectomy). American Society of Plastic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Accessed December 18, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD