Getting ready for a cosmetic procedure such as a facelift can be overwhelming and very time-consuming but it doesn’t have to be. Start with a consultation and follow these basic guidelines to take the stress out of planning your facelift.
The biggest factor when starting this process is determining a realistic timeline. If you have an event surrounding this decision, you’ll want to make sure that the pre and post recovery period realistically fits into your schedule. Setting expectations of what a facelift can and will do is important. It is not uncommon for patients to require multiple modalities to achieve the desired outcome. Surgery addresses excess skin- not volume so many patients add volume replacement to enhance the results of their facelift.
What to Expect From Your Initial Facelift Consultation
The initial consultation is designed to determine whether a facelift is the correct procedure to achieve your goals or if other modalities or procedures should be considered. This is an opportunity to get to know your surgeon and to ask questions. Do you feel comfortable with the doctor and the practice? Do you feel the surgeon is a good fit? Answered all your questions? Put you at ease? Are you a candidate for the procedure to be performed in the office under local anesthetic or at the hospital under general anesthesia? Once all your questions have been answered, a written quote is prepared and reviewed with you and may include non-surgical estimates if applicable.
How to Properly Prepare for a Facelift Surgery
Preparing for a facelift involves planning. Ideally, you may want to start thinking about this 1-year in advance but no less than 6-months in advance. First and foremost, you will want to be at your ideal weight; gaining and losing weight will affect the results of your facelift. Ideally, skin preparation should begin 6-months prior to your procedure but no less than 3-months. The better the skin preparation you are able to achieve, the better your results will be. This should be a lifestyle change-something we recommend maintaining. The better your skin looks, the better you look!
Smoking inhibits healing so, in a perfect world, we would like you to quit smoking-realistically, we know how hard that is.
Coordinate hairdresser appointments so they are timed for your recovery. Schedule an appointment JUST before your surgery and no sooner than 4-weeks after surgery (preferably 6-weeks). We do not want you stretching your neck or exposing the incisions to harsh chemicals so soon after surgery.
This procedure requires a risk assessment clearance from your primary care physician which will include an EKG and blood work. This appointment is done no more than 30-days in advance of your procedure. If you have a cardiac history you may also be required to get a cardiac clearance from your cardiologist.
You are unable to drive for the first 10-days following your procedure (including the day of surgery). Surprisingly, this is often the most difficult part of planning a facelift for many patients. There are numerous appointments following your procedure during the 10 postoperative days and you will need a driver for all of them
Our practice provides the opportunity to see the doctor again before your procedure. Usually 2-weeks prior to your procedure we schedule a comprehensive pre-operative appointment. This entails a review of the scheduled procedures, consent forms, baseline photographs and dispensing of prescriptions so you can fill your prescriptions in advance. This is an excellent opportunity to ask any questions you may have prior to your facelift. Pre and post-procedure instructions are also reviewed at this time. You will be advised which prescription and over the counter medications you should continue to take. A specially prepared facelift kit is provided for you to take home and includes all the necessary post-procedure supplies.
If having your procedure at the hospital, you can expect an intake call from the hospital 24-48 hours before your procedure. You cannot eat or drink anything as of midnight the night before your procedure for hospital-based procedures. You may take your medications as directed using a small amount of water the morning of your procedure. If you are having the procedure at the office we suggest limiting drinks after midnight and eating a very light breakfast prior to your procedure.
The Day of Your Facelift Procedure
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing with shirts either buttoned or zippered. The room is kept cool so a pair of socks for your feet is recommended. Take your medications as directed prior to arriving for surgery and bring them with you for afterward. You may want to pack a light, easy-to-eat snack for after your procedure. Keep in mind that you will need to take very small bites since you can only open your mouth a little bit. You can expect to be at the office for at least 5-6 hours (more if having multiple procedures). If your procedure is at the hospital, you will want to build in extra time for recovery.
A large cotton dressing will be applied to your head. Drains will be attached to the dressing so you might want to wear a large hoodie sweatshirt or bring a scarf to cover the dressing and drains. We use drains to minimize discomfort caused by the accumulation of fluid.
What the Recovery Process Entails
Expect about 2-weeks of downtime. The key to an easier recovery is following the instructions given to you at the pre-op appointment. Sleep with your head elevated to minimize swelling. Swelling causes discomfort so the better you are about keeping your head elevated above your heart the more comfortable you will be. Swelling peaks out at 48-hours and should start to diminish thereafter. Take prescriptions as directed and call with any concerns. No bending, lifting or straining-walking is fine.
At your day-1 post-op appointment, we will remove the dressing, clean up the incision lines, coat the incision lines with Aquaphor and reapply the dressing. On day-2 post-op the drains are typically removed, incision lines coated with Aquaphor and the dressing reapplied. The drains may be left in longer if necessary. The dressing is usually removed at home on day-3 of your post-op at which time you may shower. We provide an ace wrap to wear once the dressing is removed. Try to wear this as much as possible for the first month. You may go out in public without the ace wrap on.
Your job from this point on until your 10-day post-op appointment is to ensure the incision lines remain clean and coated with Aquaphor. Do not let the incision lines dry out until the sutures are all removed.
You can expect swelling and bruising both of which will gradually resolve. Puckering and redness of the incision lines are expected and will resolve over time. You will feel extremely tight and looked pulled in the weeks following your facelift. This is normal-do not attempt to stretch the neck or open your mouth wide. Doing so will compromise your results-we promise you that it WILL settle down.
To preserve your results, we recommend avoiding activities that stretch the neck in the weeks and months following your facelift. A facelift does not correct loss of skin elasticity; avoid excessive weight gain and loss. Use a good SPF every day to protect the elasticity that is still left in your skin. Continue a good skincare routine including at home and professional services with a licensed medical esthetician. The longevity of a facelift will be determined by genetics (how good or poorly you are aging), smoking, sun exposure and adherence to post-procedure recommendations. Typically, a facelift will last between 5-10 years depending on these factors.