When is the right time for a Facelift?

Facelifts are an increasingly popular cosmetic surgery procedure. But what are the risks and benefits, and is there a perfect age for a facelift?

“A facelift can be an effective way to reverse signs of ageing such as sagging and certain wrinkles,” says Mr Anthony Fitton, a Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon at Nuffield Health Plymouth Hospital. “However, there is no perfect age to undergo a facelift as ageing is such an individual process. It depends on genetics, sun exposure, smoking and other factors. I would not normally advocate a facelift for patients under 50 as the more age related changes there are, the greater the benefit of surgery.”

Is there an upper limit for a facelift? Mr Fitton says the key criteria here is health, not age. “An 80 year old can be as fit and as appropriate for surgery as a 50 year old,” he says. “Though if the skin is too thin and has lost elasticity, the result may not be as good. Also, we may worry about healing in a much older patient, but again, this depends on the individual.”

In general, he says, “Patients who are slim but have saggy skin tend to see the best results from a facelift. It is harder to achieve a significant lift where there is a lot of facial fat.”

Mr Fitton says a facelift is primarily an operation to improve the appearance of the lower face. It is not designed to rejuvenate the eyes and brows, and these may require separate rejuvenating treatments, which you should discuss with your surgeon. “A facelift is very good for dealing with the neckline, jawline and jowls,” he says. “It can also improve large creases in the lower face, such as nose to mouth lines. It is not effective at treating fine lines, such as those around the mouth.”

When opting for a facelift at any age, it is important to have realistic expectations. Mr Fitton says, “A facelift can make you look healthier and better, and may even take as much as ten years off your appearance, but it cannot turn you back into your much younger self.”

A facelift is also a significant surgical procedure that carries certain specific risks and side effects. These include:

Scarring: you will have a small scar in front of the ear, extending round the back of the ear and either into or around the hairline. 

Nerve damage: You are likely to have numbness of the cheeks that can last six months or even longer. Seven per cent of patients suffer damage to  nerves that control facial expression, and for half of these patients, the damage is permanent. 

Swelling: this can take several months to settle. So do not plan a facelift before an imminent special event.

General anaesthetic may, in rare cases, trigger a severe allergic reaction. 

For your safety and to ensure a result that you’ll be happy with, it’s vital that you seek out a fully qualified, trained, experienced and insured surgeon and anaesthetist, who are both on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. All Nuffield surgeons and anaesthetists are on this register. 

Last updated Monday 6 November 2017

First published on Monday 24 August 2015