While the way and the changes that a face undergoes as it ages may not have changed since time began, the treatment of it has. Facelift surgery used to be an extensive operation largely because it was done on older people. (who needed a lot of work!) In a generation past, most people (primarily women) underwent a facelift when they retired, rewarding themselves for a lifetime of work and when they can most afford it.
But today’s approach to facial aging is different and reflects changes in both society’s attitudes and plastic surgical techniques. People now want to age less obviously and remain youthful appearing in middle-age as they participate in the ever competitive workplace. As a result, facelift surgery has adapted to these needs becoming less invasive and suited for less severe signs of aging that exist in the 40 and 50 year-old ages.
Besides the common misconception of what a facelift really, most people perceive that it is a highly invasive procedure that requires a long recovery. These two perceptions are tied together under the belief that a facelift is a ‘scalp to neck’ lift. In reality, a facelift only changes the lower third of the face…a neck and jowl improvement. It does not change the mouth, cheek, eye or forehead area. These require separate and often combined procedures with a facelift to create a complete facial makeover. When one understands the more limited scope of what a facelift is, it becomes less scary and intimidating.
Facelifts have evolved into two different types, complete and limited. The difference is in the amount of neck improvement that is obtained. Since many younger patients have more jowling than sagging neck issues, the limited facelift has become widely used. The surge in the number of facelifts has been because of this scaled down version and accounts for at least half of all facelifts now performed.
The popularity of the limited facelift can be seen by the numerous marketing approaches taken by both plastic surgeons and franchises alike. Catchy names that imply the ease of recovery, such as Swiftlift and SimpleLift to name a few, are used to differentiate this technique from that of the historic facelift perception. Promoting surgery under local anesthetics, one hour procedure times, and a few days of recovery, it can make it seem that it is hardly surgery at all. I have seen numerous patients initially seen at these franchise establishments and they were surprised to find out it was an actual surgical operation.
But limited facelifts are real surgery, even if it isn’t the same as an extended full facelift. It can become a more extensive procedure if combined with other facial aging treatments such as eyelid tucks (blepharoplasty)or browlifts, which is quite common. The concept of several smaller operations at a younger age is a sound maintenance approach that may make the need later for a full facelift unnecessary.
Limited facelifts, however, are not just for the young. For the older patient, who may really need a full facelift for the best result but does not want it, the limited facelift offers moderate improvement with less recovery and costs.
Contemporary plastic surgery is about adapting the operation to the magnitude of the problem. The limited facelift is a great illustration of that principle.
Dr. Barry Eppley