Mini Facelifts Can Offer Major Results—Here’s What You Need to Know
Mini facelifts can provide natural results, with less downtime.
We’ve come a long way when it comes to cosmetic procedures. Long gone are the days of incredibly invasive surgeries that would take weeks, if not months, to recover from, the days of too drastic results, and the days of cosmetic procedures being for the ultra-wealthy. Now it’s as simple as going to a clinic during your lunch break to get a little refresh.
But sometimes, you might need a little bit more than a touch-up on your Botox or fillers. Maybe you’ve recently lost a lot of weight and have noticed a sagging jawline, or maybe you’re looking for an in-between fix before you spring for a full facelift. Thankfully, there’s an option, and it’s called a mini facelift.
We spoke with board-certified plastic surgeons Samuel Lin, MD, Alexis Parcells, MD, Alexander Sobel, DO, and board-certified nurse practitioner Vanessa Coppola, owner of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa, to get all the details about mini facelifts, including questions to ask and aftercare procedures. Keep reading to learn all about mini facelifts, below.
What Is a Mini Facelift?
To make a long story short, a mini facelift is the less invasive version of a full facelift. It’s sometimes called the “ponytail lift,” the “weekend facelift,” or the “lunchtime facial,” as it’s a relatively quick procedure that offers less downtime than its counterpart. It helps address sagging jawlines and cheeks, but in a more subtle way. “A mini facelift is also called a short scar facelift,” explains Lin, a board-certified plastic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. “A mini facelift is a surgery to address loose skin and signs of aging in the midface (the area between the corners of the eye and the corners of the mouth) and jowls. A mini facelift is a modified version of a traditional facelift, with a series of small incisions along the hairline to correct the appearance of sagging skin that typically is around the neck and jawline.”
Typically, a mini facelift is not as invasive as a regular facelift, but you will have to undergo anesthesia. Coppola explains, “It is a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia. However, it is often done on a same-day basis and with a shorter recovery time than a traditional facelift. Mini facelifts typically involve a shorter incision that begins at the temple and extends down in front of the earlobe. Once the skin is opened, the underlying tissues are repositioned and tightened, and excess skin is trimmed away. The shorter scar, quicker recovery time, and lower face rejuvenation are fairly common with the mini facelift, but techniques vary widely.”
It’s important to note that a mini facelift is not a permanent solution. Results typically last anywhere from five to 10 years.
Benefits of a Mini Facelift
- Shorter recovery time
- Smaller/shorter scars
- Can lift and contour the face more than Botox and fillers alone
- Long-lasting results
- Minimal pain
If you have a sagging jawline and cheeks that fillers and Botox alone can’t fix, a mini facelift might be a great option for you. “Mini facelift surgery is one of the highest satisfaction rates out of all plastic surgery procedures,” says Parcells, the owner of Parcells Plastic Surgery and founder of SUNNIE Wrinkle Reducing Studio. “Patients look and feel younger and oftentimes have a very short recovery and downtime with minimal pain. For faces that qualify for a mini facelift, it is a little bit less expensive than a full facelift, and the recovery time is a little bit shorter because it’s less of a recovery for the neck portion.”
However, you should know that a mini facelift alone won’t address all of your facial aesthetic needs. Coppola points out that you might still need to use Botox and fillers to achieve the final look you want, but since your foundation is lifted, you’ll likely achieve a more aesthetically pleasing result.
How to Prepare for a Mini Facelift
If you’ve been debating getting a mini facelift, there are a number of questions you should ask before you schedule your procedure. Unlike cosmetic procedures like fillers and Botox, a mini facelift is considered a surgery, and it’s incredibly important to assess the major risks of the procedure. “The most important question is to check that the surgeon is properly credentialed and board-certified and has performed the procedure many, many times. You want to know whether they have a surgical office in-suite or they operate in the hospital, and what are the specific requirements of each,” explains Coppola. “You will want to ask what type of anesthesia will be administered and who is the anesthesiologist. You will want to see many before-and-after photos and ask specific questions about the surgical techniques performed, the layers of tissue involved, for example, SMAS or superficial layers only, or a combination. This will affect the results as well as the recovery period.”
Once you’ve scheduled your appointment, Parcells recommends avoiding any medication or supplements that can lead to bleeding for at least two weeks before the procedure. Lin adds, “The precautions to take before surgery can depend on the type of anesthesia used, and your surgeon will provide you with instructions. If you smoke, quitting smoking several weeks prior to your surgery is important for optimal healing.” And finally, make sure that you don’t drink or eat at least six hours before your treatment to avoid nausea and vomiting from the anesthesia.
What to Expect During a Mini Facelift
While a mini facelift might not be as invasive as a regular facelift, it’s important to remember that it’s still a major surgery. If you’ve had any sort of previous surgery, you’ll know that the nerves can be real. Try to practice meditation or listen to your favorite music or podcast to help calm yourself. Before the procedure, you’ll typically be given both local and general anesthesia to sedate you. Lin explained that “during a mini facelift surgery, the surgeon makes an incision right in front of the ear in order to address loose skin and tighten tissue located just below the skin. Excess skin will be removed, and the remaining skin is redraped. Then, the incision is closed so that the scar is hidden just in front of the ear. Overall, the surgery takes around two hours.”
