The “Mini” Facelift

By Robert C. Wilke, MD, FACS
Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, Edina Plastic Surgery

People often tell me, “I feel young inside, but when I look in the mirror, that’s not the face that I see”. They want to project the healthy, natural and younger appearance that they still feel inside. Especially in this competitive work environment, people are seeking a younger, vibrant appearance. This is one reason for the popularity of facial rejuvenation procedures, and they are being performed more often in younger age groups.

Facelift procedures are done to correct signs of facial aging, such as sagging in the neck, jawline and cheeks. In the past decade, I have been performing the “mini” facelift more frequently. This procedure is less invasive than a full facelift, with less cost and recovery time. It is ideal for younger patients, especially those in their 40’s and 50’s that have less significant droop in their face and neck. The results from the mini-facelift can last 7-10 years, depending on each patient’s individual characteristics.

Various terms have been used for mini-facelifts, and recently some marketing companies have taken variations of the procedure and have given them proprietary names. This is unfortunate, as it has created a great deal of confusion surrounding these procedures. Some of the procedures are not even surgical, and produce subtle changes that may only last for a few months. I have also recently seen advertisements for the “30 minute facelift”. In my opinion, a safe and effective facelift procedure, even the “mini” variety, cannot possibly be performed in less than an hour. When I perform a mini-facelift, I spend at least 30 minutes simply placing the closing sutures, ensuring that we are obtaining the best possible result. After all, the patient will live with the result we achieve for many years, and they deserve the time and effort needed to have this done properly. A typical mini-facelift procedure that I perform will take about two hours to complete, and if other procedures are included, such as a brow lift or eyelid lift, more time will be added. It’s important to be aware that not all procedures, or practitioners, are equal and you do not want to be comparing apples to oranges.

In contrast to the mini-facelift, the classic facelift takes longer to perform and is usually done under a general anesthesia. The procedure requires a longer scar that extends from the temporal hairline and along the front of the ear as in the mini-lift, and then continues behind the ear and into the posterior hair-bearing scalp. A more aggressive elevation of the tissues in the face and neck is performed. Often, brow lifts or eyelid lifts are performed at the same time, which also adds to the operative time, cost and recovery.

I often perform ancillary procedures at the time of a facial rejuvenation procedure. These include upper and/or lower eyelid lifts (blepharoplasty), brow lifts, chemical peels, and liposuction of the neck. Another procedure that I will use to assist with facial rejuvenation is lipotransfer (also known as fat injections). This involves removing a small amount of fat from another area, such as the abdomen or hip, and using the purified fat to inject into areas of the face that can benefit from augmentation. We frequently use fat to fill out lips or cheeks, or to help smooth-out lines in the face. The results of this, while subtle, produces improvement in facial contour that can create a much younger and rejuvenated appearance.

The surgery is performed in our on-site surgery center on an outpatient basis. It can be done under a light general anesthesia or under local anesthesia with sedation. Dressings are removed the next day in clinic, and stitches are removed by the end of the first week. Most patients appear somewhat bruised and swollen for 7-10 days, although this can be quite variable depending on the individual and the specific procedure. Patients typically are back to their normal lifestyle within two weeks.

The facelift and mini facelift can be great ways to turn back the clock and project the more youthful, natural and healthy appearance that you feel inside. A consultation will let us determine which procedures would be best to obtain your goals.