What is a Face Lift Surgery?

Facts about Face Lifts

  • A facelift (English: facelift), or rhytidectomy, is a cosmetic surgical procedure that corrects some of the visible signs of aging on the face and neck
  • Excess facial skin is removed and underlying soft tissue is lifted and repositioned in a more youthful position on the face
  • A facelift does not change your basic appearance. The intervention also does not stop the aging process, but makes your appearance more youthful, “turns back time”. The procedure does not remove any damage to the skin as a result of e.g. UV light, sunlight or smoking throughout life
  • The scars after a face lift are permanent, but they are placed in places where they are least visible and can usually be hidden by the hair
  • It is individual how durable the result of the operation is
  • A facelift lasts approximately 10-15 years. As a rule of thumb, it can be said that it makes the person approx. 10 years younger if you are more than 50 years old

Legislation for cosmetic surgery

You must be 18 years old to have cosmetic surgery in South Africa;

What is the purpose of a facelift?

The elasticity and quality of the skin decreases throughout life. The fine wrinkles and folds on the face become deeper. The skin on the face and neck becomes thinner and looser. In some people, the skin ages early due to hereditary factors, but smoking and excessive sun exposure can also contribute to the changes occurring earlier.

A facelift removes excess skin on the upper neck, lower and middle part of the face and lifts the soft tissue in the face to a more youthful location. Thus, the person achieves a more youthful and fresh appearance, which rejuvenates the appearance by approx. 10 years. The operation thus does not change the person’s basic appearance.

The most common reason someone opts for a facelift is because they have “hamster bags”. Hamster pouches are excess skin along the edge of the jaw, especially outside the corner of the mouth. The excess skin causes the transition between the face and neck to become less marked, making one look more aged. During a facelift, excess skin is smoothed out so that the transition between the lower jaw and the neck becomes sharper and thus more well-defined.

A facelift also has a rejuvenating effect on the cheek area under the eyes and on the furrows from the lower part of the nose down towards the corners of the mouth. In contrast, the wrinkles around the mouth are not affected. To get a feel for how the procedure will change the appearance, you can try pulling the skin around the jaw and cheeks up towards the ears with the help of your hands. The excess skin that has been pulled back can be removed by the plastic surgeon.

How does the operation take place?

During the operation, the incision is made from the area of ​​the hair above the ear, down in front of the ear and around the earlobe, up behind the ear and backwards into the hair. The location of the incision and especially the length behind the ear depends on which method is used for the facelift.

More severe age-related changes usually require longer scars. With simultaneous liposuction of the chin/neck and tightening of the mimic neck muscles, a small incision is also made under the chin. To varying degrees, large parts of the facial skin are detached as thin flaps of skin from the underlying soft tissue forward on the cheek and down the neck.

The most important part of the tightening takes place in the tissue that lies under the skin (connective tissue and muscle membranes). Excess skin and fat from the cheeks, chin, ears and neck are removed by the plastic surgeon.

Face lifting can be combined with other cosmetic treatments, such as Botox , laser treatment and fat grafting.

The operation can take 2-4 hours and is performed either under local or full anaesthesia. If it takes place under local anaesthetic, you usually also receive additional sedative and pain-relieving medication through a drip in a vein, also called surgical anesthesia

Results of facelifts

The face lift gives a more youthful appearance because the skin becomes tighter and the wrinkles less visible, but it does not affect the quality of the skin.

The quality of the skin remains as it was before the operation. It is therefore important that you also think about your lifestyle after the operation, especially regarding tobacco and sun habits.

Other cosmetic skin treatments can be performed afterwards to improve skin quality. Many people are surprised that the wrinkles around the eyes do not disappear after a facelift. The operation also does not remove bags under the eyes, wrinkles on the forehead or around the mouth. These changes may also operatively corrected during the same operation. It is therefore important that you have realistic expectations of what a face lift can and cannot do for your appearance. You must of course discuss this with the surgeon who performs the procedure.

After the operation, the face and neck are bandaged to support the tissue and reduce post-bleeding. The bandage is changed the next day. The stitches must be removed after 7-10 days.

How long do the results of a facelift last?

The scars after a face lift are permanent, but can usually be hidden by the hair and natural folds in the skin. It is individual how long the results of a facelift last. It depends on:

  • Hereditary factors
  • Age
  • State of health
  • Skin type
  • Tobacco habits
  • How much sun the skin has been exposed to

A facelift lasts approximately 10-15 years.

Side effects

Immediately after the operation, the face will swell, become tender and there may be discoloration of the skin and bruises as a result of bleeding.

You may experience discomfort and numbness in the skin for a longer period after the procedure. Therefore, be careful and gentle on skin and hair. Avoid the sun during the healing period, as long as the skin is discolored, otherwise permanent pigment changes may occur.

The scars must be protected from the sun for the first 6-12 months. For the first 3 months, they must be protected by using a skin-friendly patch and later with sunscreen.

Painkillers can reduce the discomfort immediately after the operation. Most people feel best not to appear in public until two or three weeks after the operation. Cosmetics can of course help to camouflage the discolouration in the skin in the first period after the operation.

You should expect to take two weeks off work after a face lift.

Possible complications

Complications are rare but do occur.

In connection with a facelift, there is a risk of permanent hair loss, unsightly scars and rough skin.

Damage to the nerves in the face can cause complete or partial paralysis of the movements of the facial muscles.

Damage to small skin nerves often creates a temporary tingling sensation and numbness in the face where the skin has been lifted from the underlying tissue. Most often this goes away or becomes smaller within 6-12 months, but very rarely permanent nerve damage is seen, and perhaps also paralysis of some of the facial muscles, so that you get some asymmetry in the face. Of course, asymmetry can also occur if the intervention on the two halves of the face is not performed equally, or there is a skew in the face for some other reason.

Bleeding and infection may occur. Since loosening of the facial skin in connection with a face lift results in very thin skin flaps, it is of great importance that you do not smoke from 6-8 weeks before the operation and until 6-8 weeks after the operation.

Smoking reduces the flow of blood in the skin flaps. This increases the risk of tissue death in the skin, so that wounds and poor wound healing can occur.


  • Face lifting is not as popular in South Africa as other cosmetic surgical interventions, such as breast augmentation , liposuction and eyelid surgery
  • Eyelid surgery The treatment is most popular with middle-aged people (51-64 years)
  • In South Africa, there are no statistics on the extent of cosmetic operations, but a questionnaire survey from 2003 shows that 318 facelifts were carried out at the 44 private clinics that participated in the survey
  • An estimate will be approx. 500 interventions per year in South Africa, possibly increasing slightly

Who should I contact if I want a face lift?

Facelifts are almost exclusively carried out in private hospitals or private clinics. Which method should be used for the face lift is discussed with the attending surgeon. In the public sector, the facelift technique is also used in certain cases for the correction of people with facial paralysis.

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