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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.

nucleus fact sheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Reasons for Procedure    TOP

A facelift is done to improve appearance by reducing signs of aging such as:

  • Sagging
  • Deep wrinkles or creases in the skin
  • Misplaced or fallen fat
  • Jowls
  • Loose skin and excess deposits of fat

Possible Complications    TOP

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Unintentional scarring
  • Hematoma—a collection of blood under the skin
  • Nerve injury, which can create muscle weakness or numbness
  • Asymmetry in the face
  • Persistent pain
  • Slow healing
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Corrective surgery
  • Failure to meet your expectations

What to Expect    TOP

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.

  • Talk to your doctor if you take any medications, herbs, or supplements. You may need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
  • Arrange for a ride home and for someone to stay with you for the first night.

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:

  • General anesthesia —you will be asleep during the procedure
  • Local anesthesia—used to block pain, but you will not be asleep

Description of Procedure    TOP

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?    TOP

A few hours

How Much Will It Hurt?    TOP

Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. You will be given pain medication.

Post-procedure Care    TOP

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:

  • Pain medications
  • Antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Medication to prevent blood clots

At Home

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    TOP

Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:

  • Persistent bleeding or drainage from the incision site
  • Signs of infection, including fever, chills, redness, or warmth
  • Pain that does not go away with the medication you were given

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:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 18, 2017.

Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

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