A nip here and a tuck there is all very well for tackling the early signs of ageing. But what if you want to overhaul your entire face? A full facelift might be just what you need for a perfectly rejuvenated visage..
If the face staring back at you from the mirror is far from the one you want, a rhytidectomy, or full facelift, could be an option.
If images spring to mind of tight-faced women looking startled and fake, take heart. Old-fashioned facelifts used to simply tighten the skin, ignoring muscle laxity and the face’s underlying structures – and sometimes producing a taut, pulled or ‘windblown’ effect. But modern facelifts aim to give a far more natural result. This means your face could be rejuvenated from forehead to neck – leaving your skin tighter, eyes brighter and cheeks perkier – without anyone suspecting you’ve had ‘work’ done.
‘Contemporary facelifts are based on the principle of reestablishing facial volume, they are not about stretching and pulling the skin,’ says plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Jonathan Britto of Millimetre Perfect Aesthetic Surgery.
Modern technological and medical advances also mean you’ll probably be left with less visible tell-tale scars after the healing process is complete.
There’s even a suggestion that people are turning their backs on quick fixes such as injectables and fillers in favour of facelifts. The reason for this might be to do with longevity. While Botox lasts a few months, a facelift can be effective for a decade. And nothing can reverse the effects of gravity quite as well. A full facelift usually takes two to three hours and involves a one or two night stay in hospital.
For a full facelift, the surgeon will make incisions in the skin, starting at the temple in the hairline, then following the natural curve down the face in front of the ear, down past the earlobe and then up behind the ear again. So any scars are as invisible as possible, it’s important to follow the natural crease of the skin. If you’re also having fat removed from your chin with liposuction, the surgeon may make an incision under your chin.
The skin will be pulled up and back, and the muscle tissues underneath reshaped. Stitches will be put in to secure the layers of tissue, and possibly some metal clips on your scalp.
‘There are a range of different types of facelift available,’ explains Jonathan. ‘It’s important to remember that men and women have individual facial forms and require specific techniques and procedures.’
There’s no getting away from it – you’ll be black and blue after the operation! There might be drainage tubes behind your ears to remove any excess blood and help bring down the swelling, and these may stay in place for a few days. Gravity will take its toll and the bruising and swelling will descend into your neck.
You’ll feel uncomfortable, strange and stiff, but should be able to control any pain with medication. Keeping your head elevated for a few days after surgery will help. Your stitches will come out after about five days.
You can start driving again after a week, and if there are any metal clips on your scalp, these will be removed after about a fortnight. Avoid having
a sauna or massage until now.
After a facelift, it’s common to lose sensation in your cheeks and ears, but this should ease back to normal within a month or so.
After six weeks, it’s safe to start exercising. Don’t be surprised if your skin feels dry and rough – but it should now start returning to normal.
It’s generally agreed that it’s better to have a facelift at least three months before a major social event. This is because, even though the scars will be hidden in your hairline or around your ears, it’s at this point that they usually start to fade. It’s easy for women to hide any scars with their hair or by wearing large earrings, but men might find it a bit trickier to disguise scars.
By a year after your facelift, you should be completely recovered and all sensation should have returned.
You can expect to look brighter, fresher and more youthful, with smoother, tighter skin on your face and neck. However, make sure your expectations are realistic. A facelift can’t stop the ageing process – but you can expect to look and feel younger for years afterwards.
Hopefully in years to come, you won’t look as old as you would have if you hadn’t had the operation. How long the results last depends on your age. It could be up to 10 years for people in their forties, and five to
eight years for people aged 60-plus.
‘The philosophy these days is to be pre-emptive,’ says Jonathan. ‘It’s not uncommon for a woman to have her first facelift in her mid-forties and repeat that in her late 50s. The change in the face is less, so results are better.’
The risks associated with a full facelift include deep vein thrombosis, bleeding or blood collecting beneath the skin (haematoma), hair loss, a face that’s not symmetrical, injury to the facial nerves and skin discolouration.
Cost: a full facelift costs from £6,000 to £8,000
‘Facelift is a term used to describe a number of procedures. You can have a brow lift, a lower facelift or a full facelift, which includes both, plus often a neck lift, too. People have very high expectations of what a facelift will do. Yes, it will tighten saggy skin, but it won’t plump up the skin or remove lines and wrinkles. You’ll need to consider other treatments for that.’
‘I couldn’t stop looking at the new me’
Helen Hanrahan, 57, from Surrey, had a full facelift in November 2007
‘A few years ago, I lost a lot of weight – five stone over four months. My new, slim body made me feel 21 again, but my new face had so much excess skin on it, I felt like a 97-year-old. I didn’t see