Get Ready For Lift Off: Your Guide to Facial Lifting Procedures

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If you’re looking to turn the clock back in a major way, there’s no better investment than a face lift. Thanks to the latest technological advancements, this facial rejuvenation treatment has finally shed its overly taut, unnatural past, and it’s a procedure that delivers unparalleled results in terms of lifting. Depending on your skin, age, and other factors, there are multiple types of lifting treatments available, which is why we talked with Dr. Min Ahn of The Aesthetic Wellness Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Read on to hear about the why there’s no longer a one-treatment-fits-all mentality within the cosmetic surgery world.

New Beauty: What are the different types of surgical lifting procedures available today?

Dr. Ahn: There are four types of lifts that are commonly performed:

The first is the full face lift. However, most surgeons don’t use this term anymore as it is not very specific. That being said, a full face lift typically includes surgery of the brows, eyes, lower face and neck all in one setting.

Secondly, there’s the lower face lift. This procedure focuses on lifting the jowls and improving the jawline contour. It is done through curved incisions that follow the contour of the ears. By tightening a muscular layer under the skin called the SMAS, the surgeon is able to lift the jowls off the jawline toward the cheeks. There are many ways to tighten the SMAS, but the gold standard technique is called the deep plane face lift. In the deep plane technique, four sets of tiny ligaments are released. After they are released, the SMAS and jowls are now more easily lifted. As a result, the surgeon does not have to pull tightly on the skin to get the lifted effect, so the patient does not look pulled. The lower face lift is often done with a neck lift as most patients who have jowls also have neck related concerns.

Next is what I like to call the mini lift. This surgery also focuses on lifting the jowls but is done through shorter incisions. It is perfect for patients who have less extra skin to tailor than those who need a lower face lift. There are many ways of tightening the SMAS during a mini lift. Some surgeons place a few sutures and tighten them, while others use the deep plane lift technique. The mini lift is just as effective as a lower face lift in lifting the jowls. Unlike the name suggests, it does not have a “mini” effect in terms of the extent of improvement or how long it lasts. If it is done properly, it is as effective as the lower face lift in lifting the jowls and lasts equally long.

Finally, there’s the neck lift, a procedure that focuses on improving the neck contour. It is most often done in combination with a mini Lift (so a mini lift with a neck lift) or with a lower face lift (a lower face and neck lift). It is done through a small incision under the chin and then the skin is lifted down to the lower part of the neck. Extra fat is removed and the muscles underneath, called the platysma muscles, are sewn together. This corrects the vertical “turkey” bands and creates a natural muscle sling that supports the neck. The incision mark is very discreet once it’s healed. A neck lift targets the most common aging neck problems including loose skin, vertical “turkey” bands, and neck fullness.

NB: What results can you expect from a lift?

Dr. Ahn: One can expect significant improvement of the jawline and neck contour with a result that makes you appear 10 to 15 years younger.

NB: Who is an ideal candidate for a face or neck lift?

Dr. Ahn: The ideal candidate is healthy, between the ages of 45-70, has jowls, extra neck skin, neck fullness and vertical “turkey” bands.

NB: Is there any downtime required post-treatment? If so, what side effects can you expect and is there anything you should avoid doing?

Dr. Ahn: One should expect 2 weeks of social downtime. Commonly there is an area of numbness in front of the ears that takes a full year to resolve. In addition, the incisions can stay red for several weeks and a small amount of swelling in the cheeks can take a few months to resolve.

NB: What's the future of face and neck lifts? Is there any technology out there that has you excited? 

Dr. Ahn: Currently the most effective non-surgical treatment for jowls and the neck uses radiofrequency energy to melt the fat of the jowls and neck and tighten the overlying skin. As this technology advances, I could see a combination of less invasive surgery and radiofrequency tightening achieving near-surgical results.

NB:  What else should our readers know about face and neck lifts?

Dr. Ahn: Don’t think that you will automatically look “plastic, pulled” or like a different person if you have a face and neck lift. When done correctly, the patient will not look pulled and their jowls and neck will look significantly better.