Your surgeon will typically provide you with an antibiotic and pain medication. You should take each as directed by your doctor. Also, according to Lin, you’re likely to go home with bandages on your face, and may have drains that will need to be removed after about 48 hours.
Facelifts vs. Mini Facelift
Dr. Sobel, a triple board certified surgeon in general cosmetic surgery, cosmetic facial surgery, and Otolaryngology, explained to us that a mini facelift is a less invasive version of a regular facelift that targets the jowls and upper neck regions, while a full facelift includes the midface and full neck. Another big difference? A mini facelift has a shorter scar. “A mini facelift results in a shorter scar than a regular facelift. In a mini facelift, there is only a scar in front of the ear. In a regular facelift, the scar extends around the bottom of the earlobe and behind the ear,” explains Lin. “Because the scar is shorter in a mini facelift, a mini facelift cannot lift skin around the neck as well as a regular facelift. A mini facelift is best for patients who have minimal loose skin around the neck but desire improvement in the midface and jowls.”
Typically, facelifts are done on those who are older, or who have had significant weight loss in the face. Parcells adds, “A mini facelift is performed in younger patients who have been weight stable, have good skin laxity and tone, and need a small to moderate overall improvement.”
Potential Side Effects
After your surgery, it’s common to experience swelling, discomfort, and bruising. Complications from a mini facelift are rare and are typical of any common surgery. “Complications are those that can arise from any surgical procedure and include the formation of a hematoma, swelling, infection at the surgical site, loss of circulatory supply to the new repositioned tissues, persistent numbness to the surgical site, and scarring,” says Coppola. “Some of these are expected, such as swelling, bruising, and transient numbness, but should subside in a few weeks.” And while rare, there is also the risk of damaging facial nerves. Parcells adds, “The main risk is that you’re close to the facial nerve—the nerves that innervate all the muscles of the face.”
Also, scarring, while rare, could be a possible side effect. Parcells explained to us that anytime you make an incision to the skin, there’s a risk of unsightly scarring.
A mini facelift is typically less expensive than a full facelift, but the cost can vary dramatically depending on your location and surgeon. Typically, you’re looking at paying anywhere from $3000 to $8000, which also includes the type of anesthesia used, the surgeon’s fees, and any hospital fees.
After your mini facelift, you won’t need to stay in the hospital or surgery center and are free to go home. You won’t be able to drive after the surgery, so it’s a good idea to enlist a friend or family member to help you get home safely and help you with your recovery for the next 24 hours. Also, you won’t be able to work for at least one to three weeks afterward, so it’s a good idea to factor that into the aftercare plan as well.
Sobel told us to keep in mind that the recovery process looks different for every person and that “rest and minimal activity are the biggest components for a smooth recovery, as well as icing the area to reduce any swelling and bruising.” Lin adds, “You will need to see your surgeon the morning after surgery and several other times to monitor your healing. Sutures are usually removed one week after surgery. For the first two weeks, lifting and bending are strictly limited, and strenuous exercise should be avoided for the first six weeks after surgery. Most patients feel ready to return to work after one to three weeks.”
The Realities Of Recovering From A Mini Facelift
There is a reason that year after year people continue to consider, explore and schedule facelifts: They work wonders! However cosmetic plastic surgery is still surgery and requires thoughtful and realistic consideration.
The concept of a “lunchtime facelift” is unrealistic. The advanced mini facelifts that Dr. Brent Smith performs are medical procedures that require manipulating skin tissue and muscle. There’s no way around that reality if you want the natural-looking, long-term results that specialty facial plastic surgery doctors like Dr. Smith create.
So let’s call a spade a spade. This is surgery. If you have ever had surgery on another part of your body you know that healing takes time. It’s a process that demands patience. But the payoff, especially for an elective surgery such as a min facelift, is profound. (Skeptical? Check out our digital publication A Patient’s Journal, in which our own practice manager, Lorayn Bowers, details her personal facelift experience from consultation through recovery.)
As professionals at Smith Cosmetic Surgery, we do everything in our power to describe the facelift recovery process and support people through each stage. Yet we find that patients are always surprised by some of the realities they encounter after a mini facelift.
While our clients wouldn’t change the results they see six months later, they often have lots of questions for us during the first few weeks following the surgical procedure. So we thought we’d answer some of these common questions and set some helpful expectations so you come in prepared and ready to recover in a healthy and happy manner.
Here are some realities we can all plan for when it comes to recovering from a facelift:
For A Little While You Won’t Look Like “Yourself.”
First of all no one looks like their everyday self with a compression bandage wrapped around their head. However this is a necessary step directly following a facelift. After making incisions and manipulating muscles to help you look younger, Dr. Smith must help decrease initial swelling around the face by applying gentle pressure with a head wrap.
