Facelift Incisions and Unnoticeable Scarring

Perhaps the biggest concern patients have going into a facelift is whether or not people will be able to notice the scar after surgery. Because modern facelift techniques and surgical equipment help surgeons produce natural results, a noticeable scar may be the only way people know someone has had a procedure. Thus, it’s very important that surgeons take scarring into account when creating a surgical plan. It’s also just as important that surgeons and nurses educate patients on wound care and healing. Knowing what to expect helps patients remain calm and at ease during the recovery process.


Different Types of Facelifts and Their Incisions

Facelift or rhytidectomy is a surgery that restores a more youthful look to the face. It is one of the most popular anti-aging procedures because it can address several signs of aging in a single procedure and it achieves dramatic and long-lasting results. Modern facelifts are performed to address the needs of each patient.

Traditional facelifts address moderate to advanced aging in the mid-face and neck. The surgeon carefully makes an incision behind the hairline near the temples. The surgeon extends the incision around the ears and along the lower scalp.  

Mini-facelifts address is mild to moderate aging in the mid-face and neck. Mini-facelifts may be the ideal procedure for patients who don’t want as dramatic an effect as a traditional facelift. The surgeon makes an incision at the temple and extends it along the curvature of the ear.

Neck lifts address sagging jowls, loose neck skin and excess fat under the chin. The surgeon makes an incision in front of the ear lobe and extends it around and behind the ear near the posterior hairline.

When making an incision, the surgeon takes extra special care to hide it within the hairline and make sure it is made along natural curvatures and natural skinfolds. Also, the surgeon uses dissolvable or removable sutures to carefully close the incision. In some cases, skin glue may be used to close the incision. Incisions are carefully dressed to avoid infection and ensure proper healing and a bandage is placed over the dressings to reduce swelling and bruising.

Incision Healing after Surgery

The first four weeks are extremely important for proper incision healing. When the surgeon, nurse, and patient work together as a team, the chances of a noticeable scar can be dramatically reduced. A general healing time frame is as follows:

Week 1: The first few days after surgery are very important because swelling and bruising, which when present in excess may interfere with incision healing, are at their highest. Patients are instructed to not take their bandage and dressings off unless their surgeon or nurse tells them to do so. Patients are advised to avoid strenuous activities.

Usually 2-3 days after surgery, the surgeon or nurse sees the patient to look at the incision. The bandage and dressings are carefully taken off and reapplied if the incision looks like it is healing properly. Swelling and bruising usually start to go down 4-6 days after surgery.

Week 2: The surgeon or nurse usually sees the patient at the end of week 2 to evaluate the incision. If non-dissolvable stitches were used to close the incision, they may be taken out if the incision looks like it has closed. Patients are allowed to begin light activities like household chores and walking.

Weeks 3 and 4: There may still be some swelling and tightness during weeks 3 and 4. Patients are allowed to begin exercising and strenuous activity if they are healing well.

Important incision healing measures patients take during the first month of recovery may include: 
  • Smoking cessation
  • Arrange for help around the house during the first two weeks of recovery
  • Rest with the head elevated
  • Apply ice to swollen areas
  • Avoid sun exposure
  • Take medications as prescribed to control pain 

After thirty days patients will notice their incision healing and becoming more unnoticeable. Patients are advised to avoid direct sun to the scarred area and wear a recommended moisturizer and sunscreen. The goal is to have the scar heal as well as possible and naturally blend with normal facial anatomy and skin folds. If a scar stays red and raised and is noticeable, the surgeon may inject it with a steroid medication or other treatment.

Unnoticeable Facelift Scars

Surgeons and nurses work hard to make sure facelift scars aren’t noticeable. Patients who follow their surgeon's and nurse's instructions and take care of themselves can expect to enjoy their results without having to worry about a noticeable scar. While it sounds oversimplified, a combined surgeon, nurse, and patient effort are necessary for scars to be unnoticeable.

Author: Jeff Oescher worked for over 6 years as an orthopedic clinical associate and case technician. He now works as a medical writer for Vohra Wound Physicians, a national wound care physician group.

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