When Mini Face Lift Is Enough and When You Need A Full Face Lift

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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.


December 04 2007

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There is a growing trend in cosmetic plastic surgery to do a little less surgery. Surgeons are creating new surgical techniques for people who need just a little bit of lifting here or enhancement there. Doing less surgery—assuming that is what is needed—is safer and can be less expensive than doing a full-scale procedure that might be a bit too much.

This trend has shown up in face lifts, where there are both full face lifts and mini-face lifts. You may need just the small amount of rejuvenation and lift that a mini-face lift can give you. Then again, you might need the help of a more extensive face lift.

What Is the Difference Between a Full Face Lift and Mini-Face Lift?
A full face lift usually involves incisions made around the edges of the lower half of the face. These incisions generally run from just above the ears, down in front of the ears (where they are hidden in natural skin folds there) and then up and behind the ears. The skin of the middle and lower face is loosened and moved and excess skin is removed. Sometimes, the surgeon also moves and adjusts fat and muscle under the skin of the face. A full face lift can correct wrinkles and loose skin from the cheeks and side of the face and the lower face and jaw line.

A mini-face lift, as the name implies, is a cosmetic surgery that lifts less of the face than the full lift. Generally, less tissue is moved and removed than in a full lift A mini-face lift might lift the skin and perhaps rearrange some underlying tissue on the middle portion of the face or the lower third, but not both, the way a full face lift can.

There are several versions of a mini-face lift, and some surgeons use different names for their techniques, such as S-lift. The surgeon uses smaller incisions, usually in front of the ears, and may use some endoscopic techniques (with fiberoptics and miniaturized instruments) to lift and reposition skin and other tissue.

With an S-lift, the surgeon makes an S-shaped incision in front of the ear, in the natural skin fold there. Again, the skin and tissue are repositioned. The effects of this lift are on the jaw line, jowls, and neck.

So the biggest differences between two types of face lift are in the size of the incisions and how much tissue is moved around or removed. "Full face lift" means just that. A full lift can remove more loose or wrinkled skin and tighten the tissues over a larger portion of the face to create a more youthful appearance. A mini-face lift may be just the thing for someone who is younger, is showing fewer signs of aging, or has a localized problem (such as a bit of jowliness on the jaw line or deep nasolabial creases between the nose and corners of the mouth) that are localized.

The Pros and Cons of Mini-Face Lifts Versus Full Face Lifts
Mini-face lifts have two advantages over full face lifts. They cost a bit less, in general, and the recovery time is usually shorter. Some plastic surgeons have referred to mini-face lifts as "weekend" face lifts because the recovery time is shorter. Although all bruising and swelling will not be gone between Friday and Monday, generally healing does take less time.

But there is a downside to getting a smaller procedure. The effects of a mini-face lift do not last as long as those of a full face lift. The revitalizing and rejuvenating effects of a full face lift can last up to 15 years. The effects of a mini-face lift may last about 5 years. However, many people who had a full face lift and are again seeing the effects of time on their face opt for a mini-face lift as a touch up procedure.

Don't assume that "mini" means that the procedure is not surgery. This is considered to be same-day surgery and there are some risks you need to understand.

Are you a candidate for a mini-face lift? The best way to find out is to have a consultation with a board-certified surgeon. He or she will examine your face and suggest just what you need to help you regain a youthful, vibrant appearance.


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