Don’t worry, it will be removed the very next day, but prepare now because you’re not going to see the new you just yet. Just let the first 72 hours be what they are designed to be: a time to be good to yourself while you begin the powerful healing process.
We ask patients to think about their recovery time in weeks as well as months. Your new, younger-looking facial features emerge in the first two to three weeks, but this is still the big push in your recovery process. Everything is more dramatic during the first few weeks, but the true beauty of your new look will continue to reveal itself over time. This is why Dr. Smith follows you closely over a period of 6 months to a year.
In fact, you can look forward to seeing long-lasting refinements coming to light on the face for up to six months following a facelift—and beyond. So rather than looking at cosmetic surgery as a countdown to when you’ll be “restaurant ready”—about two to three weeks—think of your facelift as a multi-month journey. Healing will continue, and the true artistry of the facelift will be revealed slowly over many months following surgery.
Real, Raw Emotions Come Along With Any Surgery.
Whether you choose to have a surgical procedure to enhance your physical features or you are forced to have a medical procedure due to injury or an ailment, the emotions that come along for the ride are very real. We can promise you that everyone—men and women of all ages—experiences a predictable mix of natural emotions before and after a mini facelift.
A facelift is a life-altering experience, ultimately for the good, but we must all expect that with any change in life come raw feelings (excitement, fear, doubt, confusion, joy, etc.). We just want you to know we’re here for you. Every day we help patients through each step of this emotional and joyous journey.
Your Mental State Is Deeply Tied To Each Stage Of Physical Healing.
If you’ve ever had knee surgery, for example, your mental state ebbs and flows depending on how you’re doing each day. During the first 72 hours after a facelift most people look—and feel—like they just had surgery. Makes sense, right? However, as the bulk of swelling subsides within the first week and as we start to see the natural contours of our face emerge, a renewed sense of hope and excitement also emerges.
After an initial and very normal post-surgery emotional dip, most patients see the pendulum swing back the other way by week two or three, when they start to recognize themselves and begin to imagine the full effects that will continue to emerge and come to light each day for the next several months.
Our Healing Supplements Will Help You Along.
We can speed our bodies along the recovery trajectory by taking a smart mix of natural vitamins and antioxidants. Smith Cosmetic Surgery sends each patient home with a comprehensive one-month supplement supply designed to support healing, promote healthy immune system function and balance the natural inflammatory response.
The line we’ve chosen and found to be most effective for our facelift patients is a clinical-grade supplement package. It contains all kinds of known recovery aids, including vitamin A and C to promote healing; selenium, bioflavonoids and other antioxidants to deactivate free-radicals; bromelain and quercetin to balance the inflammatory response; a B-complex morning formula for sustained energy levels; and a mineral-intensive evening formula to promote rest in the evening.
Things That Feel “Tight” Don’t Look That Way On The Outside.
One very common concern that mini facelift patients have is related to a perfectly natural feeling that can only be described as “tightness” around the lower portion of the face and neck. It’s often accompanied by minor numbness and even some soreness around the ears. The Smith Cosmetic Surgery team always prepares patients for this normal healing response, but it remains something that always surprises people recovering from a mini facelift.
There’s very good reason patients should expect to feel some degree of tightness, numbness and soreness: Dr. Smith makes incisions in and around the ear in order to lift the muscles of the face. That’s the core surgical work in a facelift. As those tiny notches heal, natural contours appear and nerve endings reattach, you will experience a variety of normal healing sensations, from that predominant “tight” feeling to some fluttering vibrations as the body works to reconnect nerves around your new facial contours.
We encourage patients to stay calm: All of this is internal. The tightness you feel, while very real, is happening on the inside, showing no outward “stretching” on the face.
We All Recover, But How We Heal Depends On Age And Genetic Makeup.
Dr. Smith performs facelifts exclusively on men and women in a variety of life stages. Patients come to Smith Cosmetic Surgery with all kinds of facial “imprints” related to the natural effects of aging; the distinct genetic factors they inherited from their parents; the consequences of different lifestyle choices such as smoking; and even varying degrees of exposure to sun and environmental toxins.
That means when Dr. Smith operates, he’s always starting from a different origination point. So while we can all but guarantee Smith Cosmetic Surgery’s refined process and precise work, every person undergoing a facelift will experience slightly different results—and recovery time. Setting expectations for what’s achievable is a very important part of our work each day.
While we are confident you will be amazed by your outcome, it’s important to remember we all start from a different, but no less beautiful, place. Each facelift healing process and outcome is as unique as each person. After decades in the art of helping people prepare, undergo and heal from mini facelifts, the results continue to astound.
The Final Takeaway
A mini facelift is a great option for people who want a natural-looking result with much less downtime than the traditional facelift. If your sagging jawline and cheeks can’t be treated with cosmetic procedures like Botox and fillers, a mini facelift is an option you might want to consider. But remember, even though it’s not as invasive as a regular facelift, it is still considered a major surgery, so it’s important to choose a surgeon who is board-certified and has extensive experience with the procedure.