What It's Really Like To Have A Facelift

We spoke to three women who have had a facelift to discuss their experiences and offer you some insider tips on how to recover from the procedure as comfortably and effectively as possible.
Patient Perspective
Written by India Bottomley
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What It's Really Like To Have A Facelift

Few procedures are as renowned as the facelift: traditionally credited with restoring youthful looks for celebrities and socialites, the procedure’s popularity is ever-growing amongst those seeking a more significant reduction of visible signs of aging. We spoke to three women who have had a facelift to discuss their experiences and offer you some insider tips on how to recover from the procedure as comfortably and effectively as possible.

Margot, New York, NY

Margot was 59 when she decided to have facelift surgery as a 60th birthday present to herself. “I had seen my friends buying themselves the pair of designer shoes they’d been lusting after since they were in their 30s or going on a once in a lifetime holiday to celebrate the milestone, but I wanted something that would help me to stay young. I still feel young so I wanted to look how I feel,” Margot explained.

The AEDITION: Overall, how was your experience getting a facelift?

Margot: The procedure itself was very successful, and recovery was easier than I expected. I planned to have my facelift during the autumn when I had fewer events to attend and could easily allow myself to have two weeks to recover. The first 10 days were the worst in terms of how I looked. There was definitely a lot of swelling initially, but I had been told to expect that. I also had to wear a strap under my chin around my head for that, so going out wasn’t really an option until that phase had passed.

The AEDITION: Which products would you suggest buying to make healing more comfortable?

Margot: A friend of mine who’d had the procedure a couple of years previously told me to buy a good pillow to raise my head when sleeping for the first few weeks after surgery. I did some research and found the 4-in-1 bed wedge from Brookstone, and it was the best thing I bought to help my recovery. I used it to keep myself almost upright for the first five nights and then adapted it, as I could lay flatter and flatter as I recovered. I also bought front-closing pajamas as getting clothing on or off over your head isn't an option for the first few days!

The AEDITION: How were you able to manage the pain after surgery?

Margot: My plastic surgeon and the nurses where I had my procedure gave me instructions for how to reduce the pain and swelling, which I did follow to the letter so I think that definitely helped. I had also prepared bags of crushed ice before going to the clinic which was helpful. Ice cubes would have been painful to use, but the crushed ice adapts well to the shape of your face so it’s less painful and works well on the swelling. The pain was less than I had expected, but I did bruise a lot, so I had to call my physician to check that it was normal, but they advised me to keep up with the pain medication and ice, and it cleared after a week or so.

The AEDITION: How long after the procedure were you able to return to your usual activities?

Margot: I was able to start socializing again 10 days after the surgery, but I couldn’t go back to the gym for a month. I was told not to do any strenuous exercise for a month after which was rough, but for the first couple of weeks I was busy taking care of myself so it wasn’t all that bad.

The AEDITION: Having had the procedure and seen the results, would you go ahead with the surgery again?

Margot: Absolutely. I had considered less invasive procedures and had lip fillers when I was a little younger, but I wanted something more significant now. I was considering other procedures, including a neck lift or brow lift, but I settled on this after discussing them with my surgeon. I was fortunate to be in a position where I could take some time out for the procedure and I’m so happy I did. Initially, I was concerned the results wouldn’t live up to what I had pictured, but as the swelling went down and the results started showing, I could tell I’d made the right choice, and I’m still happy with it now.

Mary, Santa Barbara, CA

We spoke to Mary, a director of a multinational company based out of Santa Barbara, who decided to undergo a facelift procedure at the age of 62. “I decided to have the procedure because my life is not that of a 60-something woman, and I didn’t see why I should look like my age if I don’t feel it,” Mary said. “I work in a field where being able to come across confidently is very important so I’d had other minor cosmetic procedures in the past to help me with this, but I needed to go a little further this time to achieve the results I wanted.”

The AEDITION: What questions would you advise potential patients ask their surgeon?

Mary: I think for me the main thing was that I felt comfortable with the surgeon and we were both on the same page when it came to the results I wanted. I did a lot of research about the procedure but my main concerns were about the recovery time. I’d advise that prospective patients ask their surgeon how long they need to set aside to heal and most importantly for me, how long it will take for swelling and bruising to go down enough to be able to run errands without feeling self-conscious. Personally, I was able to leave the house confidently after eight days. I didn’t have much swelling or bruising thankfully.

The AEDITION: If you had to give prospective patients one piece of advice what would it be?

Mary: The most important thing for me was to listen to my body. I’m a busy person, so it was really hard for me to be on bed rest for the first few days. Initially, I tried to carry on replying to emails and taking calls, but I quickly found it made me exhausted, as can be expected after general anesthesia. I figured I’d do better to rest fully and get better quicker than push myself and have a drawn-out recovery time. I’d also suggest people use a timer on their phone to schedule taking medication. It’s easy to fall asleep and forget to take them in the days after the procedure when you need them most.

The AEDITION: How has the procedure impacted your daily life?

Mary: It has brought me peace of mind to know that I have undertaken a long-term solution to combat signs of aging. If I want a touch-up in years to come I will likely only need a revision mini-facelift or eyelid surgery to combat any new loose skin. But, I can honestly say it has made me more confident too. I feel like I can convey who I am more through my look now than I did before surgery and I feel more like myself again, both in work settings and socially.

Christine, Naples, FL

Christine had a facelift following years of low self-confidence due to surgical procedures to treat cancer. “I had been feeling down about my body for a while and my face was starting to age me,” Christine said. “I was doing everything I could to embrace having a second chance at life so I wanted to make myself feel as good as I could, and cosmetic surgery was part of achieving that.”

The AEDITION: What factors did you take into account when deciding to go ahead with having a facelift?

Christine: It was a big decision for me. I’d had a few surgeries to treat my illness some years ago so I knew having further elective surgery wasn’t without its risks. Safety was the primary factor for me. Especially having had cancer treatment previously, my practitioner worked closely with my primary care doctor to make sure the procedure was safe to go ahead. I also wanted to make sure the results were natural-looking, and my practitioner and I discussed how they would be able to keep the character of my face, but give me a more youthful contour, which was exactly what I’d wanted.

The AEDITION: How did the recovery compare to your expectations?

Christine: The recovery wasn’t so bad. My friends and family helped out a lot with chores and making sure I had plenty of milkshakes and ice. I am retired so I didn't have to fit in my procedure around work schedules but even so, I didn’t have to spend all that much time away from my normal activities. It took six weeks for me to get completely back to normal I would say, but I was able to function well after two weeks. The recovery was not how I expected it, not better or worse, just different. I slept a lot for the first four days, and then gradually started getting better. My swelling was quite severe which I think was hard for my family to see initially, but it went down quite quickly and the pain was manageable which was really the main thing for me.

The AEDITION: Do you have any advice for patients considering the procedure?

Christine: The most important piece of advice my friends gave me was to make sure you’re having the procedure for yourself and not because you feel like you need to look a certain way for other people. If you want to feel more confident and the signs of aging on your face are setting you back, then definitely do it, but don’t just do it because you’re feeling pressured for any reason.

*The patient’s name has been changed.

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INDIA BOTTOMLEYis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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