As we age, life can take a toll on our skin. Even if we do our best to avoid sun exposure and minimize stress, there’s no controlling gravity — over time, everyone’s skin will lose some elasticity and give way to wrinkles and sagging, especially on the face. Moreover, we tend to lose facial fat as we get older, so the skin not only drops but also deflates.
Fortunately, you can address some effects of visibly aging skin without conventional facelift surgery. In this video, San Diego Health host Susan Taylor talks about the “mini facelift” option with Salvatore Pacella, MD, a plastic surgeon with Scripps Clinic and division head of plastic and reconstructive surgery.
In a traditional full facelift, the incision starts in front of the ear and goes behind it toward the neck; the surgeon pulls and tightens the skin on both the face and the neck. A mini facelift is designed to tighten the skin of the middle and lower face only. The incision is usually made below the ear and is generally not visible.
“A mini facelift is designed to affect the area in and around the middle of the face and sagging skin around the jawline known as jowls,” says Dr. Pacella. “It’s a perfect operation for someone who just has a little bit of jowling in and around the cheek, or a little bit of cheek descent. What it does not affect is the skin on the neck area or wrinkles around the eyes or forehead.”
The mini facelift is an outpatient procedure performed under anesthesia or a sedative, so there is no overnight stay in a hospital. As with any surgical procedure, you can expect post-operative swelling. With a full facelift, it can take three months for the swelling to subside, whereas swelling after a mini facelift usually goes away within a week or two.
“With a mini facelift, you usually can be back to work and activity within roughly two to three weeks,” says Dr. Pacella. “People are not going to see that you had a facelift. They're just going to see kind of a younger version of you, like a rejuvenation.”
Is a mini facelift right for you? Dr. Pacella says it really depends on what a patient wants.
Generally, the best candidates are in their 40s or 50s and are just starting to get droopiness in the jowls and lower face or cheeks that bothers them. People who have loose skin around the neck area are usually better candidates for a full facelift.
In addition, several factors may affect your ability to have facial surgery. According to Dr. Pacella, patients who are active smokers typically are not good candidates for any facial procedure, as nicotine can interfere with a wound’s ability to heal properly, often resulting in severe scarring. Smokers should quit using tobacco for at least three months before considering facial surgery.
Similarly, having diabetes or taking blood thinners may both affect how a wound heals. While these do not rule out surgery, your surgeon will need to work closely with your primary care physician to take the proper precautions for a safe procedure.
In any case, start with a consultation.
“If you’re concerned about the appearance of your face and it’s bothersome to you — for example, when you wake up in the morning, it’s the first thing you see in the mirror, that’s the time to talk to your board certified plastic surgeon,” says Dr. Pacella.
“We don’t want you to look different than yourself. We want you to look like a version of yourself that’s well-rested. The best compliment for plastic surgery is looking like you didn’t have plastic surgery.”