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The face lift is the third most popular cosmetic procedure. Also known as rhytidectomy, face lifts tighten sagging skin and tissue, creating a smooth, youthful appearance and countering the effects of aging. Rhytidectomy is designed to address problems in the lower face and neck, and will not correct wrinkles at the corners of the eyes or the creases of the lips. People may undergo rhytidectomy either to preserve a youthful look, or to reverse wrinkling and sagging that have already occurred (most rhytidectomy patients are between 30 and 80 years of age). When considering a face lift, prospective patients should be careful to consider alternatives to rhytidectomy as well. For example, chemical and laser peels are effective, non-invasive methods of resurfacing the skin and treating wrinkles.

Rhytidectomy is a surgical procedure, and so all of the risks of infection, necrosis and scarring. Prior to undergoing rhytidectomy, patients should have an in-depth consultation with a plastic surgeon who can fully detail all of the potential risks and benefits. A rhytidectomy is performed in a surgical suite or a hospital, and may require an overnight stay in the hospital, although most patients return home within hours of their rhytidectomy. Depending upon the type of lift and the amount of sagging tissue, a rhytidectomy can take anywhere between two and five hours to complete. The patient will be under general anesthetic for the duration of the rhytidectomy.

There are a growing number of options for the techniques and technology used in performing a rhytidectomy, but the basic procedure makes incisions just behind the hairline, then lifts and repositions the sagging muscle tissue, removes excess skin and closes the incisions with sutures. Rhytidectomy patients are typically bandaged to protect the surgical sites and will need to return to have the sutures removed within 5-7 days. Following a rhytidectomy, it is very important that the patient rest and avoid any activity that would jostle the face and interrupt the healing process. Results are visible within days, and any swelling or bruising resulting from the rhytidectomy should be drastically reduced within the first week of the procedure.