What Makes a Natural Facelift?

We have all seen them – those women (and sometimes men) who look as though instead of turning back the clock with plastic surgery they have somehow gotten stuck in a wind tunnel. Their faces look unnaturally tight and even the most casual observer can tell that they had a facelift. But this is not always the case. There are ways to have a facelift and still look natural. A good facelift, done by a good plastic surgeon makes you look as though you have aged well; it doesn’t make you look as if you have never aged at all. Putting the face of a 20 year old on the body of a 55 year old will never look natural. Instead, a good plastic surgeon will make their patient look the youngest they possible can on the wide spectrum of “normal” appearances for their age.

The technique used by the plastic surgeon to achieve these results is also vitally important. If you look at someone younger, you will notice that although they do not have lines or wrinkles and their faces are not tight. Instead, what makes them look young is fullness and volume in their cheeks, a well-defined jaw line without jowls and a neck that does not have lose skin or bands. These are the areas plastic surgeons focus on to achieve a natural-looking facelift.

What most people think of as a “facelift” is actually a combination of a cheek lift and a neck lift. During this 3 to 5 hour procedure, the surgeon will make the necessary facial incisions in existing skin creases and hairy areas around the ears so that any potential scars are hidden as much as possible. Then the surgeon gently pulls the skin as well as the underlying tissue layers and muscles up and back, putting all of it back to where it was before it slipped due to gravity. Simply pulling the skin back is what gives people that unnatural ‘wind-blown’ look. Finally, any excess skin is removed.

Younger patients usually only need this cheek lift to achieve the results they are looking for, but during a full facelift procedure, the surgeon will also perform a neck lift. A neck lift requires the surgeon to make another incision under the chin. Then the skin is tightened and any excess is removed. The surgeon may also liposuction any fat deposits located along the jaw line or under the chin and/or restructure the neck muscles, depending on the goals of the procedure. The final results generally last for 5 to 7 years.

Combining a facelift with a brow lift and forehead lift can smooth wrinkles and raise the eyebrows, leading to a softer, refreshed appearance. During a brow or forehead lift, the surgeon will make an incision either in the hairline across the top of the head (from ear to ear) or between the top of the forehead and the beginning of the hairline. Then the forehead is gently lifted and sewn into its new position, with the excess skin being removed. Newer brow lift techniques use an endoscope (a long, thin tube with a light and a video camera attached to one end) and use much smaller incisions.

Making cheek lifts, neck lifts, brow lifts and forehead lifts appear natural is even harder when the patient is male. Bad facelifts can leave a man looking somewhat feminine. In the case of male facelifts, it is important to preserve the hairline and sideburns and not pull the skin too tight. For men, less is definitely more. Subtle improvements look much better than dramatic ones.

So, if you are considering a facelift it is important to remember that a good plastic surgeon will not make your face look drastically different. Instead, she will make you look like you did 15 years before – naturally beautiful.