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Face Lift


What you need to know about a face lift:

A face lift, or rhytidectomy, is surgery to remove signs of aging. It can tighten the skin and the underlying tissues of your face and neck.

How to prepare for a face lift:

  • Your surgeon will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery.
  • You may be told to stop certain medicines 2 weeks before surgery. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least 1 night.
  • You may not be able to have surgery if you have a history of smoking. You will need to stop smoking for several months before and after surgery.

What will happen during a face lift:

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. With local anesthesia, you will also be given sedation to keep you relaxed and sleepy.
  • A large incision will be made near your hairline on the side of your forehead. It will extend downward around the front of your ear and circle behind your earlobe. Another incision may be made below your chin. You may need other incisions in different areas. Your surgeon will gently lift your skin and remove or reposition fat and skin in your cheeks and chin. He or she will also tighten the skin between your cheekbones and eyes.
  • A drain may be placed remove extra fluid from the surgery area. The incisions may be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed around your head to cover your ears and chin. It will not cover your eyes, ears, nose, or mouth.

What will happen after a face lift:

  • You may stay in the surgery center or hospital for up to 2 nights. If you go home after surgery, you will need to return the next day.
  • You will need to keep your head and upper back elevated with pillows or rest in a recliner.
  • Keep cold packs on your face as much as possible the first 72 hours after surgery.
  • The bandages will be removed the first day after surgery. The drain is usually removed the first or second day after surgery. The stitches and staples may be removed 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.
  • You will have a lot of swelling and bruising for at least 2 weeks after surgery. It takes about 6 months to see the final result of surgery.

Risks of a face lift:

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may not be happy with the results of your facelift. You may have scars or hair loss. Your face may swell or parts of your face may droop. You may have large bruises caused by bleeding in your face and neck. These bruises can cause tissue in your face and neck to be damaged. You may have pain in your jaw, which may make it hard for you to open your mouth. You may have nerve damage that causes parts of your face or neck to be weak or numb. You may need another surgery to fix these problems.

Call your surgeon if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have trouble moving part of your face.
  • Your lip sags on one side.
  • Your face starts to swell and large bruises appear.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your incision area is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Antibiotics may be given to prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Sleep medicine may be given to help you rest.
  • Nausea medicine may be given to prevent nausea and vomiting.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Keep your head and upper back elevated when you rest. Use a recliner or place extra pillows under your head and upper back when you sleep in bed. This will help decrease swelling. This is usually done for 6 weeks after surgery.
  • Apply ice on your face for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for the first 72 hours. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Ask about activity. Do not lift heavy objects until your surgeon says it is okay. Ask when you can return to your usual daily activities.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage and slow healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Care for your incision area as directed:

You may need to clean the incisions with hydrogen peroxide for the first 5 days. You may also need to use antibiotic ointment on the incision area. An elastic bandage is used at night for the first week after surgery. You may be able to take short showers starting on the second day after surgery. Check your incisions for redness, swelling, or drainage every day.

Follow up with your surgeon as directed:

You will need to return to have your surgery area checked and drain or stitches removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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