Thinking about getting a face-lift? They've come a long way. Early on, face- lifts just tightened skin; today's face-lifts do more by repositioning muscle, skin, and fat.

The best candidates for face-lift surgery are people who show some signs of facial aging but still have some skin elasticity. Generally, this includes people who are in their 40s to 70s, although older people occasionally are candidates.

Before you get a face-lift, you should be in good health and have realistic expectations. A face-lift won't completely erase your years; the goal is to have a refreshed, less tired look.

Your Face-Lift Consultation

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If you've decided to explore a face-lift, set up a consultation with a surgeon.

At the consultation, you should talk about your goals for your face-lift. Tell your surgeon what you want to change and why. You'll also talk about your current health, your medical history, any prescriptions or supplements you take, and whether you smoke.

The surgeon will consider all of that, examine your face, and talk with you about your options.

It may be that you don't need a face-lift but a more minor procedure that will achieve your goals.

Your surgeon may also suggest additional minor changes, such as a chin implant or eyebrow lift. They may use computer imaging to show you how you'll look with these changes and may also take photos of you to assess your situation.

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At your consultation, your surgeon should also talk to you about risks and costs.

Does Insurance Cover a Face-Lift?

No. Health insurance companies typically don't cover cosmetic surgery that you choose to get without a medical reason. So you should expect to pay the full costs yourself.

Ask your surgeon for a complete list of all the costs, including anesthesia, operating room and recovery, follow-up care, and any required prescriptions.

Make sure you ask your health insurance company about its policies and how having the face-lift will affect your coverage. Some insurance companies may raise your premiums after you get cosmetic surgery. And getting a face-lift may affect future coverage. You may want to consider getting a supplemental insurance policy that will cover treatment for any complications of cosmetic surgery if your plan won't cover that.

How to Prepare for a Face-Lift

You should wear loose, comfortable clothing on the day of surgery. Wear a button-down blouse or shirt that does not need to be pulled over your face.

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Plan to have someone with you who can drive you home afterward and stay with you the first 48 hours. If possible, you may consider hiring a nurse who can tend to you for the first 24 hours after you've arrived home.

If you are a smoker, follow your surgeon's instructions on stopping smoking. Stopping smoking will promote healing and ensure proper recovery.

If you take aspirin regularly or certain vitamins or herbal supplements, your surgeon may instruct you to stop taking these for a certain period before and after your face-lift.

Set up a recovery area in your home that includes the following:

  • Ice in freezer bags to ice your swollen skin
  • Gauze and clean towels and washcloths
  • Ointments or creams as recommended by your doctor
  • Supply of loose, comfortable shirts that button down
  • Thermometer

If you work, consider the time off you'll need. Most people can return to work in two to three weeks.

What Happens During a Face-Lift

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During a face-lift, your surgeon will make cuts at the temple at the hairline, continuing around and behind your ear. Those cuts will let the surgeon access the muscle and other tissue beneath the skin.

Depending on your personal circumstances, the face-lift can take anywhere from two to six hours. Your surgeon will close up with stitches and bandage your face. You'll get instructions about how to care for and handle the bandage. It's very important that you follow those instructions exactly.

Potential Complications of a Face-Lift

As with any surgery, there is the risk of complications, including infection.

Contact your doctor immediately if:

  • You get a fever of 100 degrees or higher.
  • You have abnormal discharge, including pus, from any surgical wound.
  • You feel extreme pain, tenderness, swelling or reddening of the area.
  • The stitches come out before you're due to have them removed.

What to Expect During Recovery

After your face-lift, you will experience bruising and swelling, which lasts about two to three weeks. Some people heal more quickly while others will heal more slowly. Even though you may not wish to go out in public during that time, you should begin to feel well in the first several days after surgery.

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Your surgeon will remove your bandages a few days after face-lift surgery. Make sure you keep all your follow-up appointments so your surgeon can check on your progress.

Your doctor will want to see you several times during the two- to three-week period to check on your bruising and swelling and to remove your stitches.

The effects of your new look generally should last for five to ten years. You will continue to age after the face-lift, but you may still look five to 10 years younger than you would have if you never had the face-lift.

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