The term "face lift" is used frequently in our daily conversation. All kinds if things can have a "face lift" - kitchens can have one, so can bathrooms and bedrooms. Your wardrobe can have a face lift, even the subway can have a face lift. The common thread is that we improve the appearance of these things in a general way. But when it actually comes to your face, the term "face lift" has a much more specific meaning.
A face lift operation, or rhytidectomy, is a plastic surgery operation designed to tighten the cheeks, jawline and neck. Because of the common non-surgical use of the term, many face lift patients do not have a very good understanding of what a facelift really is and exactly what it can do.
I find that most appropriate face lift patients are in their 50's or 60's, though some patients in their 40's might benefit. As long as general health issues are stable, there is no upper age limit for patients considering a facelift in my Toronto plastic surgery facility. When done for the right reasons, a face lift provides a wonderful improvement in facial appearance.
I am often asked about face lifts by younger patients who have specific concerns about facial appearance. Unless a patient has significant looseness of skin, there are better ways to enhance appearance with lower risk and quicker recovery. I often discuss fat injection or facial liposuction as an alternative to a face lift procedure.
There are some risk issues with face lifts. Healing problems are the biggest concern - there is no margin for error when dealing with your face! I think one of the biggest factors causing healing complications is cigarette smoking. The chemicals from a single cigarette circulate in your bloodstream for up to 8 hours causing blood vessels to contract and starving the healing skin of oxygen. This can lead to dead skin at the incision line resulting in terrible looking scars when the wound finally heals.
The risks are such that I will not perform a face lift on a patient who smokes. Call me too conservative, but I don't want to see my facelift patients have a lifelong problem which could have been avoided.
There has been a major change in the way face lifts have been performed over the past 5 years. The trend has been towards techniques using shorter incisions with greater reinforcement of the deeper layers. This allows the skin itself to be under less tension allowing a softer, more natural result. Nobody wants the overdone "windblown" look that we sometimes see on the Red Carpet on Oscar night.
These newer approaches require less separation of the skin from the deeper layers, and so healing risks are reduced (but not enough to let you smoke!). The result is faster healing with shorter downtime. I think that this advance in our surgical approach has been nothing short of amazing in providing a better result for our facelift patients while reducing the risks of surgery.