Face Lift Surgery Results


Valerie DeBenedette, Senior Medical Editor

Valerie DeBenedette is a science writer who specializes in keeping people informed about medicine and their health. She has more than 20 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites and has written about most areas of medicine. For many years, she was a contributing writer to Cosmetic Dermatology and to Drug Topics, the leading pharmacy trade magazine. She also was a contributing editor to The Physician and Sportsmedicine for many years. She has written about most fields of medicine, including dermatology, sportsmedicine, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, and women's health; as well as public health policy and the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, she is the author of Caffeine, a book for young people. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

August 18 2008

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A face lift is not cheap. Even a mini-face lift can set you back a few thousand dollars. If you are thinking of having a face lift, you would be wise to ask how long the results last, but don't assume you will get a hard and fast answer.

There are a multitude of surgeries and cosmetic procedures that are called a face lift these days. They vary both in how much rejuvenation they can give to an aging face and in how long the results last.

The old rule of thumb for a traditional face lift was that the results lasted 10 to 15 years. A traditional face lift has longer incisions on the sides of the face in front of the ears. This procedure adjusted skin and usually the underlying tissue of the face and removed excess skin. Traditional face lifts are still widely performed on people who need a lot of rejuvenation to the mid and lower face and who have a lot of wrinkles and jowls.

The new rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb.

"[How long a face lift will last] is a difficult question to answer," said Yan Trokel, MD, DDS, a maxillofacial plastic surgeon in private practice in New York City. "There are no hard and fast rules."

With a face lift, how long the results last and how good they will be depend on what type of surgery was done, he pointed out. A good face lift should last anywhere from 5 to 10 years, but he said that he has seen faces that have started to sag badly a year after a face lift.

No face lift is permanent. "You are going to continue to age," said Dr. Trokel. Any plastic surgeon who tells his or her patients that the results from their face lift will last for 15 years is doing a disservice, he added. However, having a good face lift "resets the clock" and rejuvenates your face, which means that you will end up still looking younger then you would have if you didn't have the lift in the first place.

Over the last 20 years, the trend has been to do smaller face lifts on people at a younger age, but trends in face lifts have been on a pendulum swing. The first face lifts were simply the removal of excess skin and redraping of the skin on the face, Dr. Trokel said. "Then we became cavalier and started doing all these deep plane face lifts. We started to really understand what happened with aging and, as we became more knowledgeable, we understood that we didn't need big surgery. Then went to other extreme and started doing mini lifts."

One under appreciated factor in the older face is the loss of volume, Dr. Trokel stressed. "What causes excess facial skin? We don't make extra skin. The extra skin is there because we have lost volume." An older face that simply has the skin tightened may end up looking gaunt and drawn. A face is like a balloon. When one is young, the balloon is full. As aging occurs; the balloon deflates and becomes wrinkled. In order to restore the youthful volume, simple cutting and tightening are not sufficient.

"You need to put the volume back and then think about tightening," Dr. Trokel said.

However, the volume that is added has to be the right amount of volume, he added. "Bigger is not necessarily better." A face should have certain proportions that should be maintained. "It is not just about rejuvenation. It is about restoration, rejuvenation, and enhancement," he explained.

Facial aging occurs on every level: bone, muscle, and skin. "When you are doing a face lift, you must always think of the inner structure and start from the inside out, " he said. He compared the process to making a bed: If the underneath layers are not right, the top layer will not look right either.