Overview of Face Lift (Rhytidectomy)

As you age, the effects of gravity, exposure to the sun and stresses of daily life can begin to be seen in your face. Wrinkles appear around the eyes and mouth, creases form between the nose and the mouth, the jawline sags and neck skin lax.

Facelift is a cosmetic surgical procedure designed to improve the most visible signs of ageing by removing excess fat, tightening underlying facial muscles and re-draping the skin of your face and neck.

Facelift can be performed alone, however in many instances it is used in combination with other cosmetic procedures such as eyelid reduction, Browlift and laser resurfacing. Facelift alone addresses the middle part of the face and neck and will not change the eyes and brow unless these areas are operated on.

Who is the best Candidate for a Face Lift (Rhytidectomy)?

The best candidates for Facelift are men or women whose face and neck have begun to show visible signs of ageing, but whose skin still has good elasticity and whose bone structure is well defined. Most people opt for this Surgery from age 40 – 60, however it can be performed successfully on people in their 70’s or 80’s as Facelift is a wonderful procedure giving your face a brighter and more youthful appearance. It can have a dramatic effect on your appearance and improve your self confidence and esteem.

What to Expect from a Face Lift (Rhytidectomy)

At the initial consultation, your Surgeon will assess your individual needs based on your expectations and your facial structure and suitability for Facelifting surgery. Remember that a Facelift procedure is used to treat the midface and neck only, you will not get any change in your brow or eyes from Facelift surgery alone.

Be frank in your discussions and remember to mention any medications that you are taking and whether or not you are a smoker.

Face lift surgery is considered a purely cosmetic procedure, therefore you do not require a referral from general practitioner.


Facelift can be performed on its own or in combination with other procedures such as Blepharoplasty, laser resurfacing and Browlift, thus managing other trouble areas at the same time. The Facelift procedure usually takes two to three hours, or longer if you are having the procedure done in combination with other facial cosmetic surgery. Facelift surgery is performed under a General Anaesthetic and requires an overnight stay in hospital.

An incision is made on the side of your face at the hairline, extending along the front of the ear and up into the hairline at the back of the ear. The skin is elevated and the muscles, fat pads and other tissues are lifted and tightened. The neck is tightened and the jowls are elevated. Tightening the muscle as well as the skin produces a longer lasting effect.

The incision line is then sutured and a drain is inserted on each side to drain excess blood and fluid, which collects following surgery. The face is bandaged for a twenty-four hour period. A chin strap is used for support after this time.

In some cases a mini facelift such as a MACS lift, S Lift or New York Lift can be used. These are best performed when there is little or no excess skin to remove from the face.


All surgery carries some risk and uncertainty. It is impossible to predict every outcome because everyone is different. Facelift is normally a safe procedure providing the clients have been carefully selected, the Surgeon is adequately trained in the procedure as well as having training in General surgery.

Complications of Facelift in the short term include infection, haematoma or a collection of blood or serous fluid underneath the skin and numbness in the facial and ear areas.

Longer term complications include persistent numbness of the ear and nerve injury to the branches of the facial nerve which can give weakness in the smile, droopy upper lip, asymmetrical smile, difficulty closing the eye and no movement in the forehead. There is a possibility of skin loss due to breakdown of the suture site. Some facial asymmetry may result following this procedure and thick scarring may occur along the suture line which may require revision.

After Surgery

There is usually minimal pain following Facelift. Any pain can be treated with pain medication, prescribed to you by your Surgeon. Do not take any Aspirin or Aspirin related products as this can cause bleeding, unless otherwise instructed by your Surgeon.

Your face will be bruised and swollen for the first few days. Bruising and swelling begins to dissipate after a week or so. You may be able to return to work after two weeks with the help of camouflage make-up. This oil based make-up is specific for concealing bruising and swelling.

Numbness in the face and ears takes a while to resolve. It is usually gone by four or so months, however may take longer. It is advisable that you gradually resume normal activities at a pace comfortable to you. Don’t be in a hurry to get back to normal. Avoid strenuous activity, including heavy exercise, straining and lifting for at least two weeks. You may commence a walking programme as soon as you feel able. Avoid exposure to the sun and try to abstain from alcohol for the first few weeks as this promotes bleeding.



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