Medically reviewed by Dr. John Rosdeutscher – Written by Sine Thieme
Of a wide range of facial rejuvenation treatments, the classic, surgical facelift – aka rhytidectomy – provides the most permanent solution to sagging and aging skin. However, the word “facelift” is often loosely applied to a wide range of scenarios, even for procedures that do not involve any surgery.
Our cosmetic surgery team at NuBody Concepts Nashville and Memphis is here to help make sense of the terminology for the many different types of facelifts you might have heard of.
The Classic Facelift
When narrowly defined, there is only one kind of facelift: the classic surgery that has been performed on patients for decades. Under sedation or even general anesthesia, the plastic surgeon places several incisions, typically along the side of the face hidden under the hairline, removes excess tissue if necessary, and pulls the skin tighter to give the face a more youthful appearance.
Classic facelift surgery mainly targets the lower part of the face including mouth, cheekbones, and the jawline. It can be complemented wit a brow lift or eyelid surgery to give the entire face a fresh look. Sutures from a full surgical facelift are removed in approximately 6-7 days, and patients can usually return to work within 10 days.
Interestingly, there is a marked trend towards younger patients seeking facelifts. What used to be a procedure mainly sought out by patients well into their 60s has become popular among the 40-something crowd. No doubt this has to do with social media and the “Zoom Boom.” It may also be the result of younger women having become so comfortable with less-invasive treatments like injectables and fillers that stepping it up to surgery does not seem as daunting as if you’d never seen a cosmetic surgeon before.
You may have heard of the term “awake facelift.” This is technically not a different procedure, it just means that what used to be performed under general anesthesia – with the patient completely put under – can nowadays comfortably performed under lighter anesthesia while you are awake.
Awake procedures typically use a combination of IV sedation and local anesthesia administered by tumescent lidocaine. This sufficiently numbs the area and sedates the patient to provide comfort and relaxation. This can be complemented by ProNox laughing gas to give the patient even more options to calm anxiety and discomfort.
Other Types of Facelift
The mini facelift or Mini-Lift is a surgery just like a full facelift but uses smaller incisions, mainly hidden by the hairline. These incisions allow the surgeon to perform the basic functions of a facelift, but the results are typically a bit less dramatic. The upside is that a Mini-Lift is less invasive – hence also know as the “weekend facelift” allowing the patient to undergo it on Friday and get back to work by Monday. Mini facelifts are popular among younger individuals who only exhibit early signs of aging and don’t need a full lift.
Note: A mini-lift is also sometimes referred to as the S-Lift, due to the shape that is typically used for the incision.
What many think of as a facelift may in reality be more of a neck lift. Especially in the age of Zoom and social media you may often find yourself looking at your reflection at a slightly downward tilt in mediocre lighting. This can expose neck folds in an unflattering way. Signs of aging often appear in the neck first.
A neck lift can be accomplished either surgically or non-surgically. Neck lift surgery, just like facelift surgery, is accomplished with a few strategically placed incisions under the jawline or towards the ear. The surgeon removes underlying tissues and tightens the skin. A non-surgical neck lift is most commonly – and effectively – done using liposuction and radio frequency assisted lipolysis (RFAL).
Non-Surgical Facelift or Neck Lift
The above mentioned RFAL has rapidly become a leading method for cosmetic surgeries, not just among facial procedures but for the entire body. Known by the brand names BodyTite and FaceTite, and more recently Renuvion, this technology achieves the kinds of results previously only seen with surgery. The neck lends itself particularly well for this minimally-invasive procedure, which allows patients to return to their regular activities within days instead of weeks – and without any sutures or scars.
The jawline is often the focus of a neck lift and both essentially mean the same thing. An ill-defined jawline is typically the result of sagging skin due to aging. This is the area where a minor cosmetic procedure such as FaceTite can have dramatic effects. It may not be necessary to use surgery to improve the definition of your jawline.
This procedure is especially good for revitalizing the area between the jaw and upper neck. Excess fat is removed from the neck via liposuction in order to sculpt the jaw line. This harvested fat can then be used as natural filler, if desired, by injecting it back into the cheek and mid-face area to add volume. This is most appropriate for people with minimal skin laxity as skin is not removed with this procedure.
A mid-face lift targets specifically the hollowed cheekbones and the bags typically developing under the eyes during middle age. It repositions the fat pads in the cheeks over the cheekbones while tightening the skin in the area. Non-surgical methods can also be employed to achieve a similar effect as surgery.
A cutaneous lift is a facelift in which only the skin is tightened without touching the underlying muscles like a full facelift does. The incision is typically made along the hairline and then the skin is pulled into its new position while the excess skin is excised. This addresses skin-laxity but cannot achieve the same dramatic results as more comprehensive facelift surgery.
This type of facelift focuses on the eyebrow area but is slightly less invasive than a full browlift. The incisions are placed in the hairline at the temples, and the tissues are moved diagonally upward and sideways, away from the center of the face. This smooths out wrinkles and improves sagging skin and hollowed out areas around the cheeks.
This term is a bit misleading as it describes not a facelift but rather the application of injectable dermal fillers such as Juvederm, Voluma, or Sculptra. The ingredient for such fillers is hyaluronic acid or lactic acid calcium and acts very much like our own fat in filling out sagging areas. (Note: your own fat can also be used via liposuction and fat transfer.) The fillers are injected with a syringe and can last from 6 months to 2 years depending on the type.
Facial fillers are a great way to rejuvenate the face by smoothing creases and folds, fill hollow areas, and plump lips. If you are not ready for an actual facelift or even a minimally-invasive procedure such as FaceTite, getting started with facial fillers is a great alternative.
Which Type of Facelift is Best?
Which type of facelift you choose depends on the degree of aging in your face and your aesthetic goals. If you have never had cosmetic surgery, you might want to start out with a “lesser” treatments such as an injectable filler or Botox. These are temporary solutions that have very pleasing and immediate results but have to be repeated regularly to maintain the effect.
One step up from such non-invasive treatments are minimally-invasive procedures such as FaceTite and Renuvion. Both use radio frequency assisted lipolysis to tighten skin non-surgically. This procedure might be best for you if you are seeking a more permanent solution than simple fillers or resurfacing treatments. You won’t have to worry about scars or a lengthy downtime, and you still get the benefit of permanent results.
If you are looking for great, permanent results, especially if you are closer to your 60s than your 40s, a full surgical facelift might be for you. Yes, it’s more invasive than some of your other options, but it also achieves the best possible results.
Facelifts and a full range of other facial rejuvenation treatments are available at NuBody Concepts. Our board-certified plastic surgeons at our Nashville and Memphis practices have each performed facelifts and other cosmetic procedures for over 20 years.