How much surgery is required for facelifts?

I would like to buy my wife a facelift for her 61st birthday, which is something I know she will absolutely love, that will make her super happy. But we have a problem: she's a little bit paranoid when it comes to surgery. You see, her sister had a bad experience with a supposedly simple surgical procedure about a decade ago that nearly killed her, although she eventually emerged from the hospital just fine and has been totally healthy ever since. But my wife STILL hasn't fully gotten over it and I'm concerned she might refuse her birthday gift if there is too much surgery involved. So how much surgery IS involved with a facelift? Can anything be done to minimize the amount of surgery required?


M, 65, Connecticut

The amount of surgery required depends on what needs to be done, what the patients wants done, how long a recovery they can accept and how much they can afford to do. Facelift is not a what size fits all surgery. Some combination of lower lid, cheek, jawline and neck surgery is required. Some patients need little neck surgery and some need more. Safety is a separate issue and to assure safety make sure she is medically cleared for surgery by her internist or GP, the operating room is certified, the doctor is certified and has local hospital privileges (in case problems arise) and she has appropriate nursing care after surgery. Also make sure that her sister did not have an adverse reaction to anesthesia as that could be an inherited problem that might be preventable at the anesthesia of your wife independent of the surgery itself.

Aaron Stone has 3 Facelift before & afters:

Facelift before image performed by Dr. Aaron StoneFacelift after image performed by Dr. Aaron StoneFacelift before image performed by Dr. Aaron StoneFacelift after image performed by Dr. Aaron StoneFacelift before image performed by Dr. Aaron StoneFacelift after image performed by Dr. Aaron Stone

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After you’ve surprised her with the gift of a facelift, you'll want to start researching board-certified plastic surgeons in your area who have extensive experience with this type of procedure. Based on your question, it sounds like your top two priorities are ensuring that your wife is on board with undergoing surgery and finding the right board-certified plastic surgeon. You can also check with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) to make sure your surgeon is accredited.

As a rule of thumb you should consult with at least two, and possibly three, plastic surgeons. Compare notes on what they tell you. She may not need a full facelift, there could be lesser procedures to get your wife the look she wants.

Without conducting an in-person exam, I obviously can’t suggest what her best course of action will be. She might get the best results from a brow or neck lift, or might prefer to go for a full facelift. Facelifts, by and large, are invasive procedures, and there will be a difference in the type of anesthesia used, the cost associated with each level of lift, the healing/recovery time, and of course the results. A full or traditional facelift takes approximately two to three hours and is usually performed under general anesthesia. Make sure you and your wife are happy with the surgeon and his/her staff and ask to see a full book of their before and after photos. As a final note, make sure that your wife checks with her sister to see what the root cause of her surgical issues were 10 years ago.

It sounds like you have your work cut out for you. The main variables in this situation are how much surgery it will take to give your wife the look she wants and how she'll react, mentally and physically, to the procedures. All surgery carries some risk and a facelift is no different.

Do you have a primary care physician who can provide information on whether your wife is a good candidate for surgery? Why did her sister have a bad time with surgery ten years ago? Was it a tricky surgery, were there complications due to some underlying medical conditions, did she have a bad reaction from anesthesia? You should make sure your wife checks with her sister as there may be a family history of something that could make surgery riskier.

Once your wife has researched facial plastic surgeons in your area and begins consulting with them, she should discuss the various types of cosmetic procedures they offer and explain exactly what she wants done. They'll likely explain the different kinds of surgical procedures available to her, such as a traditional facelift, a mid-facelift, mini-facelift, lower facelift, and so on.

As you might imagine, the traditional facelift offers the most comprehensive facial rejuvenation. Traditional facelifts are most popular with people in their fifties and sixties, take two to three hours to complete, and are usually performed under general anesthesia. The specifics of the other procedures vary by the areas they address, their cost, and the time spent under anesthesia (some of the more targeted procedures can be done under local anesthesia). Other variables include the cost, the potential for swelling and bruising, and the length of recovery time required.

Robert N. Young has 2 Facelift before & afters:

Facelift before image performed by Dr. Robert N. YoungFacelift after image performed by Dr. Robert N. YoungFacelift before image performed by Dr. Robert N. YoungFacelift after image performed by Dr. Robert N. Young

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The extent of the neck lift operation is tailored to each patient's needs and can range from:

  • A mini lift: a small skin excision from in-front of the ear that slightly tightens the skin along the jaw line and upper neck in younger patients, to 
  • An S-lift: similar to a mini lift with the addition of a subtle tightening of the posterior deeper tissue of the neck (SMAS). This is most appropriate for younger patients, to
  • A lower face and neck lift: an extension of the mini lift that brings the incision higher in front of the ear to the sideburn and further back behind the ear into the hairline to tighten the neck and reposition the deeper soft tissues of the face (SMAS) to efface neck bands, lift the jowls along the jaw line

As I explain to all of my facelift patients - at its core, facelift surgery is a skin surgery. In the right patients under the right circumstances it could be done under local with the patient awake. That being said, it is usually more comfortable to have anesthesia during the surgery.

Recovery from all of the types of facelifts is relatively quick. Even with a full lower face and neck lift, most patients are doing well enough by 1 week to be out in public.

Click the following link for more information on face lift surgery:

A detailed examination will help delineate the best surgical option and provide you a custom quote for your wife's situation.

Consider the gift of scheduling a free, no-obligation phone or in-person consultation for your wife.

Call 518-724-2444 today for more information!



Dr. David M. Tauber, MD - Board Certified Plastic Surgeon -

David Tauber has 1 Facelift before & after:

Facelift before image performed by Dr. David TauberFacelift after image performed by Dr. David Tauber

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Thank you for the question and an evaluation of your wife's face is really needed to say how much surgery might be needed.  That said there are less invasive techniques that can be used and any facelift can be done under local

Dr Corbin

A facelift is usually a 2-3 hour surgery under a general anesthesia. My suggestion is to have a consultation and discuss desired outcomes and options. Perhaps the option of facial fillers and/or in office skin treatments may also satisfy her results without surgery.

A facelift might be the suggested surgery, but there are always options if she doesn't feel comfortable with surgery . Make sure you have an upfront discussion of her concerns. A good plastic surgeon will listen and offer advice

best wishes 

jack Peterson MD

You should concern yourself with the qualifications of the surgeon the the amount of surgery. If you choose a board certified plastic surgeon who specializes in face lifts, you checked on his/her certification, his/her record with the state and local hospitals, established good communication, have a good feeling about the staff, have reviewed photos of his patients. Then go with the recommendation of your surgeon. If after all of that you're uncomfortable with the surgeon, get a second opinion (almost everywhere they're complementary)

Donald Kress has 2 Facelift before & afters:

Facelift before image performed by Dr. Donald KressFacelift after image performed by Dr. Donald KressFacelift before image performed by Dr. Donald KressFacelift after image performed by Dr. Donald Kress

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