For several decades facelifts have been described as the “elusive fountain of youth,” with studies showing that the procedure can take years off of a person’s age with certainty and predictability. (Source). Good surgeons can accomplish even more, leaving their clients looking a decade or more younger. These dramatic results far exceed the capability of any known minimally invasive or non-invasive techniques. However, a facelift will not do anything to remove sun damage or reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Thus, there are limits to the impact that a facelift can actually have on the quality of the skin on and around the face, neck and chest. So many facelift recipients also end up having other work done to help their skin rejuvenate. This can range from energy treatments to injectables.
Facelifts are good to help people remove the signs of age that naturally occur, such as the loss of elasticity and firmness, and the rearrangement of fat deposits. Physical appearance that might be changed from facelifts, as noted by the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Sagging appearance of your cheeks
- Excess skin at your lower jawline (jowls)
- Deepening of the fold of skin from the side of your nose to the corner of your mouth
- Sagging skin and excess fat in the neck (if the procedure includes a neck lift)
Who Gets Facelifts
While every doctor must decide on their own whether a client is a good candidate for plastic surgery, and then help their client through that decision, there are some basic guidelines that can help.
In general, facelift patients should be healthy, have reasonable expectations, and fully understand the risks involved. Serious health issues, depression, heart disease, obesity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption are all indications that the person is not a good candidate. (Source). Beyond that there are other factors, such as vitamins and supplements that could make it more dangerous for someone to have surgery, and certain skin types do better. The best candidates have skin that is elastic and flexible. Also, clients who have the hairline to cover up scars will do better. Clients who are fully aware that facelifts do not stop the aging process and are willing to repeat the procedure down the road, given their skin is in good condition to do so, make good candidates. Some procedures have results that can last a decade and a half, while other less invasive ones can last 2-5 years.
According to data collected by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, brow lifts and eyelid surgery frequently accompany facelifts, as people want their eyes to look young alongside their faces. The data they collect annually indicates that people 55 years and older get 85% of these surgeries. 43% are between the ages of 40-54; 2% are in their 30s and a handful, but not even 1% are in their 20s. 91% of all facelift clients were female.
What Are the Benefits and Costs of Facelifts Compared to Other Alternatives
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ position on facelifts is as follows:
As a restorative surgery, a facelift does not change your fundamental appearance and cannot stop the aging process. A facelift can only be performed surgically; minimally invasive rejuvenation treatments cannot achieve the same results, but may help delay the time at which a facelift becomes appropriate and complement the results of surgery. Some minimally invasive treatments, such as stem cell facelifts, are of unproven benefit.
Full facelifts cost an average of $7,052. Mini facelifts cost $4,752. In the United States last year almost $1.7 billion was spent on these procedures. At an investment of less than $2,000 a year for for a full facelift, assuming a 15 year benefit, these are actually reasonable procedures for those strongly desiring the dramatic and long term difference that they make.
The risks, however, can be significant. These include typical surgical complications as well as rare, but serious long-term potential of complications that can alter looks permanently, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. These include:
- Hematoma. A collection of blood under the skin that causes swelling and pressure is the most common complication of face-lift surgery. Hematoma formation, which usually occurs with 24 hours of surgery, is treated promptly with surgery to prevent damage to skin and other tissues.
- Scarring. Incision scars from a face-lift are permanent but typically concealed by the hairline and natural contours of the face and ear. Rarely, incisions can result in raised, red scars. Injections of a corticosteroid medication or other treatments might be used to improve the appearance of scars.
- Nerve injury. Injury to nerves, while rare, can temporarily or permanently affect nerves that control sensation or muscles. Temporary paralysis of a select muscle, resulting in an uneven facial appearance or expression, or temporary loss of sensation can last a few months to a year. Surgical interventions may offer some improvement.
- Hair loss. You might experience temporary or permanent hair loss near the incision sites. Permanent hair loss can be addressed with surgery to transplant skin with hair follicles.
- Skin loss. Rarely, a face-lift can interrupt the blood supply to your facial tissues. This can result in skin loss (sloughing). Sloughing is treated with medications, appropriate wound care and, if necessary, a procedure to minimize scarring.
Are Less People Opting for Facelifts?
In 2017 there were 125,697 facelifts performed in the United States, down from 131,106 in 2016 and 133,856 in 2000. (Source). These trends are significant but not alarming, for plastic surgeons, as other procedures that make up for lost revenue are on the rise.
Accordingly, breast augmentations, liposuction, and tummy tucks are among them. More people from 20-54 years old are getting cosmetic surgery, both women and men. Every ethnic group except Asian Americans are up as well, and more people are opting for multiple concurrent procedures.
The decline in facelifts can be attributed to the rise in alternative technologies that can enhance looks and youthfulness without the invasiveness. And, while these may not be more effective, they can be more attractive to people because of the reduced risks and costs. So, while there is a decrease in surgical procedures, there is a 200% increase since 2000 in minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, indicating that American Vanity has not decreased, only the appetite to go under the knife. (Source).